Video: Understanding over-the-counter pain medications

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Because of the opioid addiction epidemic, doctors are understandably more careful these days when writing prescriptions for these powerful and addictive painkillers. But patients still need ways to control pain, especially after a very limited opioid prescription expires.

Most turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medications you can purchase at your local pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription. Many are so-called NSAIDs — like ibuprofen and aspirin. Others may contain acetaminophen. But just because they don’t require approval from your doctor doesn’t mean these drugs can’t harm you, especially if taken in the wrong dosage and in the wrong combination with other drugs. In fact, some OTC pain relievers once required a prescription.

People who suffer from chronic pain often turn to OTC remedies to help them get through the day. For these patients, it is especially important to know about the drugs they are taking. Some OTC pain relievers may be a safer alternative to a prescription opioid. Patients, of course, should discuss any OTC medication with their health care provider before taking it.

This video, produced by the Alliance for Aging Research, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group promoting health research, serves as a good introduction to OTC pain relievers.

About the Author

Truman Lewis
Truman has been a bureau chief and correspondent in D.C., Los Angeles, Phoenix and elsewhere, reporting for radio, television, print and news services, for more than 30 years. Most recently, he has reported extensively on health and consumer issues for and