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Why do I care so much that my friends won't take pain relievers?
June 24, 2010 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Why don't people take medicine for things like headaches, pains, whatever, and why does it frustrate me so much when people close to me don't?

So when I get a headache or whatever, my first instinct is to take a pain reliever. It relieves me of the pain with no side effects. It seems rational and logical to me.

So my friends, coworkers, and significant others completely disagree apparently, and pretty much never take pain relievers for things like that. They either won't/can't explain or their explanations make no sense to me.

I don't really care what my coworkers do, but when it comes to my friends and even moreso my boyfriend I get incredibly frustrated with them. I just don't understand why they would rather be in pain than take a dumb, insignificant pill.

So, how do I chill out about this? And why do people not take medicines with no side effects when they can benefit so much? I really really don't understand. And it bothers me. I don't understand the logic behind it.
posted by tweedle to Human Relations (61 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Those things don't work for me. I would rather be in pain than take something and have it not work. It's silly but there it is.
posted by amethysts at 5:55 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is frustrating that some people would rather suffer and complain than do something to fix it.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 5:55 PM on June 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Overuse of painkillers for headaches can actually cause "rebound headaches", which is one reason I try not to take them until a headache gets truly severe. And there are OTC painkillers that can aggravate stomach problems, etc.

Some people feel that they're proving something about their own toughness by not taking painkillers. Like most ritual displays of manliness, this annoys me enormously. It's a silly thing to be bothered by but I share it.
posted by Jeanne at 5:58 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some people, like my father-in-law, seem to have a sort of purist attitude, that headaches or muscle aches are normal and natural and don't require medication. It's almost a point of pride with them to avoid medications.

But it's important to note that pain relievers don't have "no side effects." In fact, they can have quite significant side effects for some people.
posted by HotToddy at 6:00 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not every medicine works to the same effectiveness for everyone. I myself sometimes get weird side effects (sore stomach, hyper-ness, drowsiness) that no one else gets to OTC meds.

Less logically, taking meds all the time makes me feel old/broken, and yeah, sometimes I irrationally resent that. I see the future when I've got one of those damn boxes with pills for every day of the week, and I want to avoid it as long as possible.

Short answer--having to take medicines rather than just getting well on your own makes many of us feel feeble and closer to death.

As to chilling--realize that it's not your illness/body. You have to respect your friend's boundaries. It's unlikely they'd actually put their lives in danger by not taking a med they really needed, so short of that...it's their call. If they want to suffer as a way of denying mortality (or whatever) that's up to them.
posted by emjaybee at 6:01 PM on June 24, 2010


Sometimes if you don't take something in time it doesn't work PLUS gives you a tummyache/makes you wanna puke.


If I've passed that point I will be one of those that annoy you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:01 PM on June 24, 2010


I usually get headaches at night, several hours after the last time I've eaten. Taking painkillers when I haven't eaten recently usually makes me nauseous, but eating is more of an ordeal than I want to go through if it's just gonna be minor and go away.

I also used to get the rebound headaches, and really don't want to build up any type of tolerance to painkillers, because I don't want to have to start taking more and more
posted by brainmouse at 6:03 PM on June 24, 2010


Also, cough and cold "medicines" do absolutely nothing for me but make me feel like absolute shit - suddenly I feel 10x worse than I did before. Every time I get a cold my SO tries to get me to take some and I refuse to take something I know is going to make me feel like shit, and he always takes it as a personal insult. It must annoy him the way this annoys you. Just know that I'm not about to take something that's going to make me feel awful just to make you feel less irrational annoyance.
posted by amethysts at 6:04 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It relieves me of the pain with no side effects.

One of the side effects is not being aware of the pain they are in anymore, which means they can' monitor what's going on and diagnose the underlying cause. I think there's a fundamental instinctual need to know what's happening with your body. Is it medicine specific? Also not everyone's bodies respond the same to the same chemicals. Some aspirin can damage the stomach lining. The threat of that may be more compelling than relief for a temporary headache.

But here's your real problem either A) he's mentioning that he has a headache you encourage him to take a painkiller he refuses then a fight ensues or B) he complains multiple times about the same pain or a headache you offer aspirin each time he refuses each time.

In scenario A you need to just let go. In scenario B you need to stop rewarding him with attention everytime he complains about a solvable problem, the solution for you is to just let go. In both cases offer once and then drop it. You drop it by breathing in and out 10 times and feeling that impulse to nag swell up in your stomach through your chest and then leave out your nostrils.
posted by edbles at 6:08 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a damn good evolutionary reason why sometimes our responses to ingesting things unnecessarily are a little over the top.
posted by edbles at 6:09 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's one thing if you refuse to take medicine and complain. I don't take medicine, but I also don't complain. For a variety of reasons.

