How painkillers work and how many you can consume in a day

Can you believe this is what killed Heath Ledger


Those little pills have a way of finding the source of your pain and getting you back on track, right?

Even as they help you relax, how safe is it to rely on a painkiller, and how often can you take them?

The types

Painkillers are mainly of two types:

  1. The OTC: These are the ones you can easily get over the counter and don’t need a prescription for. The aspirin and ibuprofen medicines that you take to relieve pain fall under this category.
  2. The Opioids: These are more heavy duty painkillers that will require a doctor’s prescription. Morphine and codeine based painkillers will fall under this category.

What does a painkiller do and how

When you’re suffering from some injury or pain, the nerve endings around those areas send a message to the brain about the pain, which then responds with the sensation that causes you to feel the pain.

A painkiller works by interfering with this message that is sent between the nerve endings and the brain. In simpler words, it targets some spot either at the place of the injury, in the spinal cord or in the brain so that the ‘pain’ message does not reach through.

When you take the painkiller, it mixes up in your bloodstream and reaches various parts of your body. In such a situation, the medicine does not go only to the spot where you feel the maximum amount of pain, but actually ends up working at various areas of your body. For instance, if you take a painkiller to reduce the headache, you may also notice that the light pain you were feeling in your limbs after a recent hard workout has also reduced and gone.

How many can you safely take in a day?

Actor Heath Ledger passed away due to an accidental painkiller overdose
Actor Heath Ledger passed away due to an accidental painkiller overdose

Image – fuse

Different painkillers have different safe limits that you can take in a day. For instance, some painkillers clearly mention that it is not safe to consume more than 1200mg in a span of 24 hours.

It is best to speak to your doctor about dosage. Also, always keep at least 4 to 6 hours of gap between the doses to avoid an overdose.

DISCLAIMER: While we have taken steps to check the accuracy of information & practices shared here; it is not a replacement for a doctor’s opinion. it is important to first always check with your own doctor before trying any medication, practice or suggestion from this site.