When medication becomes a habit

They are alarming figures: More than 6,300 accidental poisoning cases in adulthood are registered annually by the poison control centre in Rhineland-Palatinate. The primary cause of this is medicine - before household chemicals or fungi. But how can accidental poisoning occur? And how can I prevent this danger? That is what we want to deal with today.

Drug poisoning is often caused by carelessness and carelessness. This risk exists above all in the case of medications which are considered to be harmless. However, the critical point is the dose.

The active ingredient paracetamol, for example, can also harm the liver, especially in cases of overdose or permanent intake. This is where toxic substances, so-called reactive radicals, are formed when the active ingredient is degraded. If too much of the active ingredient is taken, there is a high risk of serious liver damage or even liver failure. Nausea, vomiting and sweating are the first warnings.

Other overdose painkillers that are not prescribed are also dangerous, such as ibuprofen and acetylsalicylic acid (ASS). People who consume these drugs permanently or in high doses risk a life-threatening gastric haemorrhage as well as cardiac and liver damage.

Of course, the package inserts warn against these dangers. But many people are unaware of this, because the drugs are over-the-counter and considered harmless. Often such people are affected who are under a great strain but still have to function and do not want to get ill. For example, painkillers are taken to bridge the upcoming visit to the dentist for a few more days. Even if the pain is very severe, do not take more tablets than indicated on the package insert! Cause that's exactly what could get you into a hospital emergency room. For example, there is a risk of chronic overdose if headaches recur regularly. This can cause the exact symptom that is supposed to be combated. Medically, this is referred to as pain-induced headache.

Similarly, it is also possible to slip into the dangerous consumption of a completely different kind of drug, the addictive sedatives. Benzodiazepines, including diazepam and lorazepam, should be mentioned here. In case of restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and depression, the doctor sometimes recommends this medication. Once the acute treatment has been completed, it can be difficult to avoid wanting to do without the pleasant feeling of the active ingredient. Some people then, in the sense of "Mother's Little Helper", have the tablets as emergency medicine always with them, in order to have them ready quickly in a critical situation. But it would be better to control one's own restlessness, fear or bad mood with positive thoughts or relaxation methods. In addition, there is another danger: the drugs lose their effectiveness. The result is a dose increase to achieve the same effect again. However, this can lead to chronic poisoning symptoms such as depression, indifference and reduced performance. Sudden cessation can lead to a recurrence of the original symptoms and also to life-threatening disturbances of the circulation regulation, seizures or deliriums.

It is also important to know that all medications are not compatible with alcohol. Depending on the active ingredient, alcohol increases or decreases the effect of the drug or dangerous side effects or interactions occur. The consequences can range from liver damage to collapse. Alcohol should therefore be avoided when taking medication.

If you are familiar with the behaviors described above, then you should act. Ask your doctor or health care professional to help you find an addiction counseling center and prepare an exit plan. The withdrawal symptoms can be temporarily treated with an intermediate drug. The aim should be to live largely free of painkillers and sedatives, or to take them only after a precise doctor's prescription.

Copyright: Landeszentrale fuer Gesundheitsfoerderung in Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. (LZG) Germany

Text: Dr. Beatrice Wagner, Editor: Marielle Becker