Mostly because cold/headache medicine doesn't usually seem to do much for me. Also because I think it makes sense to minimize the amount of medicine/drugs I take in. There are a variety of side effects that taking tons of medicine can have, and I'd just as soon play it safe and avoid them. I don't generally get crushing headaches, so it's usually not that much of a trial to go through.
posted by resiny at 6:10 PM on June 24, 2010


i have to take a lot of pain killers for some chronic issues which means that i very rarely take them for things like a headache. i also have some digestion issues and i don't want to tempt fate by filling my body with stuff that a big cold glass of water might fix just as easily.

this is a good lesson in "my experience is not universal" - as in, just because you don't have any side effects and the pills work as advertised doesn't mean that everyone is like that.

also: we might better be able to see the logic if you explained this: their explanations make no sense to me. what do they tell you is the reason?
posted by nadawi at 6:11 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Try to remember that the thing you like the most about OTC painkillers - "harmless with no side effects" - isn't true for everyone. You may not experience side effects, but many people do.

For example, I tend to experience intestinal distress with most OTC painkillers. It's much more polite to simply tell people that I prefer not to take painkillers. Believe me, it's not insignificant; if I have a bad enough headache, I really do have to choose whether to deal with it or trade it for potentially debilitating intestinal distress. This is embarrassing, and may be a reason why someone won't explain to you why they don't want to take OTC painkillers.
posted by juniperesque at 6:11 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Painkillers are drugs. Treating them as "dumb, insignificant pills" and believing that they have no side effects is an attitude that leads to overdose, and even death. The risks are relatively low with over-the-counter painkillers like acetameniphen and ibuprofen, but they're still drugs--these "dumb, insignificant pills" work by changing your body chemistry. Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of getting into the habit of doing that casually, and it's really not your place to judge them.

Personally, the dose of acetameniphen required to treat one of my headaches would probably be toxic. Ibuprofen works better, but it can cause stomach upset, especially at higher doses.

Overuse of over-the-counter painkillers is also paradoxically linked to chronic pain, especially chronic headaches/migraine. This is one of the reasons that I avoid them unless I'm relatively sure that they're going to work.

I'm going to hazard a guess that the reason it bothers you so much is that you believe you're the one being smart and logical, and it really irks you that someone close to you won't admit that you're right. Making it worse is the fact that you care for them and you think that they're suffering unnecessarily; if only they would listen to you, they would feel better! This may be true (or it may not), but it's really not your decision what drugs someone else puts into their body and you need to get over it.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:12 PM on June 24, 2010 [26 favorites]


Headaches, I take something for. Colds, I tough it out. The reason: I only occasionally get headaches, and my pain reliever of choice works with no immediate side effects. So yay!

But cold medicines? All the cold medicines I've tried make me tired or loopy. Even the daytime ones. The taste/feeling of cough drops annoys me, drinking tons of cold plain water just feels better. (Yes, I know cold water is "bad" but whatever.) And, on the very, very, very rare occasion that they make me feel better, it feels so much worse when it comes back because I've numbed myself to it for the past couple hours. So, I don't take cold medicines, but I drink lots of water. Yeah, it hurts and I feel crappy and am probably cranky, but I prefer that to the feeling of being temporarily medicated only to feel worse later.

It frustrates you because you don't understand their reasoning. Everyone's different.
posted by AlisonM at 6:13 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. I don't think it's necessary to throw chemicals in my gut every time something is a little amiss. I'll take pain relievers etc., but not all the time.
2. As others have said, sometimes you want to be aware of what's going on so you can monitor it. I won't take pain relief for a twisted ankle, for example, because I don't want to hurt it more through carelessness if I can't feel it.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:13 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


No side-effects? I wish!
posted by phliar at 6:15 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have had headaches for most of my adult life. In my twenties I felt that one should minimize the medicines one takes and so I never even tried taking ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin for my headaches.

In my thirties I realized that I could take these medicines and they would make my headaches go away with no side effects. That's what I've been doing since, and I endure much less pain than I did previously.

My wife prefers not to take pain killers. As with you and your boyfriend, I find this extremely frustrating and feel that she is needlessly enduring pain and diminishing the quality of her life.

I disagree with the other people who are answering this question that it all about side-effects or the ineffectiveness of the medications for some people. I'm sure that accounts for some cases of pain-relief-aversion, but not all (or even most) of them.

