Home » Health Conditions » Pain Problems

Pros and Cons of Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)

  • NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are very common.
  • In general, the more effective an NSAID is at reducing inflammation, the more likely it will be to cause side effects; stomach problems are particularly common.

What are NSAIDs?

NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are very common. You are no doubt aware of household names such as aspirin and Ibuprofen. Most commonly, these are taken as tablets, although such medicines can also be found as injections, suppositories, creams, gels and foams to apply to the skin. (Paracetemol is not included as an NSAID, as it has no anti-inflammatory properties.)

Many NSAIDs are now available over-the-counter, and when used in moderation, are considered relatively safe. Their popularity is due to their widespread availability and because they do not generally cause drowsiness, or breathing problems. Some people with asthma can react to NSAIDs by becoming wheezier. If this happens, you should stop taking the drug and use your usual asthma medication.


If you are reading this article and thinking about taking an NSAID you are probably looking for a way to reduce inflammation or pain in some way, probably on a long term basis. The most common illness for which NSAIDs are prescribed is arthritis, particularly inflammatory forms of arthritis. Since such conditions are permanent and long term, this article will consider the long term effects of using such drugs.

The anti-inflammatory effects of NSAIDs may take from a few days to three weeks to be effective, hence this period of time is usually allowed before determining whether or not they are working for you. In any event, it is likely that your doctor has prescribed this course of medicine for you and will already have discussed frequency of dose, strength of dose as well as possible side effects. It is worth bearing in mind that a review of physician visits and prescriptions estimated that unnecessary prescriptions for NSAIDs were written in 42 percent of visits.

The biggest plus side of these medicines is that they reduce pain and inflammation, which in turn allows you to go about your daily life in more or less your usual manner. This is of course a great blessing if your illness has prevented you from enjoying certain aspects of your life. However, it is worth considering possible side effects of long term use of NSAIDs.

Side Effects

In general, the more effective an NSAID is at reducing inflammation, the more likely it will be to cause side effects; stomach problems are particularly common. This is because NSAIDs affect the chemicals in the body that are also involved in your stomach, and so the NSAIDs tend to cause problems such as indigestion and in some cases stomach ulcers. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of NSAID patients experience indigestion.

Other side effects include increased risk of heart failure. NSAIDs are estimated to be responsible for up to 20 percent of congestive heart failure hospital admissions.

NSAIDs should never to be used by individuals with inflammatory bowel disease due to its tendency to cause gastric bleeding and ulcers in the gastric lining.

Can NSAIDs be given to animals?
NSAIDs are also sometimes given by veterinarians to animals (generally not the human varieties of the drug), and are used to help animals suffering from arthritis. Side effects are similar to those for humans. Owners should be particularly aware of warning signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss or lack of appetite.

This said, animal studies have convincingly demonstrated that without anti-inflammatory medication, dogs with pre-existing arthritis and muscle atrophy will decline in health much faster than those who take such medicines. It is therefore for the owner to decide the better course of action, chronic pain for your pet or the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding (usually reversible) and a small risk of liver disease.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

One Response to “Pros and Cons of Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)”

  1. 1
    vihishima lawrence terngu Says:
    The articles are educative but they bring more inspiration if the authors and their academic qualifications are published.