I’ve heard of people getting addicted to pain-killers and I’m worried it might happen to me. This website – http://www.mygoutdietfoods.com/complementary-and-natural-gout-remedies – says I need to be wary. Will I get too accustomed to these drugs or, alternatively, will they lose effectiveness?
Pain-killers such as paracetamol or the NSAIDs do not generally lead to habituation (the technical term for addiction). That is to say, they continue to perform reliably as effective pain-killers or as anti-inflammatory agents at the same dosage, and you can take repeated courses or even continue to take them for an indefinite period without their losing their effectiveness. The opiate drugs, by contrast, such as morphine, heroin or pethidine, are addictive: if they are used frequently, a higher dose is required to achieve the same desired effect. Because of this they are not suitable for the treatment of acute gout. Pain-killers will work reasonably well to ease the pain when you experience a gout attack, but they are not an effective long term solution, as you’re simply addressing the symptoms, rather than trying to fix the cause of the problem – which can be achieved relatively easily if the gout is not to far gone.
However, abuse of pain-killers – especially those obtained ‘over the counter’ (without needing a prescription) at the pharmacy – is becoming more common and you are right to be concerned. Many of the remedies for headaches, coughs and colds that can be easily purchased from pharmacists contain addictive drugs. They include:
narcotics such as morphine, codeine, tincture of opium;
stimulants such as caffeine, ephedrine hydrochloride or pseudephedrine hydrochloride;
antihistamine sedatives such as diphenhydramine hydro-chloride or promethazine hydrochloride.
Read the label on the packet carefully; you will often see a warning about keeping to the recommended dose and not taking the medication for more than three days without medical supervision. This is because overdosing on analgesics can damage your liver, and also because there is a danger of becoming ‘hooked’ on the extra, addictive, ingredient in the formulation. Regard any tablet, capsule or liquid as a potential hazard, especially if it is marked Plus, Max-Strength, Extra, Adult Formula, and so on. Ask your pharmacist if there is a narcotic or stimulant in any pain- killer that you obtain over the counter or on prescription.
Some other over-the-counter drugs may contain pain-killers; for example, Night Nurse contains paracetamol, so it could be very easy to exceed the maximum recommended dose without realising it. The safest course is to read the label each time you buy or take a drug, and don’t throw away packaging that contains crucial information.