As best I can understand it, there is a belief in the higher value of the natural human body, and that this value is worth enduring pain to preserve, and that the taking of medicine should be restricted to times when it is necessary for curative reasons for helping with truly unbearable pain.

I still occasionally encourage mrs. alms to take an ibuprofen when she has a headache. She invariably says 'no'. It disappoints me and I miss her company, but I try not to let it bother me too much. It's her decision, after all.
posted by alms at 6:17 PM on June 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


As others have mentioned, some people feel more comfortable (psychologically comfortable, not physically - obviously) when they are able to monitor how their body feels instead of dulling the sensations with painkillers. For example, if I have a bad cold, and I'm not in serious pain and am able to sleep, I would prefer not to take Dayquil or something of that sort because it doesn't actually help me heal up, and it makes me feel like I can exert myself when in fact my body requires rest in order to recover. (Plus, cold medicines make me feel super weird - a sort of weirdness that I find much more uncomfortable and alien and distasteful than feeling stuffy and sick.)

Also, just to reinforce what folks above have said - painkillers and other OTC medicines are not always simple and easy for people to take. Many of them cause stomach upset, or just plain don't work for some people, or make them drowsy or anxious. Some people, like you, just hit the jackpot and respond well to drugs without side effects.
posted by Cygnet at 6:22 PM on June 24, 2010


A lot of medications serve to treat symptoms which arise due to our body's defense mechanisms - i.e. fevers, inflammation, etc. - which, if inhibited, could lengthen the course of the injury or sickness.

that's why i don't take a lot of medications. i guess you could call it 'believing in the healing power of the human body,' but it's a lot more grounded in science than the phrase would imply.
posted by quickasfoxes at 6:27 PM on June 24, 2010


Wow—you really need to relax.

why does it frustrate me so much when people close to me don't?

I have no idea. It's not your head that's aching, so it really doesn't affect you one way or another.

Do you require an explanation—an explanation that makes sense to you—for everything your friends do? Why they like that band that you think is corny? Why they eat that vegetable that makes you gag? Why they dress, spend their time, and brush their teeth the way they do? (If so, you sound like a miserable person to be around.)

And do your friends demand the same kinds of explanations for everything you do?

Sure, maybe their reasons are completely illogical, but who cares? It's not a big deal. You don't need to understand the logic behind it. You say yourself that it's just a "dumb, insignificant pill", so what's the point in getting this worked up about it? If they're willing to suffer through a headache, then let them.

And go look at some pictures of dead Palestinian babies or something, for context.

(I rarely take painkillers myself, unless I'm seriously hurting. Why? Well, I have a high pain tolerance, and it's possible for me to be in pain but not particularly bothered by that pain. Also, I have a hard time swallowing most pills—for some reason, they trigger my gag reflex and/or get caught in my throat every single time—so they often end up causing more trouble than they're worth. Mostly, though, it's because I don't want to. No reason beyond that. I promise that I'm not doing it just to drive you crazy.)

(And, yeah, cold medicine just makes me feel worse. Never seen the use for it.)
posted by ixohoxi at 6:47 PM on June 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


So when I get a headache or whatever, my first instinct is to take a pain reliever. It relieves me of the pain with no side effects.

Probably been mentioned up thread, but there are side effects to pain relievers. Regular use of Ibuprofen, for example (I have an an extra-large bottle of ibuprofen at work to combat stress headaches) can cause strokes.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:52 PM on June 24, 2010


It could be cultural. I live in Japan, and my Japanese wife, whenever she has a headache, will generally not take any medicine for it. It'll ruin her day, and by extension ruin my day, but only if it's a seriously pounding migraine will she take some medicine. I have my American Extra-Strength Tylenol, which she claims is really strong for her; she never takes two, only one, and half the time that'll knock her out for a nap. Japanese medicine is quite a bit weaker than the American equivalent, and I get the impression that Japanese people will generally just tough out aches and pains rather than take medicine for it.
posted by zardoz at 6:56 PM on June 24, 2010


Ibuprofen is dangerous for asthmatics. Therefore, I don't take it unless it's prescribed by my doctor or I'm unable to bear the (whatever) and it's the only thing available.

Acetaminophen taken regularly leads to liver damage.

Even if your boyfriend/coworker/whatever doesn't have a chronic disease that would be exacerbated by taking these common painkillers (or isn't comfortable discussing it with you), he or she may have a family member who does and learned this behavior for a reason, even if he/she can't articulate it to your liking.

(I know it vexes you, because you want to fix them and they won't let you. The answer is RIGHT THERE!, you think. Eh. After someone refuses a couple of times, remind yourself never to offer/ask again, you already know the answer.)

