Unbearable pain often makes us take some over-the-counter painkillers to get instant relief. However, this can also increase the risk of obesity and sleep deprivation, according to a recent study.
Researchers at the Newcastle University in the UK have shown that there are some serious impacts of these medications, and that we need to reduce their use.
The study showed that there has been an immense increase in prescribed medications like opioids and antidepressants for chronic pain management over the past 10 years, and it has doubled the risk of obesity and sleep deprivation.
"We already know that opiates are dependency-forming but this study also found patients taking opiates have the worst health. Obesity rates are much higher and the patients reported sleeping poorly," said lead author Sophie Cassidy, a research associate at the Newcastle University.
The research team assessed the relationship between metabolic and cardiovascular disease in over 133,000 participants from the UK.
They compared the body mass index, waist circumference and blood pressure between those taking painkillers for chronic, non-cancer pain and cardio-metabolic reasons, and those taking it for cardio-metabolic treatment only.
The findings of the new study show: "People on opiates and cardio-metabolic drugs reported 95 percent rates of obesity, 82 percent 'very high' waist circumference and 63 percent hypertension, as opposed to those on cardio-metabolic drugs only."
So, people taking painkillers along with drugs for heart disease, diabetes and stroke are 95 percent more likely to be obese.
Opioids are recognised as one of the most dangerous prescription painkillers as they are addictive and patients can require continuous use of the drugs to avoid symptoms of withdrawal and feel normal.
At least 24 million opiate prescriptions were issued in the UK in 2016, which is exactly double the amount in 2006. Two years ago, more than 10,000 patients were admitted to hospital due to an opiate overdose.
"These results add further weight to calls for these chronic pain medications to be prescribed for shorter periods," Cassidy said.
The findings have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.