Why Do Some Over-The-Counter Pain Killers Contain Caffeine; Is That Good?

Dr. Portenoy answers the question: 'Over-The-Counter Pain Killers, Caffeine?'

ByRussell Portenoy, M.d., Chairman, Department Of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care, Beth Israel Medical Center
November 11, 2008, 4:19 PM

— -- Question: Why Do Some Over-The-Counter Pain Killers Contain Caffeine, And Is That A Good Thing?

Answer: Another question that comes up commonly is about the role of caffeine. Caffeine is a constituent of many over-the-counter pain relievers and also some prescription drugs, mostly those that are used for headache or are promoted for the use in headache.

Now interestingly, we know from scientific studies that caffeine is in fact a pain reliever. It's not a very strong one, but it is a pain reliever. And when one adds caffeine to aspirin or acetaminophen, it has the potential for producing additive pain relief. And that's the reason that the caffeine was originally added to these compounds many years ago.

At the same time, patients who take compounds that include caffeine need to understand that the caffeine itself can cause side effects, particularly if a patients drinks a lot of caffeine-containing beverages at the same time. If a person takes one of these pain relievers and gets jittery or has trouble sleeping, consider the possibility that it's the caffeine in the tablet and perhaps change to a different type of pain reliever.

Next: What Is A Placebo And Why Might It Be Used In The Treatment Of Pain?

Previous: Can Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers Be Harmful, Are They Safer Than Other Drugs?

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