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Could You Be Addicted And Not Know It Image Credit: REDBOOK
Could You Be Addicted And Not Know It Image Credit: REDBOOK

Could You Be Addicted And Not Know It?

Headaches, insomnia: For many women, there’s nothing a quick stop at the drugstore can’t fix. Yet doctors caution that a reliance on over-the-counter remedies can mask serious problems, prevent you from finding real relief, and even cause you lasting harm. Here’s what every person with a well-stocked medicine cabinet needs to know.

Virginia Sole-Smith

For a lot of my 20s and early 30s, my mornings went like this: Wake up with a terrible headache, make a big pot of coffee, and chase it with two (or four) over-the-counter pain relievers. If the pain doesn’t go away in a few hours, take four more pills. Repeat as needed. All that ibuprofen and caffeine worked in the short term—but then I’d wake up the next morning with another headache and start over again. This happened at least twice a week, and usually every day during my period, when I’d take even more medicine to manage the cramps. I couldn’t understand why the problem kept getting worse, but then I finally saw a neurologist. “You have medication overuse headaches,” she said. Translation: Even though the drugs often eased the pain, they were prepping me for my next attack. “For many patients, this starts a vicious cycle,” explains David Dodick, M.D., chairman of the American Migraine Foundation and professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. “Before they know it, they’ve fallen into a daily pattern of use.”

The thing is, I’ve always thought of myself as a wimp when it comes to pharmaceuticals. When I was prescribed oxycodone after a surgery, I felt no compulsion to take more than the recommended dose, because I didn’t like how loopy it made me feel. I even made it through 26 hours of labor without an epidural. (Granted, I won’t do that again.) But t


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