We are researching the long term effects of painkillers in the human body, focusing especially on the specific chemicals in over the counter painkillers and how they affect the body's overall reaction time and growth..
Elizabeth Alabi Katie Clark
Grade 9


What are the physiological and psychological effects of painkillers?  



Research project.


Question: What are the physiological and psychological effects of pain killers?  

Hypothesis: We believe that over-the-counter painkillers result in long-term damage after the overuse or reliance on the painkiller. We predict that we will find it has severe effects neurologically and in the nervous system when it comes to pain.


Background info 

Painkillers and drugs were originally used to kill large bacteria that couldn't be erased naturally. Drugs were made out of everyday natural products such as tree bark and well-nurtured soil. As painkilling drugs became more profound and popular, society began creating drugs for issues the body could usually solve naturally. Drugs that had unknown effects and addictive qualities were categorized as illegal. As research in these illegal drugs developed we began learning of their side effects and legalizing them for medical purposes. Humanity soon began to “crave’ these drugs because they were known to heal diseases faster than ever. Individuals who weren't in need of them to heal and relieve diseases got their hands on them and began an epidemic involving dangerous diseases. Today's society's patience for the natural healing process has completely fallen. We are more reliable on drugs to soothe our issues more than ever, but what are these drugs actually doing in your body. 

When you injure yourself, your body sends a signal through your nerve endings which leads to your brain.  This causes your brain to react to the activity that is being done by giving you the pain.  One of the ways the painkillers relieve this pain is by interfering with and destroying that signal either in your nerves or at the site of pain.  The second way these drugs stop your pain is by changing your brain’s perspective and sensitivity to the pain. 

Your body usually produces natural hormones called neurotransmitters.  The job of these hormones is to bind the opioid receptors when you are feeling pain.  When you ingest painkillers they take the role of the neurotransmitters in dealing with the pain by binding the receptors.  Your body then slows or stops the production of these hormones because their job is already being done by the painkillers.  Since these drugs act like the neurotransmitters they trick your body into thinking that it has already produced enough of these hormones so it doesn’t produce anymore.  This causes your body to be less capable of healing naturally.  

Another role of the neurotransmitters is to send signals through your nerves to your brain which connects your brain to your body. Although painkillers do take on the job of the neurotransmitters in the sense that they bind the opioid receptors they do not take the role of sending signals to your brain.  Since there are little to no neurotransmitters left in the body this job is not getting completed.  Painkillers also negatively depress your central nervous system which can result in slurred speech, slow breathing, and slow bodily reactions.

The path painkillers travel through your body

The way an oral drug goes through your body is called pharmacokinetics. The drug begins by making its way through your body and dissolves in the stomach’s acid. After dissolving, small pieces of the drug go through your bloodstream until it reaches your liver. Not all pieces of the drug pass completely through the liver. A portion of the drugs is stopped by your body’s liver enzymes attempting to neutralize the drug, as the drug is known as a foreign substance in your body that the enzymes are trying to fight off. In neutralizing the pieces become metabolites. These metabolites then remain in your blood system. While metabolites are circulating in your blood they act as a mini, less powerful version of the drug. The speed at which metabolites form is dependent on your metabolism. Your body releases the metabolites through feces and urine. The metabolites can stay in individuals with slower metabolisms longer because of side effects such as a lack of hunger, where they no longer feel the need or want to eat. The metabolites would remain in your system and be unable to release themselves due to the drug’s effects of being unappetizing. Metabolites can also make you crave the drug, as they've remained in your system for so long, once they exit it's expected that your body will desire to receive the drug once again. If metabolites are the drugs that didn't make it through what about the pieces that did? The pieces of the drug that did make it will continue through will continue to travel through your bloodstream. The drug chemicals locate the point where your body is releasing prostaglandins (a chemical released from damaged cells), and begin working to overpower the prostaglandin chemicals.

Studying of painkiller brands


Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol is an over-the-counter drug found in pharmacies.  It is used in over 600 prescribed drugs but can also be unprescribed and purchased at a local pharmacy. Acetaminophen toxicity occurs in a patient who has overdosed on this specific drug.  This kind of toxicity is very dangerous and may cause liver destruction or even death.  Tylenol is suggested to take 2 pills at a time, one pill is 500mg. An important warning on the packaging is to not take more than 8 pills over the span of 24 hours. Acetaminophen in long-term use can result in side effects including stomach problems, kidney problems, high blood pressure, fluid retention, and other allergic reactions. According to various sources, acetaminophen is the only active ingredient in the pill, it can cause issues such as heart attacks and internal bleeding when taken in large amounts. In the worst case, overdosing on acetaminophen can cause extreme liver failure. 

