The use and effect of analgesics in patients who regularly drink alcohol.

Analgesic consumption poses special risks for regular users of alcohol. Among the numerous adverse health effects are acetaminophen toxicity and gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use. An alcohol-acetaminophen hypothesis contends that alcohol enhances acetaminophen toxicity. Because 22% of adults use acetaminophen each week and 5% to 10% of the population is alcoholic, the healthcare implications of serious adverse interactions are considerable. However, such interactions are rare when NSAID doses remain in the therapeutic range. Although clinical studies fail to support anecdotal case reports of liver damage associated with consumption of therapeutic doses of acetaminophen by alcohol users, such reports are probably inaccurate because of the uncritical acceptance of patient history by the clinician and a lack of well-designed prospective trials. Over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs, such as aspirin, naproxen, and ketoprofen, are other analgesic options, but each carries the risk of GI bleeding. Unanswered questions about the newer "second-generation" NSAIDs, such as celecoxib and rofecoxib, make them less desirable than acetaminophen and OTC NSAIDs. Because the risk of GI bleeding or ulceration may be higher in alcoholic patients, the optimal strategy in prescribing pain relievers to those who consume alcohol is to use 1 drug at a time and to clearly communicate its generic name. Acetaminophen is the safest OTC analgesic and is recommended as first-line treatment for osteoarthritis. OTC NSAID users should be carefully advised as to recommended dose, and all patients should be reminded to stay within the dosing limits regardless which OTC analgesic is used.
AuthorsR C Dart
JournalThe American journal of managed care (Am J Manag Care) Vol. 7 Issue 19 Suppl Pg. S597-601 (Dec 2001) ISSN: 1088-0224 [Print] United States
PMID11776482 (Publication Type: Journal Article)
Chemical References
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Acetaminophen
  • Acetaminophen (administration & dosage, adverse effects)
  • Alcohol Drinking (adverse effects)
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic (administration & dosage, adverse effects)
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal (administration & dosage, adverse effects)
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Liver (drug effects, physiopathology)
  • United States

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