One drug that is mostly abused by people especially in Nigeria is paracetamol. It is taken frequently to ease pain due to its analgesic properties. Once a person feels pain, let’s say a headache, what he or she does immediately is to take paracetamol. Whereas, he or she could have just addressed the source of the headache which might be stress that requires just rest.
Paracetamol is also known as acetaminophen. It is an analgesic. This means it has the tendency to relieve pain. It also helps to reduce fever. This suggests that it has an antipyretic effect. There are several trade names for paracetamol such as Panadol, Tylenol, Capol, etc. Paracetamol is commonly known as a painkiller.
How Does Paracetamol Works?
The mechanism of action of paracetamol is similar to a class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). One way paracetamol acts is by inhibiting prostaglandin production. This is achieved by blocking COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes.
How Does Prostaglandin Cause Pain?
Prostaglandins are compounds in the human body build of fats that have hormone-like effects. They’re fascinating because they can have non-identical effects depending on the receptors where they attach. Prostaglandins are unique compounds since they have hormone-similar effects. That is, they influence reactions in the human body when they’re there in certain tissues. Different from hormones, they aren’t released from a specific gland. Instead, the human body has several tissues that can make prostaglandins.
High concentrations of prostaglandins bring about pain by direct action upon nerve endings. More typically, however, at low concentrations, they markedly enlarge pain sensitivity. The pain gateway may be so altered that even normally painless stimuli may be painful. This effect of prostaglandins is long-lasting and cumulative, so that continued building of even little amounts can sensitize nerves to other irritants.
What Is The Role Of COX-1 and COX-2 Enzymes In Prostaglandin Production?
There are 2 forms of the cyclooxygenase enzyme which are – COX-1 and COX-2. cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclooxygenase-1 are the key enzymes in the prostaglandin and thromboxane biosynthetic pathway. Although the formation and enzymatic activity of both enzymes are very alike, COX-1 and COX-2 perform different duties which are allowed for a different localization and regulation.
Cyclooxygenase-1 is expressed in all tissues in certain cell types and manufacture prostaglandins and thromboxanes that are needed for the upkeep of physiological functions such as movement of blood flow, platelet aggregation, and mucus production in the stomach. On the other hand, COX-2 is not normally expressed in “healthy” tissue but only happens following adequate stimulation, which may be any kind of tissue injuries such as trauma, ischemia, infection, or inflammation. In the gastrointestinal tract, cyclooxygenase-1 upkeep the normal lining of the stomach and intestines, safeguard the stomach from the digestive juices. The enzyme is also entangled in kidney and platelet function.
In summary, COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes are responsible for the production of certain prostaglandin in the body which plays vital roles.
What Are The Dangers Of Taking Paracetamol Frequently?
The long-term use of paracetamol may result in the following
1. Hepatotoxicity: Paracetamol itself is not toxic but when it exceeds its therapeutic dose, it releases harmful metabolites which can affect the liver cells. Drug-induced liver injury (DILI) is a common cause that brings about an acute liver injury. Paracetamol, also well known as acetaminophen, is a popularly used antipyretic that has long been confirmed to cause liver toxicity once above therapeutic levels.
The hepatotoxicity of acetaminophen is trusted to be mediated by the reactive metabolite N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine; however, the mechanism by which this metabolite manufactured the toxicity is unknown. The metabolite, which is each an electrophile and an oxidizing agent, may covalently bond to critical proteins, or it may initiate oxidative harm.
Although, the hepatotoxic effect of paracetamol is more common when there is an overdose. However, frequent consumption of paracetamol is also likely to lead to liver toxicity.
2. Damage to the kidney: Frequent consumption of paracetamol may cause damage to the kidneys. Continuous exposure to certain painkillers (analgesics) can harm the small filtering blood vessels in the kidney. This can bring about analgesic nephropathy, a chronic kidney problem. Some of the symptoms of analgesic nephropathy include: feeling unwell or fatigue.
1. Hematuria (i.e blood in the urine)
2. Increase in urination frequency or urgency.
3. Back pain
4. Decreased urine output
5. Decreased alertness, such as drowsiness, confusion, or lethargy
6. Decreased feeling or numbness, especially in the arms and legs
7. Nausea, vomiting
8. Widespread swelling (edema)
9. Fatigue, feeling unwell, and weakness.
3. Heart Problem: Frequent consumption of paracetamol can lead to cardiovascular complications and even stroke.
4. Gastrointestinal Bleeding /Ulcer: Just like NSAIDS, paracetamol may cause gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcer due to its inhibition of the COX-1 enzyme. However, this does not happen on all occasions.
Frequent consumption of paracetamol should be avoided because of its serious side effect.
How To Relieve Pains Without Drugs?
Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are productive pain relievers, but long-term use can bring about side effects. recommended medications may be habit-forming and have even more adverse effects. The good news is that there are natural ways to relieve pains rather than taking drugs. Here are some of the ways:
1. Using Heat or Ice: Applying heat or ice directly to the sites of pain is an effective home remedy of pain. While this treatment may seem conspicuous, not everyone’s clear on exactly when to use ice versus heat. Put in an ice pack to lessen swelling and inflammation shortly after you experience a strained muscle, tendon, or ligament may bring relief. Interestingly, once the inflammation has faded, heat may help lessen the stiffness that comes with sprains and strains. A cold pack used briefly on the head may also aid take away the pain of a headache If your painful problem is arthritis, moist heat applied to the affected joint will help more than ice. Moist heat packs can be reheated in the microwave and used many times, making them effective and easy to use.
2. Exercising: Physical activity plays important role in interrupting the "vicious cycle" of pain and lessen mobility found in some chronic conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Try gentle aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling to reduce pain rather than consuming drugs frequently.
3. Therapeutic Massage: Not just satisfaction, massage can relieve pain by working tension out of muscles and joints, relieving stress and anxiety, and possibly helping to distract you from pain by bringing in a "competing" sensation that overrules pain signals.
4. The use of essential oils: Essential oils like rosemary, lavender, etc have proven effective in relieving pain. Some researchers state that the rosemary plant, Rosemary plant may aid cure headaches, muscle and bone pain, and seizures. Rosemary may also lessen inflammation, relax smooth muscles, and boost memory. Also, Lavender essential oil and Peppermint oil may be used to relieve pain.
The use of paracetamol as a pain relief frequently should be reduced due to its long-term adverse effect. Other natural methods should be employed to reduce pain.