The average Nigerian is a doctor. To get a free and unsolicited drug prescription, just complain of one ailment and the drug referrals begin to flow like a deluge.
People don’t just prescribe drugs or home remedies for others, they also “treat” themselves whenever what they consider manageable health issues crop up. Consequently, by the time many people finally think of seeking professional help, they are almost useless…
Perhaps after sleeping pills, the next commonest drug of abuse is pain relief medication. People take over-the-counter-drugs for the relief of pain in various parts of the body and also for various health challenges. Many people are even unaware that certain pain medications are better suited for certain ailments and are therefore better prescribed by a competent professional, who will also monitor the effects, especially when such drugs are to be used for extended period, as in the treatment of chronic pain conditions like arthritis, cancer, etc.
It has been revealed that chronic pain relief drugs — also called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — can wreak havoc on the body, sometimes with debilitating effects. Scientists argue that, just like other drugs, chronic pain medications are not to be trifled with, even when they appear harmless and ‘gentle’ to the stomach.
According to a new study published in the journal Spine, men who are taking prescription pain pills in high doses and over long periods of time are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction — characterised by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual performance.
That was the bombshell delivered by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland Oregon, USA. The lead researcher, Dr. Richard Deyo, notes that opioids — medications that relieve pain — are known to cause changes in testosterone levels, leading to erectile dysfunction. The researchers had examined 11,000 men who were taking prescription opioids for chronic back pain.
They conclude that men who took high-doses of certain prescription painkillers for longer than four months were 50 per cent more likely to require medication to treat erectile dysfunction than men who were not taking painkillers
Another study published in the Pain Physician Journal and led by Professor/Academic Director of Pain Management, Albany Medical College, Department of Anesthesiology, Albany, New York City, Dr. Howard Smith, enthuses that in the past few decades, the use of opioids as a long-term treatment for chronic pain has increased dramatically. However, he says, this comes at a price, especially for men, in terms of hormone imbalance, with symptoms like reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, hot flashes, and depression.
The scientists also note that the symptoms may include reduced facial and body hair, anaemia, decreased muscle mass, weight gain, infertility, osteopenia (unusually low bone mineral density) or osteoporosis (weak bones).
Another study by Finnish scientists who examined more than 1,100 men between 50 and 70 years of age found that erectile dysfunction was much higher among painkiller users than among non-users. The study is published in the May issue of the Journal of Urology.
Deyo and his team say their findings add to a wealth of evidence indicating that long-term opioid treatment for chronic pain should be avoided when possible. “Patients who take opioids for extended periods often develop a tolerance to the medicine and can even experience greater sensitivity to pain over time,” Deyo says.
Yet, humans may not be in charge of their pain, it turns out, as researchers at Harvard Medical School say as we age, pain and pain control become an important issue, because many of the conditions that cause pain disproportionately affect people starting at about age 65.
They note that several of the conditions that can prolong or amplify pain, such as insomnia, become more common with age. “As age makes our mental and physical health more tenuous, our ability to weather the slings and arrows of pain diminishes too.
“All of this puts a premium on effective pain treatment in older people. But there’s a catch, because the most effective painkillers available have side effects that occur more often and more severely in older people.”
General practitioner, Dr. Tomi Abegunde, says in addition to these revelations, the categories of people that may be affected are those taking pain relief drugs for long-term chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, cancers, arthritis, etc.
Others are those who take drugs that aid the production of urine, anti-allergies, muscle relaxants, drugs that suppress abnormal rhythms of the heart, drugs used to treat duodenal ulcers and prevent their return, etc.
Abegunde notes that the pain relief drugs usually prescribed for these conditions not only affect and oftentimes suppress the central nervous system, they can also cause serious damage to the blood vessels, resulting in permanent erectile dysfunction.
However, he warns that if you notice this symptom, don’t just discontinue the drug; see your doctor immediately.
By Solaade Ayo-Aderele