If you have asthma or another illness mentioned in the two pages I linked, try drinking water, eating something, or getting out of the sun first the next time you have a headache. Taking pills is great, but it's not always the answer.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:06 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I rarely take pain relief because I find over-the-counter painkillers don't seem effective at the recommended dose, and I don't want to take more. I find codeine effective but unless I'm in really severe pain, I'd rather avoid the woolly-headed stupidity that I get from it.

If you think people are toughing it out because of some sort of purist moral judgement, then I can see why that would annoy you -- they're judging you, you self-indulgent wuss! So, um, just remind yourself that you get to set your own standards, and that they probably have other reasons anyway.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:08 PM on June 24, 2010


My girlfriend grew up with someone who abused drugs, which made her naturally gun-shy of drugs in general. And she has allergies to some common pain relievers: a mild reaction to acetaminophen (itchiness) and a severe reaction to aspirin (needs immediate hospitalization, potential death). So I try not to bug her about things like headaches or colds unless she's clearly miserable. I did buy her some ibuprofen; she kept the bottle and will occasionally take a pill, so that's something. Ultimately, it's her choice.
posted by 6550 at 7:11 PM on June 24, 2010


When I get headaches, I can usually tolerate them with no problem as long as the room is fairly quiet and there's not much to distract my senses. But then, someone will try to start up a loud conversation with me, or turn on the Britney, or whatever, and it will feel awful. Maybe the people around you are experiencing something similar.

Also, usually I get headaches when I'm very tired or under a lot of stress. I can sometimes ibuprofen away the physical ache, but the stress is still there, and I will still feel like crap.

(And are any of your female friends complaining about menstrual cramps? The only thing that comes close to touching those for me is a hot bath. If I could fix them on the spot with a pill, believe me I would.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:12 PM on June 24, 2010


I don't take medicine for headaches, except for 1-2 times a year where I really need to get down and focus and a headache would prevent me from doing so.

My philosophy on pain killers in general is why mask the symptom instead of figuring out the cause and solving that.

Pain is the way your body tells you there is something wrong, is it wise to cover that up with pain-killers? Figure out what is causing the pain and fix it.

On top of that, there are side effects...and why put stuff into my body that I don't *need*.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 7:14 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can see your point. There's something deeply annoying about a complainer that does nothing to help themselves or remedy their problem. I rarely take OTC meds unless I can't sleep because of a terrible headache. I will sit with a minor headache or body ache and do nothing about it but I don't moan about it.

I would be annoyed if the person complained and complained and didn't take a Tylenol. If they don't complain, try to let the frustration go.
posted by Fairchild at 7:19 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


For me, headaches often are a symptom of something else: not enough sleep or too little water. I would rather treat the real cause than take a pill.
posted by Monday at 8:01 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I get this. My step father refuses novocaine at the denstist; won't tke aspirin, etc. I don't get it. He's not against drugs (he drinks), he's just a stubborn person. I think (though it isn't clear) that he perceives it as a weakness. Though, for all the things he could be tough about, this seems terribly silly to me.

Maybe it's a product of (like so many things) WWII. There really does seem to be a catch-all (for his age group, anyway) that neatly sums up, but explains NOTHING via WWII.

He's served in Viet Nam. He never talks about Nam, though, so there's no telling (again, catch-all).
posted by marimeko at 8:09 PM on June 24, 2010


I can't swallow pills whole, so I can't take most medications. People (including doctors) usually don't believe me when I say this. I went pill-free for chronic headaches for 20something years until I found out that some pills can be chewed (albeit it ain't a pleasant taste) and still work. I didn't enjoy manning up about it, but I didn't see other options.

I think the whole point of this one, though, is that people won't take meds OR shut up about their pain here...
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:10 PM on June 24, 2010


Did you have a chronically ill parent?

My mother resisted appropriate migraine treatment until long after all her kids were grown and out of the house. I'm pretty sure we all still resent the fucking hell out of that, as she was an ineffective and occasionally really hurtful parent when she was having a migraine, and her migraines would last for three or four days at a time... and she still wouldn't look for alternatives to the medication she was on. Terrified of the side effects.

Being raised in an environment like that will leave a dent on you if you don't work on fixing it.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:16 PM on June 24, 2010


I used to kind of be like you- take Advil at the first sign of any pain, disregarded dosage and would regularly take 3-4 ibuprofen/acetaminophen at a time because I thought they were safe, normal drugs that wouldn't hurt me no matter what.

You know what? Combining regular ibuprofen use with lots of stress and caffeine led to a stomach ulcer. They may not have been the sole cause, but they sure helped it along.

