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  Painkillers - A Commonly Underestimated Danger

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By: Christa-Johanna Bub-Jachens, M.D.
(Original title: Schmerzmittel - eine (oft) unterschaetzte Gefahr. Merkurstab 1995; 48:
460-2. English by A. R. Meuss, FIL, MTA.)

Analgesics with peripheral action - non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and antipyretic drugs

The dangers of painkillers are often not fully recognized. They are widely advertised, but potential consequences are only too rarely made known.

Painkillers are widely used in the highly industrialized countries, with analgesic-induced nephropathy remarkably common. 20% of patients requiring dialysis present with analgesic-induced renal failure (Switzerland). At the dialysis center in Luebeck, Germany, the figure is in the region of 10%. It is not generally known that 10% of all patients with analgesic-induced renal failure develop urothelial carcinoma.(1)

"Phenacetin kidney" was first described in 1950. In 1986, the registration of drugs containing phenacetin was canceled. Concerning the history of phenacetin: large quantities of p-nitrophenol were obtained as a byproduct in the manufacture of certain pigments; the search for an industrial use led to the development of phenacetin.(2)

Anilines also have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic properties but proved too toxic. Acetanilide (an antipyretic), obtained by acetylation, was in use for a long time before it was banned for causing methemoglobinemia. In was known as early as 1887 that acetanilide converts to paracetamol [N-(4-hydroxy-phenyl) acetamide] in the organism. "This substance is much more effective and is better tolerated. Wanting to 'detoxify' paracetamol still further, chemists produced the ethoxy compound phenacetin. Today we know, therefore, that phenacetin is converted into paracetamol in the body."(3)

The February, 1986 issue of Arznei-telegramm states: "The pharmacological and toxicological data establish the same kind of nephrotoxic and carcinogenic risk as for phenacetin. Epidemiological data that might go against this are not available."

Today, we know that paracetamol, which has taken the place of phenacetin, is no less nephrotoxic than phenacetin, especially in combination with acetylsalicylic acid and/or caffein.(1) All non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents cause renal damage. The histology shows non-purulent interstitial nephritis followed by papillary necrosis. There is no dose-effect relation. Some patients taking large doses of analgesics do not show damage, whilst others may develop nephropathy after even relatively low doses. Generally speaking, it is true to say that renal damage is all the more likely the higher the cumulative dose.(1) Non-steroidal antirheumatic drugs also play a considerable role in both chronic and acute renal failure.(1)

We note that drugs have been produced from waste products. Let us hear what Rudolf Steiner had to say on this. "It is not admissible simply to try substances out... without considering what is revealed to the world in them. People test aspirin... or phenacetin, etc., giving them to patients. If they give one after the other like this, there is no need to activate the soul..." He described the way this attitude had come from the Academy of Gondishapur and said there must be no such science, devoid of all spirit, in the future.(5) He spoke of the way medicines were found by Intuition in the past, when people observed the inner connections. Today scientists experiment and try substances out on a number of people. Rudolf Steiner pointed out that such an approach would have negative consequences in due course, though these would not have been noted by the initial experimenters.(7) Chemical analysis in the modem sense will not reveal the world mission of a substance.(4) Rudolf Steiner showed that it is important to know and perceive the relationship between macrocosm and human being and that there is less and less such knowledge, especially in medicine.(6,7) "I went through the martyrdom of the intellect and of sentience when phenacetin was tried out. This method of trying something out, without anything to guide one, shows that science has lost not only the spirit but also its seriousness. .. .Today we must clearly distinguish where we have caricatures of a science and where true insight is gained out of the spirit."(6) These words were spoken in 1908! Consider how long it took until scientists discovered and admitted to facts which Rudolf Steiner had known through the science of the spirit.

Analgesics with peripheral action inhibit prostaglandin synthesis and thus prevent sensitization of pain receptors. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances involved in many processes, e.g. inflammatory processes and platelet aggregation.

The question is, why do peripheral analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs cause kidney damage leading to kidney failure and urothelial carcinoma? The kidney is a secretory organ which enables the human organism to become a self-contained entity capable of self experience. Processes of conscious awareness are connected with the kidney.(8) The kidney is also the organ from which the astral body radiates, which makes it the organic basis for sentience.(9) Pain signifies increased awareness in the organic region concerned. It is experienced in astral body and ego. (The pain vanishes as soon as ego and astral body depart, e.g. in sleep, even if the wound is still there.)(10)

If we see pain as something that brings awareness, waking us up, we may also consider it to be our helper, a chance to perceive the need for specific measures both externally and inwardly. If this awareness-creating symptom is simply suppressed, with no other suitable measures taken, this may create deep-seated problems for the individual concerned.

Apart from kidney damage, potential side effects of all the types of drugs mentioned above include hypersensitivity (skin reactions, analgesic-induced asthma, etc.) and changes in blood profile (agranulocytosis). It is evident that a shift occurs in the astral body's direction of action and also an attack on the ego-organization.

The above-mentioned drugs not only eliminate pain but also have anti-inflammatory and antipyretic properties. Relative to reduced awareness, the suppression of inflammatory reactions and the effect on the warmth organization are of much greater account. They add to the damaging effects of modem civilization, increasing the diseases of our time.

The question is, what is the effect of drinks containing paracetamol used to treat colds (Contac Night-Time, Larylin, and others)? They sound so harmless and are used with terrible frequency. What does it mean if we use acetylsalicylic acid to treat inhibition of platelet aggregation, which is a common practice today?

Christa-Johanna Bub-Jachens, M.D.
Oberthalhofen 25
D-88167 Stiefenhofen (Allgaeu)

1 Ropp PM. Aerztliche Praxis 73, 10 Sept. 1994.
2 Chain Prof. Lecture.
3 Paracetamol ungefaehrlich? Deutsche Apo-theker-Zeitung 1986; 126:436.
4 Steiner R. Eight Lectures to Doctors (in GA 316). Domach, 2 Jan. 1924. Tr. not known. MS translation R 96 at Rudolf Steiner House Library, London.
5 Steiner R. Three Streams in Human Evolution (in GA 184), lecture of 13 Oct. 1918. Tr. C. Davy. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1985.
6 Steiner R. The Being of Man and His Future Evolution (in GA 107). Lecture of 21 Dec. 1908. Tr. P. Wehrle. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1981.
7 Steiner R. Foundations of Esotericism (GA 93A), lecture of 29 Sept. 1905. Tr. V. & J. Compton-Bumett, London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1982.
8 Steiner R. Spiritual Relations in the Configuration of the Human Organism (in GA 218), 20, 22 & 23 Oct. 1922. Tr. M. Deussen. Spring Valley: Mercury Press n.d.
9 Steiner R. Physiology and Therapeutics (GA 314), lecture of 8 Oct. 1920. Tr. A. Wulsin, G. Karnow. Spring Valley NY: Mercury 1986.
10 Steiner R., Wegman I. Fundamentals of Therapy (GA 27), chapter 1. Tr. E. Frommer, J. Josephson. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1983.
PS. Earlier reports on phenacetin in Merkur-stab 3963, Heft 3, S. 85 (Kurt Anders) and 1969, Heft 6, S. 191 (Gisbert Husemann).

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