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Are you taking too many NSAIDs?

Last Modified: October 04, 2021

Family Medicine


This post was written by Caitlyn Patton, PharmD candidate, Parkview Health.

NSAIDs account for approximately 5-10% of all medications prescribed each year. This doesn’t account for those utilizing this class of medicine in an over-the-counter form at their own discretion. It’s important to know the proper applications and limitations of NSAIDS, so that you can avoid the potentially harmful effects of NSAID toxicity.

What are NSAIDs?

NSAID stands for “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.” NSAIDs can help alleviate pain, lower temperature and decrease inflammation. Common uses are for arthritic pain, muscle aches, menstrual cramps and fever reduction.

How do NSAIDs work?

NSAIDS are a COX inhibitor, which means that the main mechanism involves the inhibition of an enzyme called cycloxygenase, or COX. This enzyme is needed to convert arachidonic acid to prostaglandins. The blocking helps decrease inflammation, pain and fever.

Common NSAIDs

There are a variety of both generic and brand name NSAIDs on the market. Some of the most popular include:

  • Advil®/Motrin® - ibuprofen
  • Aleve® - naproxen
  • Bayer® - aspirin
  • Celebrex® - celecoxib
How much NSAID is safe to take in a day?

The maximum safe recommendation for ibuprofen is 3200 mg per day and 1500 mg for naproxen. Don't use NSAIDs for more than 3-4 days for fever, or 10 days for pain, unless directed by your doctor.

What is NSAID toxicity?

The most common signs in an acute toxicity are nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and dizziness. Another concern associated with NSAIDs is gastrointestinal bleeding. In severe cases, some patients may experience seizures, issues with kidneys, and cardiovascular issues like low blood pressure.


Additional resource:

Cleveland Clinic


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