Now, when I get headaches or cramps, I see how bad the pain gets, and only take NSAIDs if it's necessary- and usually only 200mg instead of 400.

OTC drugs are not the same for everyone.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:18 PM on June 24, 2010


Your body is a puppy. The puppy won't stop barking. One way to solve the problem is by putting headphones on and ignoring the puppy. Another way is to pay attention to the puppy - it is just trying to communicate with you, after all, in its annoying way - and trying to figure out what it wants. Over time, you might find that if you pay attention you get better at understanding what is happening with the puppy, and usually know what to do if it starts barking. If the puppy isn't responding in the usual way, then you know it is something new, and worth paying extra attention to, or seeking help with. If you just put on headphones all the time, how would you know the difference?
posted by oulipian at 8:31 PM on June 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


The amount of painkillers it takes to reduce my pain is pretty high, and most of my pain is chronic. At those dosage levels, constantly, it's not such a benign thing to be pounding my body with. Additionally, my pain is the sort that needs to be monitored if I'm going to be active at all.

As for not taking painkillers for headaches and such, to be honest, it doesn't usually occur to me. I generally think of minor things like that as not a big deal. So I have a headache; on to more interesting things. (While pain has become a background noise for me now, I've always done this, so I don't attribute it to just getting used to pain.)

Finally, a personal preference: I don't like to take drugs if it's not necessary, and I don't generally consider it necessary for myself, though there are exceptions. Example from my past: if I needed to be on my feet all day and I was having cramps from hell, I'd take painkillers. If I could be at home and curled up with a book and a cat, I'd pass.

Top it off with: I really dislike swallowing pills.

Another difference you may not really be aware of: you seem to really dislike being in pain, and to be immediately pain-avoidant. Not everybody feels the same. Not saying they're masochists, just that pain doesn't register very loudly on some people's radars. Neither response is superior to the other, though each may feel so. A painkiller will "benefit so much" in your case, but in another person's perception, "meh." Analogy: that lawnmower out the window - is it driving you nuts? Doesn't bug me much at all.

It comes down to this: I'd rather not. If it's not a big deal for me, why is it for you? Why does it matter what my reasons are? Why do they have to be rational? Why does my internal dialogue have to equal yours?

I can see it frustrates you that you don't understand their logic, and maybe after all of these answers you still won't understand or agree. That's okay. You don't have to understand or agree. Live and let live, and have peace in yourself and in your relationships.

Suggested mantra to help you chill about it: "It's no big deal. Move on." Then shrug and move on.
posted by moira at 8:46 PM on June 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Very few things actually alleviate my headaches or allergies, and none of them have been over the counter medications. Also, I can feel any medication I take -- not just allergy medication, which messes up my head a bit, but even ibuprofen, aspirin, and such. Furthermore, I was a pretty sickly child for a while and, as such, took lots and lots of medications on a daily basis. I have decided at this point that it is much easier to deal with the headache/allergies/etc. then screw up my brain and upset my stomach attempting something that generally won't work, anyway.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:48 PM on June 24, 2010


I believe that if I take medications for everything, then they will gradually become less effective. So I try to avoid them unless I'm in a lot of pain, or if it accelerates healing.

For example, I was surprised to find put that Ibuprofen did more than stop the pain, it decreased swelling so that stuff didn't irritate each other. If it's just a matter of dealing with some pain, I can live with that as long as it's not doing more damage.

And, of course, you really do have to get it in your head that other people do all sorts of silly things that you wouldn't do, and that still doesn't make them wrong and you right. And, you don't need to call them on it either. Took me quite a few years to figure that out; hope you get it sooner.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:19 PM on June 24, 2010


I think the best way to deal with it is to be a little bit of a jackass about it. If your coworkers/friends complain to you about having a headache or whatever, suggest/offer some Advil/Tylenol, and if they turn it down, say something along the lines of "Then why are you complaining about it to me? The only way I can help you is by giving you a painkiller." Hopefully eventually they will get the hint and stop whining at you when they have a headache they don't want to do anything about. And you won't have to know that they have a headache and then you'll not be frustrated about it!

With your boyfriend/friends I bet you're also getting irritated because they're using the pain as an excuse for something or other (Oh, I don't want to do the dishes now, I have a headache. Sorry I'm being grumpy, I have a headache. Can you stop watching TV, I have a headache. etc etc). I don't know what to do about that, exactly, and I can see how it might make you seethe (especially when they're trying to control your behavior--like in the TV example).

