Painkiller abuse drills holes in teen’s stomach


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
Painkiller abuse drills holes in teen’s stomach

Nikhil Thorat, a 16-year-old student, paid a heavy price for popping painkillers indiscriminately to fight severe stomach and back aches. By January, he had settled on one brand and was taking it 4-5 times a day. Last month, he landed up in hospital in debilitating pain, where doctors found perforations in his stomach, caused by drug misuse. In a complicated surgery, doctors had to use a layer of fat from his abdomen to cover the perforations.

City doctors say more and more youths are self-medicating and overusing painkillers, unaware of the dangers. Depending on the kind of painkiller and the frequency of ingestion, a person's gastro-intestinal tract or organs, heart and kidney can be affected. "Nikhil had ulcers in his stomach. The pain-killers aggravated these ulcers, which burst causing perforations," said Dr Ashok Borissa the gastro-intestinal surgeon from Fortis Hospital in Kalyan, where the teen was admitted.

On Friday, Nikhil Thorat wrote his last paper for the Standard XII board exam. But the months leading to the exam were a nightmare as he had to undergo a major surgery when doctors literally found holes in his stomach. For a while now, Thorat had been experiencing severe stomach and back aches. But instead of consulting his family doctor, he began experimenting with over-the-counter painkillers. He finally found one that provided instant relief and by January he became "addicted " to the pills. "In a week, I used to take four to five of these pills," he said. He turned to it every time he sensed another bout of pain threatening his stomach.

Thorat, who lives in Kalyan, said he got "addicted" to the painkillers, without realizing the damage they were causing to his system while easing the pain. "But last month, I got extreme pain in my stomach, so much so that I could hardly breathe and the painkiller did not help. That was when my parents took me to the hospital," said Thorat.

When the doctors at Fortis Hospital in Kalyan examined him, they found holes in his abdomen. "We conducted tests and found that there were perforations in the front part of his stomach and the gastric contents had entered the cavity," said Dr Ashok Borissa , the gastro-intestinal surgeon who treated Nikhil. "Nikhil already had ulcers in his stomach. The consumption of pain-killers aggravated these ulcers, which ultimately burst causing perforations ," he added. Doctors had to pull out a fat layer from Nikhil's abdomen to cover the perforations. "We had to put up an omental patch so that the gap was covered and no further complications would occur in the stomach," said Dr Borissa. Here, doctors pulled through the omentum-a fat layer of the abdomen-and fixed it to the bowel to seal the holes created by the ulcers . After two weeks in hospital, he was discharged but it took another month of rest at home before the teenager could resume normal activities.

"I could not give my preliminary exams and also lost a lot of crucial time before my board exams because of these complications . After the surgery, doctors explained to me what had happened because of my habit of taking painkillers. I have learnt my lesson. I will never pop a pill without the prescription of doctor ," said Thorat.

It's not only adults but also teens who are guilty of popping pills indiscriminately. Often, say doctors, parents are to blame for turning a blind eye to their children's habit of self medication. "We see more youngsters taking painkillers today. What they don't realize is that painkillers are not magic wands," said Dr Borissa.

Dr Khusrav Bajan, intensivist at Hinduja Hospital, said: "This happens because of easy availability of painkillers. Everybody considers themselves to be an expert on health. People end up taking drugs on an empty stomach or without a lot of water, which may lead to other problems."

High price for instant relief

Types of Painkillers |

Analgesics work by either blocking pain signals to the brain or by interfering with those signals

Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) |

Offer relief while lowering fevers and working against inflammation. They include aspirin, ibuprofen and diclofenac. The sideeffect to NSAIDs is that they cause blood to thin and can affect clotting

Non-narcotics paracetamol-based (acetaminophen) |

A painkiller and fever reducer, it does not ease inflammation. It's considered a safe drug when used as per directions, but can cause liver damage when imbibed recklessly Narcotic drugs | The strongest type of painkillers, opioids affect the central nervous system and confuse signals sent to the brain. They are used mainly for post-surgical recovery in a selective manner as they are addictive

Health hazards

Gastro-intestinal tract/organs |

The maximum perforations usually occur in the duodenum. The stomach and intestines can have ulcerations, perforations, bleeding and even leakage of gases in the stomach cavity

Kidney damage |

Some painkillers are not broken by the liver or the digestive system. These are excreted through the kidney and damage it. It can cause acute renal failure and chronic kidney disease

Heart |

A few studies say that excess use of painkillers can lead to cardiac arrest. It can hamper the normal breathing process, which in turn leads to a drop in oxygen supply. This oxygen disturbs the heart rhythm. Though the heart continues to work, it does not supply enough blood to the body

Other Problems

Constipation |

Painkillers have the ability to disturb the bowel system. If not diagnosed in time it can be very painful and lead to other complications

Dizziness |

Painkillers relax the brain and cause drowsiness; this can become a permanent trait.

Nausea |

Some painkillers contain a dose of morphine, which is not tolerated by certain body types. This may cause temporary nausea
Feb 14, 2012
Dear Viji,

I did read about this incidence in the paper.

Any drug for that matter should not be taken without doctors advice. But it is sad that we do not care much about this. When we have a cold it is coldact for fever it is crocin, the next step when not healed is go and ask the pharmacist and he will prescribe the medicine for you. Only when this fails some of them go to the doctor.

Pain killers are the most dangerous of the drugs and should be had only under medical supervision. Not only do they have the side effects as per your post but can be addictive too. Probably that is why that teenager popped so many in a day.


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