Opioid Pain Relievers for Chronic Pain
Some doctors may prescribe opioid pain relievers to their patients if they have not responded well to other medications first (acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a form of pain relievers that usually come available in pill or liquid form. They are stronger than over-the-counter pain relievers and must be prescribed by a doctor. They can be extremely helpful in treating pain, especially when taken after surgery or an injury. It is important to use opioids only as directed by a doctor as they can become highly addictive. They might not be the right type of drug for people with a history of substance abuse.
How Do Opioids Work?
Opioids interrupt pain signals that are sent to the brain, which suppresses the perception of pain and calms the nervous system’s response to it. They are stronger than over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol or Advil and require a prescription from a doctor. They are most effective when taken in moderate doses as taking too many may cause additional side effects. Before taking more than one opioid, talk to your doctor about switching to a different brand to treat your pain. Remember that more is not always better.
Side Effects of Opioids
Because opioids are stronger than other pain medications, they should be handled with care. Taking too many may produce further discomforts and increase the risk of developing an addiction to them. Keep in mind that your doctor prescribed opioids to you because he or she feels the benefits will outweigh the side effects. Be sure not to take more than prescribed without talking to your doctor first. Side effects may go away after taking the pain reliever for a long time.
Call a doctor immediately if you experience:
- Breathing problems
- Swelling of the lips, face and tongue
- Cold, clammy skin
- Confusion, nervousness or restlessness
- Slowed breathing or a rapid heartbeat
- Nausea or vomiting