I take ibuprofen at the start of my "that time of the month" because otherwise I am incapable of doing much of anything without feeling miserable (this includes sitting and sleeping), but I may well try to just take a nap, go to bed, or drink some water before taking pills for a headache. I have some stomach issues, so taking more than I have to is probably not a good idea for me.
posted by that girl at 9:48 PM on June 24, 2010


Oh, I don't want to do the dishes now, I have a headache. - be nice to them by helping them with the dishes.
Sorry I'm being grumpy, I have a headache. - be nice to them and lay off.
Can you stop watching TV, I have a headache.- be nice to them and help them be more comfortable by turning down the tv
posted by amethysts at 10:02 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do not like taking medication that simply relieves symptoms. If I experience pain, my body is telling me something. In the case of a headache, it likely means I'm dehydrated, and should drink some water.

I would rather deal with the underlying cause, rather than treat just the symptom.
posted by axismundi at 10:22 PM on June 24, 2010


As people have said above, nothing has no side effects. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can have some fairly disastrous long term consequences to heavy doses, and some underlying conditions can make even normal doses a kind of a bad idea. (If you already have weak kidneys or gastric ulcers, ibuprofen is not great for you, for example. And if you take it in the third trimester of pregnancy, it can cause pulmonary hypertension in the baby, which is pretty seriously bad.

Perhaps these people are not stupid or stubborn. Perhaps they have simply decided that they have a different risk tolerance to those effects than you do. That's within their own right to decide, right?
posted by KathrynT at 10:32 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


People have certain hangups about medicine... they think it makes them "weak," or they're against the idea of "just treating the symptoms." Or they are more sensitive to side effects. You can't do anything about either case.

Looks, for me, ibuprofen comes through time and time again, in part because I'm not sensitive to side effects of anything, and in part because I was taught to take medicine and "power through" sicknesses. Plus I don't like being in pain. If you really do have bad reactions to certain medicines or feel that they'll somehow pollute the purity of essence of your precious bodily fluids or think that it's "cheating," you're not going to take it... it all has to do with the cultural baggage people bring to medicine taking.
posted by deanc at 10:40 PM on June 24, 2010


Big fan of medicine and medications here, but I never take painkillers for those things.

Why? Because painkillers don't seem to do anything.
Rationally, I know they probably work (mainly because so many women seem almost unable to function without a constant supply), and the presumably work on me too, but my experience with them has always been like this:

Say I have a headache. If I pop a pill, then 10 seconds later, there is no difference yet. So I have to go about my business with a headache, and hope the pill does something soon. I do stuff, get distracted, and it's not until 45 minutes later that I notice that the headache is gone.

Say I have a headache. If I DON'T pop a pill, then 10 seconds later, there is no difference (duh). So I have to go about my business with a headache, and hope it goes away soon. I do stuff, get distracted, and it's not until 45 minutes later that I notice that the headache is gone.

The pills make no difference. They're useless. They're placebos - or so my gut instinct has come to learn at a very deep level. So why bother with them?

(This gut instinct gets interesting when I'm injured in hospital and need morphine or some other serious painkiller. At a deep level I've learned that painkillers do nothing, and I'm never on painkillers, so when I feel healthy, it's always true. There are no pain signals being masked, if I feel ok it's always because everything is in fact ok.
Serious injury + serious painkillers plays games with that instinct :-)

There seems to be a clear gender divide on the use of mild painkillers. It's common to assume it's just some macho thing, but I wonder if maybe it's a genuine medical thing - perhaps pain is commonly felt differently by gender, or perhaps painkillers are somehow often a little less effective in men.


For me to take painkillers, I have to notice that I'm in a lot more pain than I was 30 minutes ago. If the pain is getting worse, and there is nothing I can do about it, eventually it will occur to me that maybe those placebo pills are worth a shot :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:07 AM on June 25, 2010


A close relative survived an infectious disease because, according to doctors, she was young and drug (any drug, including headache medicine) free. She had small kids, it could have ended in a tragedy. So for me, avoiding drugs is a small insurance I willingly pay.
posted by Jurate at 1:21 AM on June 25, 2010


I definitely agree with your frustration. I'm also pretty open to popping OTC painkillers, etc. However they're not all "harmless." Advil tears up my stomach so I always take Tylenol...but apparently it's not so great for the liver/kidney.

However, I disagree with those who say that OTC pain meds only decrease your symptoms. NSAIDs such as Advil actually reduce inflamation and can speed healing. And if you have a high fever, it's really important to take something to bring the fever down or you can pretty much cook your brain!

