Last published: June 14, 2023
What is ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is a pharmaceutical drug that is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).1
Ibuprofen is used to treat a number of conditions including:
- mild to moderate pain
- severe pain (when combined with codeine)
- rheumatoid arthritis, back pain and gout (in conjunction with physiotherapy).1
Ibuprofen is usually swallowed and comes in different forms including:
- soluble powders
Ibuprofen may also be known by its brand or trade names. Some common examples include:
|Generic name||Brand names|
|Ibuprofen and codeine||Nurofen Plus®|
Effects of ibuprofen
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk – even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Ibuprofen affects everyone differently, based on:
- size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken.
The most common side effects of ibuprofen are:
- drowsiness, fatigue and restless sleep
- thirst and sweating
- tingling or numbness in hands and feet
- ringing in the ears
- blurred vision and eye irritation
- fluid retention and ankle swelling
- mild allergic reaction
- abdominal pain
- nausea, vomiting
- bladder irritation and pain, frequent urination.1, 2
NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke in people with or without heart disease or the risk factors for heart disease.1
If you take more than the recommended dose, you could overdose. Call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000) if you or someone else has any of these symptoms (ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police):
- confusion and disorientation
- abdominal pain
- blurred vision
- tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- anxiety and paranoia
- anaemia (low red blood cell count), nausea and vomiting
- vomiting blood that may look like coffee grounds and bowel motions that look like black tar
- severe allergic reaction, including swelling of the face
- kidney and liver problems
- coma and death.1, 13, 4
It’s best to discuss the side effects of long-term use with a medical practitioner. Regular use of ibuprofen may eventually cause:
- anaemia due to bleeding in the stomach
- impaired hearing
- kidney and liver damage
- bleeding in the stomach and bowels
- increased risk of heart attack.1
Mixing ibuprofen with other drugs
The effects of taking ibuprofen with other drugs, including alcohol, prescription medications and other over-the-counter medicines, can be unpredictable and dangerous.
Ibuprofen taken with alcohol can increase the risk of stomach irritation and discomfort.1
Ibuprofen can alter the effects of some blood pressure medicines and may increase the risk of bleeding if taken with medicines such as warfarin.1
Use of more than one drug or type of drug consumed at the same time is called polydrug use.
‘Polydrug use’ is a term for the use of more than one drug or type of drug at the same time, or one after another5. Polydrug use can involve both illicit drug and legal substances, such as alcohol and medications.5
If your use of ibuprofen is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, you can find help and support.
Call 1300 85 85 84 to speak to a real person and get answers to your questions as well as advice on practical ‘next steps’.
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- Upfal J. Australian Drug Guide. 8th edition ed. Victoria: Griffin Press; 2016.
- Plus M.Ibuprofen: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists; 2016 [12.03.2020].
- Hunter LJ, Wood DM, Dargan PI. The patterns of toxicity and management of acute nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) overdose. Open Access Emerg Med. 2011;3:39-48.
- Mayo Clinic.Ibuprofen (Oral Route) Precautions: Mayo Clinic; 2020
- World Health Organization.Lexicon of alcohol and drug terms 2021 [19.03.2021].