Many people take dangerously high amounts of ibuprofen

(Reuters Health) - Many adults who use ibuprofen and other so-called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs take too much, increasing their risk of serious side effects like internal bleeding and heart attacks, a U.S. study suggests.

About 15 percent of adults taking ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or other NSAIDs like aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), celecoxib (Celebrex), meloxicam (Mobic) and diclofenac (Voltaren) exceeded the maximum recommended daily dose for these drugs, the study found.

“NSAIDs are among the most commonly used medicines in the U.S. and worldwide,” said lead study author Dr. David Kaufman of Boston University.

“These drugs can have serious side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding and heart attacks, and are often taken without medical oversight because many products are available over-the-counter,” Kaufman said by email. “The attitude that users can choose their own dose regardless of label directions, along with poor knowledge of dosing limits, is associated with exceeding the daily limit.”

SEE: Ways to use aspirin, other than pain relief: 

8 Surprising Ways To Use Aspirin Other Than Relieving Your Pain
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8 Surprising Ways To Use Aspirin Other Than Relieving Your Pain

Aspirin Use #1: Bathroom Cleaner

Forget expensive cleaning supplies! Aspirin actually has intense exfoliating powers when mixed into a paste.

The fact that it also help loosen clumps in your bloodstream means that it can also be used as an abrasive on soap scum.

Simply crush the aspirin up with a bit of water to form a paste, or dissolve in water to scrub grime out of your counters and tiles.

Aspirin Use #2: Facial Cleanser

There are plenty of properties in aspirin that are also good for your skin.

According to WedMD, aspirin is anti-inflammatory, meaning it will stop swelling and irritation in your body, which means it can reduce redness and irritation on your skin.

It also contains salicylic acid which is an incredibly important ingredient when fighting acne. 

Aspirin Use #3: Stain Remover

 Aspirin’s aforementioned salicylic acid can also be used to remove yellowy sweat stains from your shirt!

If left to sit on a stained area on your shirt, the aspirin will begin to break down the particles causing the weird color.

To make the stain-fighting solution, dissolve several aspirins in water and soak your shirt in it, or make a paste out of it to rub into the stain.

Aspirin Use #4: Color-Protecting Shampoo

Aspirin’s various properties also work to keep a chlorine-tinged hue out of your hair if it’s a lighter color, similarly to how it can get stains out of your clothes.

The salicylic acid also helps to balance the moisture level on your scalp if it is dry or flaky. 

Simply dissolve around eight tablets into warm water and work it through your hair, then rinse off in 15 minutes.

Aspirin Use #5: Callus Smoother

Aspirin can also be beneficial to your feet. Its aforementioned exfoliating properties can break through dead skin and soften up your callouses.

Its anti-inflammatory properties can also kill fungus that may be causing irritation.

Dissolve around six tablets in warm water, soak your feet, then wrap them up in a warm towel.

Aspirin Use #6: Plant Fertilizer

All of aspirin’s great ingredients that protect your body from pain also help roses last longer.

According to Gardening Know How, plants produce their own salicylic acid when they are under stress, experiencing drought or being eating by bugs.

The added salicylic acid from aspirin makes the plants more vital and able to alive through ever more adversity.

Aspirin Use #7: Bug Bite Relief

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Aspirin’s anti-inflammatory ingredients also work well on itchy bug bites.

It will eat through any bacteria that could be building around the bit, while making sure the swelling goes down.

Making a paste or solution and adding it to the bit for a little while will reduce the symptoms greatly and make then heal more quickly.

Alternate Use #8: Hand Sanitizer

Finally, it can also be used to sanitize your hands; simply rub a solution all over your hands before washing off.


For the study, 1,326 people who reported taking ibuprofen in the previous month completed online medication diaries every day for one week.

All of the participants took ibuprofen during the diary week, and 87 percent of them only used over-the-counter, or nonprescription, versions, researchers report in Pharmacoepidemiology & Drug Safety.

Overall, 55 percent of participants took ibuprofen at least three days during the week, and 16 percent took it every day.

In addition to ibuprofen, 37 percent of the participants reported taking at least one other NSAID during the week, most often aspirin or naproxen. Less than half of them recognized that all of the products they were taking were NSAIDs.

One limitation of the study is that researchers only focused on recent and current ibuprofen users, which may not reflect what doses might be typical for sporadic or new users, the authors note.

Even so, the findings highlight a potential downside of making NSAIDs widely available without a prescription, said Dr. Gunnar Gislason, director of research for the Danish Heart Foundation in Cophenhagen.

“I believe that the message sent to the consumer when these drugs are widely available in convenience stores and gas stations is that these drugs are safe and you can use them safely for pain relief - thus no need for reading the label,” Gislason, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

Even when people do read the label, they may still ignore it.

“If the recommended dosage does not give sufficient pain relief, it is easier to take more pills than seeking professional advice from a healthcare person or doctor,” Gislason added.

While doctors may prescribe NSAIDs for some muscle and joint disorders and certain other health problems, these drugs aren’t appropriate for many of the reasons that patients may buy them at the drugstore, said Dr. Liffert Vogt of the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

“In my opinion NSAIDs should not be available as an over-the-counter drug, because of all their deleterious effects,” Vogt, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“For occasional use, acetaminophen (again in the right dose) is a much safer option and very efficacious as a pain killer,” Vogt added. “But we know that many people use NSAIDs for indications other than pain, such as flu, allergies, fever - and there is no medical base that indicates that NSAIDs or acetaminophen are of any use under these circumstances.”

SOURCE: Pharmacoepidemiology & Drug Safety, online January 26, 2018.

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