I've come to discover that some people are less impaired by pain/illness than others. Me - if I don't feel good physically I feel terrible mentally. I have a very strong psychosomatic response. Some people can separate the physical and mental, so even if they have pain they can just deal with it and it doesn't affect their daily lives. One person isn't stronger or weaker, their body-brain connection is just different.
posted by radioamy at 1:28 AM on June 25, 2010


Okay thanks guys, now maybe (hopefully) next time I will just let it go. My friends usually aren't chronic complainers, it's just that I think I have the solution and I think they just don't want it for whatever reason. I highly doubt they experience any side effects mentioned or anything like that, and I know they don't have chronic diseases. They just simply don't want to take the medicine for whatever reason and I guess I should respect that. It also frustrates me when they don't want to go to the doctor for anything though.

Basically I grew up around people in the medical field, maybe that has something to do with it. But I guess it's their bodies and it doesn't really affect me much and I just need to learn how to move on. But it's just so frustrating.
posted by tweedle at 1:43 AM on June 25, 2010


Oh, I hear you... My husband proudly proclaims that he has "Never taken an aspirin" his whole life. But he likes to complain about aches and pains from time to time. It used to seriously bug me, now I just say: "Listen, I can get you some aspirin if you'd like. Otherwise, stop complaining." I have to repeat it from time to time, but it works. I find that as long as he's suffering silently, as it were, I don't care about his headaches...

(Also, now that I think about it objectively, my husband is probably right about avoiding Aspirin. OTC pain meds do have side effects and if you just have a normal everyday headache it's not worth taking them. But I won't tell him that! ;-))
posted by The Toad at 1:54 AM on June 25, 2010


tweedle said: "I think I have the solution and I think they just don't want it for whatever reason. I highly doubt they experience any side effects mentioned"

You might have the solution for you. You don't necessarily have it for them. For all of the reasons upthread, they might have an aversion to taking medication. And unless they specifically say, you have no idea whether or not they experience any side effects or not. You're basing an assumption on incomplete data.

"But it's just so frustrating."

I think it would help you to spend some time sitting and thinking about this. It's obviously a problem for you, but it's not something that someone else can come along and tell you. The answer is inside your head, and that's somewhere that only you can go. You might find some kind of therapy helpful, if only to help you work the problem out.
posted by Solomon at 4:40 AM on June 25, 2010


I highly doubt they experience any side effects mentioned or anything like that, and I know they don't have chronic diseases.

You never know. I grew up in a family with an attitude of not taking medicine unless it was absolutely necessary. Turns out I have hemophilia (no one knew), and not taking pain killers probably kept me safe.
posted by ThiefOfSweets at 5:35 AM on June 25, 2010


my husband is probably right about avoiding Aspirin.

Well, when he gets into late middle age, taking an aspirin a day is good for your cardiovascular system: lowers risk of heart attack and stroke.

Basically I grew up around people in the medical field, maybe that has something to do with it.

Yep. People in health care tend to have fewer "cultural" issues about painkillers, and it's more about, "this has been shown to work to fix your problem, so take it," in the same way one would use krazy glue to fix something broken. For them, it's a tool, like any other tool, rather than a moral statement... but that isn't how many other people think.
posted by deanc at 6:38 AM on June 25, 2010


I'm really, really cautious about mixing painkillers and alcohol, and if I've had a Tylenol within six hours I won't have a single drink, and vice versa. Sometimes, if I'm planning on having a nice dinner and a couple of glasses of wine, I'd rather have the headache and the wine than take a painkiller and forfeit my nice beverage. So that could be another reason.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:31 AM on June 25, 2010


Hmm, not sure I agree about "people in the medical field". I grew up around medical types too, and they were very much of the "taking a pill to hide it is silly if you can fix the actual problem". So I get out of the sun, drink water, eat something, hang out in a dark room for a minor headache (fortunately for me I rarely get major ones). Treat the disease (or, well, the underlying cause), not just the symptoms.

That having been said I did used to take ibuprofen; I actually stopped mostly because I started reading about the use of anti-inflammatories in treating tendon injuries (not always so useful) as well as its stomach side-effects (not always so pleasant). Also I got older and so the monthly reason for ibuprofen is much less of a problem than it was when I was young.

Also I've had to make my peace with taking drugs for things I *don't* have much of a choice about (asthma+allergies), and I take birth control, and honestly I just really don't want to add anything else to the mix.
posted by nat at 8:43 AM on June 25, 2010


It seems like the medicine thing is irrelevant to your core problem of being frustrated by the activities of someone else regarding their personal space. I agree completely that you need to take a long, careful look at how your frustration functions to get closer to a resolution for it.

