Saturday September 20th 2014

Can you get addicted to ibuprofen?

No, ibuprofen is not addictive. But some pills that contain ibuprofen and opioids are. More here.

What kind of drug is ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is in a subclass of pain relieving medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDS are analgesic agents that typically do not bind to opioid receptors in the brain and are not addictive. Ibuprofen is a non-narcotic pain reliever that is offered as both a prescription and non prescription drug.

You cannot develop physical dependence on ibuprofen

People who get addicted to drugs develop physical and psychological dependence on their drug of choice. Ibuprofen has neither of these characteristics. First, your body does not develop tolerance to ibuprofen or withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it. These are the two main characteristics of physical dependence on any drug.

You cannot get high on ibuprofen

Second, ibuprofen euphoria does not exist, which eliminates the psychological dependence factor. Instead of working via the opioid receptors in the brain and body, ibuprofen pain relief is caused by blocking the creation of prostaglandin. Other prescription drugs work by blocking your perception of pain in the body, one side effect of this action being an extreme sense of well being, or euphoria. It is this high that people chase, and the reason why many people use pain killers with opioids. So because ibuprofen DOES NOT bring on an extreme sense of well-being, nor does ibuprofen create physical dependence, ibuprofen is NOT addictive.

Why the confusion about addiction potential?

Some people may take medications which contain addictive medicines IN COMBINATION with ibuprofen. And they want to measure the addiction liability of each. Generic and brand name pain pills that combine ibuprofen with either hydrocodone or oxycodone have fairly high addiction liability. Drugs that contain hydrocodone or oxycodone should be used for short term relief of pain, and are often not prescribed for longer than 7 days for the treatment of acute pain. This is because hydrocodone and oxycodone are some of the most abused and addictive medications in the U.S. today. How addictive is hydrocodone or oxycodone?  Very, especially if used to feel high.

Here is an outline of the most popular brand name medicines containing ibuprofen and one or the other of these opioids.

H = hydrocodone
O = oxycodone

Brand name | opioid | DEA | For the use of

Combunox  |    O    |   CII   | One week or less treatment of acute, moderate to severe pain

Ibudone    |    H    |  CIII  | Short-term management of acute pain

Reprexain |    H    |  CIII  | Short-term management of acute pain

Vicoprofen |    H    |  CIII  | Short-term management of acute pain

Questions about pain pills?

Using oxycodone or hydrocodone for euphoric effect, or for other non-medical reasons can lead to moderate or low physical dependence and high psychological dependence. If you have questions about the use of either of these narcotic pain medications, please leave them below. We are happy to answer your questions personally or even respond by writing a new article!

Reference sources: Drug info on ibuprofen from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
Wiki on the Controlled Substances Act
Short Acting Narcotic Analgesics Review
PubChem Ibuprofen Compound Summary

Photo credit: k.landerholm

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20 Responses to “Can you get addicted to ibuprofen?
Lucy
1:49 pm June 1st, 2012

Ibuprofen is addictive. I was taking it regularly for 20 months and got horrific withdrawal effects. I also eventually got terrible side effects from taking it. It may not be as addictive as other drugs or pain killers but it is still possible to rely on it. Also as one of the side effects can be headaches, it creates a vicious cycle.

8:04 pm June 1st, 2012

Hi Lucy. Thanks for your comment. I do believe that you can become physically dependent on many chemicals, and ibuprofen may be one of them. As you experienced withdrawal from ibuprofen, this seems to be testimony to how your body reacted without it. What withdrawal symptoms did you experience?

But the psychological component of drug seeking, or obsession is not present with ibuprofen. In a medical sense, complaints drug use despite negative consequences must be present to officially call a drug “addictive”.

Lucy
8:38 am June 2nd, 2012

Thanks for your feedback. I believe the withdrawal involved my body coping with a detox process. Once off it I have been absolutely fine.
WIthdrawal involved dizziness, headache, extreme weakness, high levels of nausea, light sensitivity lasting 10 days – in general a bit like a hangover.