A Tylenol pill is made 100% out of acetaminophen 


Ibuprofen is also known as the brand Advil. Advil is an over-the-counter drug found on pharmacy shelves, making for easy access. The Recommended dose for ibuprofen for adults is 1200 mg per day or 6 tablets a day. The most important drug in ibuprofen is propionic acid. Propionic acid has side effects such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. 

Prioponic acid- 74.08 g/mol

Ibuprofen tablet- 200grams


74.08g/mol / 10= 7.408

7.408/ 200= 0.0371 x 100= 3.704

3.704grams of Propionic acid in a 200 grams Ibuprofen tablet



Dextromethorphan, also known as cough syrup is an easy access over the counter drug. Dextromethorphan is not to be used if a cough is occurring due to smoking, asthma, or emphysema and only due to illness’ such as the flu. The active chemical in dextromethorphan is Robitussin. Robitussin can cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, headache, facial flushing, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach. All these effects are the result of taking more than the suggested amount of 30 mg every six to eight hours. 

Robbitussin- 198.22g/mol

Dextromethorphan bottle- 118 ml

Substances- 2

198.22g/mol / 2= 99.11

99.11/ 118 =0.399 x 100= 84

84ml of Robitussin in a 118 ml bottle of Dextromethorphan



Naproxen, also known as Aleve is an over-the-counter drug found in pharmacies and drug stores around the globe. Naproxen is used to reduce inflammation in diseases such as pain, menstrual cramps, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and fever. The active chemical in naproxen is known as arylacetic acid. The chemical itself is known to cause major issues involving gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeds, heart attack, and kidney disease. These may result from an overdose on the drug and incorrect intake of drugs. Adults ages 12-65 are advised to take 1 tablet every 8-12 hours.  The packaging warns users to not supply aleve to children under the age of 12 because it affects their growth and development it also advised to take the medication with a full glass of water and continuously stay hydrated throughout the day.

1kda+1 g/mol

AryLacetic acid: 25kda

Naproxen pill: 0.25grams

Amount of substances: 5

25kda / 5 substances = 5kda

5kda / 0.25= 20 x 100

200 millagrams of AryLacetic acid  in a 250 millagram Naproxen pill


Prevention and history

Preventing an overdose involves being aware of the effects and procedures of using a drug. When taking drugs always do more research to have more information than the doctor has provided you with. To stay safe when taking drugs, remember this simple acronym when taking a drug.

G- Gender






Q- Questions

We created this acronym based on the information we found that was relevant to the intake of drugs. Overdosing on drugs can change the course of your life entirely which is why it is important to be aware and acknowledge the possibilities and opportunities in your future before turning to drugs.


No Data 



In conclusion, the intake of over-the-counter drugs will, in fact, harm your long-term health. From our research, we found that as you become more used to taking pain soothing drugs your body’s reaction time to pain will slow down or even eliminate. Your body will become more reliant on the drug’s chemicals instead of your body’s natural hormones. This, as a result, causes your body’s tolerance toward the painkillers to go up leaving you to need more of the drug in order to have the same effect.  We also see how much harmful chemicals we are actually taking in. When looking at over-the-counter drugs it seems extremely small but really it's just a compressed cylinder filled with deadly chemicals. Several chemicals are put in our body to speed up its natural healing process, but over time we may be eliminating it from us and if we attempt to lay off drugs our healing time may take twice as long as before. Overall the intake of painkilling drugs is extremely risky if you are unaware of the long-term consequences and when dealing with over-the-counter drugs it is important to read the labels.


What's Next?

If we were to continue our research, we would like to look deeper into how painkillers slow down your reaction time.  In our previous studies, we did touch on this topic, but we would like a more extensive understanding of it. It would also be important to analyze how one-time uses of this drug will affect our study.  We have examined many over-the-counter drugs, but feel it is relevant to compare narcotic drugs as well.  In doing this we can attempt to discover which drug is the healthiest and best at pain relieving. We can also look further into the opioid receptors and other hormones that are affected by the consumption of painkillers.  



Links and resources





See section above stating "Citations"