It's not so much that your concern for them is a problem. Your resulting frustration is definitely a problem. It's possible you're not aware of how much a problem this is, either, because you've been able to rationalize your frustration by linking it to "logical, medical concern."
posted by odinsdream at 8:53 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


WebMD is just the first place I checked for natural headache remedies. Some of these ideas are pretty good. While I agree that the problem here is your frustration with people not taking your advice, it certainly can't hurt to explore alternate avenues of relief.

friend: I have a headache!
you: would you like an aspirin?
friend: no thanks, I don't like to take meds.
you: how about I get you a cool towel for your forehead. You can lie down in this cool room for a few minutes.

If they say "sure", you're golden. If they don't like your other suggestion, then that's on them. You've tried to help, they don't want your help, so move on.

you: OK, I hope you feel better soon. I'll just be leaving now...
posted by purpletangerine at 9:11 AM on June 25, 2010


I highly doubt they experience any side effects mentioned or anything like that

even though you have a thread full of people telling you that they don't take pain killers for that reason it still seems utterly doubtful to you? it seems like you might have started this ask.me just to vent your frustration about your partner and coworkers and friends.


it's just that I think I have the solution and I think they just don't want it for whatever reason

does this attitude show up a lot in your life? maybe this is what you should be focusing on rather than if your non-complaining friends don't want to ingest pills that you swear have no side effects despite all evidence to the contrary.
posted by nadawi at 12:04 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Being in or around the medical field has nothing to do with it, in my (not insignificant) experience. Your reasons and actions are not the only logical, rational, medically valid ones here.

People gave you many of their personal motivations, but you clung on to the side effects reason and dismissed it out of hand, disregarding all others. Nothing you said in your last comment here indicates a real willingness to understand or let it go. It's full of doubt, negatives and reiteration.

You asked a twofold question: "why?" and "how do I let it go?" You got answers for both, with the hope that understanding why would help with letting it go. Seeing your response, I want to add what I'd initially deleted in my original answer: perhaps you should take a wider look at your need for control over other people's actions. It will cause a lot of trouble for you.
posted by moira at 3:14 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


even though you have a thread full of people telling you that they don't take pain killers for that reason it still seems utterly doubtful to you? it seems like you might have started this ask.me just to vent your frustration about your partner and coworkers and friends.

No, it's doubtful to me because the people in my life where I have an issue with this are very open with me and I would bet on it that they don't experience adverse side effects because I know them very well. It is beyond a doubt not their issue with medication.

It really kinda seems to me that the people answering this question are taking it very personally for whatever reason. And answering with a lot of snark. I probably should have just asked how to deal with my frustration. A thread full of people saying medication affects them adversely doesn't say anything about my friends, and I should have known that. Of course when I ask a question asking why people don't take pain killers I will get a lot of responses saying negative side effects but I, and I'm not sure on this, think most people don't experience adverse reactions.
posted by tweedle at 6:19 PM on June 25, 2010


Actually, on rereading, most people gave helpful answers, some people gave snarky answers as if I was personally insulting them, which was definitely not my intention. The other reasons besides the side effect one that seems very prevalent are being considered. That was just the one I dismissed because it is not applicable to my situation and seemed to be the most prevalent. It doesn't mean I disregarded all others, because I definitely did not.
posted by tweedle at 6:39 PM on June 25, 2010


As people who frequently choose not to take painkillers - the subjects of your extreme frustration - I imagine we're reacting to what came across as a tone of superiority, unintentional as it may have been. Maybe it doesn't come across that way face to face, but if it does, you may be putting your friends' hackles up, too, and they may be too polite or interested in keeping the peace to mention it. MeFi users can be brutally honest, sometimes in an abrasive way. I apologize for my own abrasiveness. I feel I could have phrased myself much better.

When I find myself frustrated about something I'd like to have different, but over which I have no control, I remind myself that I cannot control it. I remind myself that it's not a big deal. I take a deep breath, relax my muscles, tell myself that life goes on, and I redirect my attention elsewhere.

If you find yourself easily frustrated in general, you might benefit from brief periods of relaxation throughout the day. You might also benefit from practicing mindfulness. For myself, I try to focus on things that are beautiful, or that make me smile, or that give me joy. It doesn't directly address the topic of frustration, but it brings my latent annoyance levels down to low or nil.
posted by moira at 8:17 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Those things don't work for me. I would rather be in pain than take something and have it not work. It's silly but there it is.

Same for me. Ibuprofin, asprin, tylenol, your favorite painreliever, nope, nothing but strong opioids (that can''t be easily acquired) works for me. Oh I'd take OTC painrelievers if they had any effect but there's no point. Why do you want me to take a pill that doesn't do anything?
posted by fuq at 7:16 AM on June 26, 2010


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