With regard to the psychological component, I experienced a certain comfort in taking it and became unable to sleep without it. Other people I have spoken to have mentioned this comfort element to ibuprofen, saying it feels like they are taking sweets. There is a site on Facebook called ‘Ibuprofen are dispensable candy’. They are sweet to the taste and feel a bit like smarties in shape and size. I think this is dangerous. Also, it only says on the leaflet that you should not take for more than 8 days. I believe it should say this on the box (such a warning is present on Cocodomol boxes. I didn’t realise until I started vomiting alot after I ate that it was affecting my stomach. I think you can become dependant without being obsessed.

Obviously it’s a lot more moderate level of addiction than other drugs and part of the problem is in not realising the addiction is happening because ibuprofen is such a widely used and accepted medication.

9:37 am June 4th, 2012

Thanks for sharing more, Lucy. Drug warnings on boxes go through the FDA, so I wonder if you might contact them to report an adverse side effect:

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/HowToReport/ucm053074.htm

Finally, I hope that your experience can help others who may be going through the same!

Tim
3:28 am June 14th, 2012

This artical is wrong. You can be addicted to Advil. Trust me, I have gone through the withdraw aleady and it’s aweful. If you have a headache for a couple days in a row and you continue to have headaches you take Advil. Than when your real headaches are gone your body beings to go through withdraw and it wants more
So you begin to get more headaches more frequently untill you realize your taking Advil every day and you need to stop. If
You take Advil more than 3 times a week just stop. It’s really bad for you and if you are addicted the withdraw only last about a week ad it’s only headaches you have to deal with so just do it.

1:07 am June 20th, 2012

Hi Tim. Thanks for sharing more about your experience with Advil and ibuprofen. Although medical authorities have found no clinical link to chemical dependence, tolerance or withdrawal, I feel clear that there are cases where these symptoms exist. What did you do when you went through Advil withdrawal? Anything that can help others?

Judy N.
2:20 pm December 11th, 2012

Been taking Advil PM for years for sleep. Stopped taking them cold turkey and have been suffering harrible anxiety and panic.

Judy

8:04 pm December 11th, 2012

Hi Judy. I’d suggest talking with a family doctor . It’s possible that you might benefit from a short-term use of anti-anxiety medications or other pharmaceutical interventions…or that there are lifestyle changes you can make to ease these symptoms.

Ken
3:35 pm December 28th, 2012

I was on the camino in Spain and was using Ibuprofen to control pain from foot swelling. I also sustained injuries to my right heel and later developed bursitis in the left knee because of all the limping. I took more Ibuprofen. In Spain the non-perscription Ibuprofen is 600mg, quite a bit stronger than we get here in NA. I was taking this stuff 3 times a day.

I stopped taking Ibuprofen when I got home. I had several days where there were headaches, nausea, and dizzyness. I thought I had a bad cold or flu but now am wondering if there is a detox effect going on. I am starting to feel pain in my feet again though thats probably the nerves in my feet recovering from the abuse. Abuse because I had kept walking instead of resting.

12:03 pm December 31st, 2012

Hi Ken. The maximum amount of ibuprofen for adults is 800 mg per dose or 3200 mg per day. I’d suggest that you check in with an orthopedist for an evaluation and diagnosis. How long were you using ibuprofen without stopping?

Helen Inwood
12:21 pm January 30th, 2013

I have a very painful type of MS with crushing paraesthesia, intensfying at night..
I take one (prescribed) 2mg tablet of diazepam and one 50 mg tablet of diclofenac at night – just two or three times a week, and on very rare occasions, 4 times. Never more.
I also have a 10 mg Lisinopril tablet for hypertension every morning.

I am 78 and have no chronic health probs but MS.

Am I in any danger of addiction, and is the hazard from tablet combination a threat?

