Serious health problems could result from addiction to painkillers, discloses an Australian study.
Misuse of over-the-counter analgesics was the "third-most common category of substance abuse in Australia after cannabis and ecstasy", with more than half a million Australians hooked.
Researchers detailed the cases of 27 people addicted to codeine and ibuprofen-based painkillers - typically Nurofen Plus - and the damage this caused to their health.
The side effects included gastrointestinal ruptures, renal failure, anaemia and severe hypokalaemia - low potassium in the blood that can cause an irregular heartbeat or paralysis.
An addiction expert and senior lecturer at Monash University's School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Matthew Frei, said the patients commonly reported taking painkillers to treat a chronic ailment, and then falling into a pattern of daily use and multiple packets.
"A significant proportion of patients reported initiating use of over-the-counter ... products for painful conditions, including back pain and headaches, and subsequently escalating the dose," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Frei as saying.
"A mean dose range of 34 to 47 tablets per day was reported in this case series," he said, while adding that one patient was taking up to 100 tablets a day.
The research has been published in the Medical Journal of Australia.