10:39 am January 31st, 2013

Hi Helen. Addiction occurs when you begin to experience psychological cravings or obsessions for a drug of choice. You turn to it for psycho-emotional support. If you are taking these prescription medications as prescribed, you may become physically dependents on certain drugs that affect the central nervous system. But this is not the same as addiction. Speak with your prescribing doctor about your concerns.

Sandy
6:33 am February 1st, 2013

Hi ken, I’m going through the same withdrawal symptoms you’ve described. After a car accident about a year ago, I’ve been taking 600 mg every day for back and neck pain. Every time I try to skip a day I end up with body aches, chills , headache, and symptoms very similar to the flu. I’m slowly decreasing the dose.
I’ve read only six other cases through google with these symptoms. I think these symptoms should be reported and studied because there is no site on the Internet (that I’ve found) that states withdrawal symptoms from ibuprofen.

Karen
5:25 pm January 23rd, 2014

Advil withdrawal: after years of taking Advil for pain in my head and neck due to injury I developed chronic daily headaches that responded only to Advil. If I did not take Advil I would develop a worse headaches chills and eventually a migraine. Now im dealing with stomach ulcers and blood clotting linked to the extended use of advil. My dr is helping break the cycle with lidocaine shots in the back of my head and prednisone over a period of 10 days. This is day 10. The right side of my head hurts so badly I’m nearly incapacitated. It’s real. It’s painful. I’m not getting better yet but I’m 11 days off of Advil, depressed about the continual pain but not giving up yet. Good luck everyone out there dealing with this.

Henry W
10:41 pm June 26th, 2014

As anyone who has progressed from episodic migraine to chronic migraine because of Ibuprofen overuse. The dependency is nasty and if you try to get off of the Ibuprofen, the migraine pain that goes on for up to 3 months is agonizing. It is not addiction like heroin addiction, but it is dependency and has very clear withdrawal symptoms.

Kim S
6:53 am August 30th, 2014

Hi, my boyfriend was prescribed ibuprofen 800mg from a hospital after an ER visit for his wisdom teeth. It’s been almost week (6 days) he has to take the pills three times a day or so. When he doesn’t, he starts to get very irritable and dizzy with a headache and nauseous. He told me he feels dependent. He said he feels like his body is demanding it and needs it. His mood has changed quite a bit since taking the pills. He gets really moody when he needs them again and physically he feels ill. I hate seeing him like this. He has a family history of pill addiction. I don’t want that to happen to him.

Ivana @ Addiction Blog
7:12 am September 2nd, 2014

Hello Kim S. Does he still need the pills for medical purposes? If not, you can talk to him and convince him to throw them away, but make sure he hasn’t stashed any and can’t change his mind. After only a week on the med he shouldn’t struggle to stop taking it. Be there for him, but be strict about him staying away from the drug.

Henry W
7:48 pm September 2nd, 2014

To Kim S: My doctor helped me get off the Ibuprofen by giving me a low, tapering dose of prednisone. This was after she saw the agony I was experiencing. The Prednisone helped tremendously. Perhaps your boyfriend’s doctor could help with something like this. It would need to be a doctor with experience with medication overuse conditions. Good luck!

Yvonne
2:18 pm September 9th, 2014

I have a 36 year old son who takes hydrocodone his drug of choice. Every morning he grabs at least 4 ibuprofens, and goes out the door to work. My question is, If he is doing hydrocodone, and then taking the ibuprofens, what effects is it giving him? How dangerous is this to him?

6:33 am September 13th, 2014

Hello Yvonne. Hydrocodone is often mixed with NSAIDs like ibuprofen, paracetemol, or aspirin. They are then branded as brand name drugs like Vicodin or Vicuprofen. You can learn more about the dosage he’s using of ibuprofen and take your concerns to a pharmacist; you can benefit from expert medical opinion on this one, in terms of limits and precautions.

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