Among those who are suffering from chronic pain, opioids are one of the pain medications that might be considered. While the use of these potential analgesics for long-term treatment is considered controversial, they are highly effective and safe if taken under close medical supervision.
What are opioids?
Opioids are derived from plants, occur naturally in the body and produced in a laboratory. These pain medications are highly effective in managing cases of severe pain. Essentially, they are widely used to manage acute pain such as post-surgical pain as well as severe pain due to cancer.
What are the types?
Depending on the specific needs of an individual, he/she might use one of the few forms of opioids. This pain medication can be formulated as short or long-acting. In some cases, they can be administered intravenously, most who have chronic pain use the patch or pill form.
Some types specifically oxycodone are labelled as straight narcotics. Others such as codeine can be combined with other analgesics such as acetaminophen.
The agonist/antagonist class of opioids are combined medications that work by reducing pain and minimize the potential for dependence.
What are the side effects of these pain medications and complications?
Many individuals who suffer from chronic pain can tolerate the same dosage of opioids for years without building up tolerance or without developing any physical dependence on the drug. Nevertheless, both dependence and addiction are the usual concerns.
Aside from tolerance and physical dependence on these pain medications, opioids have other potential side effects that you should be familiar with such as the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Retention of urine
- Sexual dysfunction
- Itchy sensations
- Low blood pressure
Always bear in mind that opioids usually affect children and the elderly more than the adults. This is why these age groups should be carefully monitored if these pain medications are used. Oftentimes, the doctor will start with lose doses and steadily increase until the desired therapeutic level is achieved.
There are also medications that negatively interact with opioids, thus monitoring is vital if other prescription medications are used regularly. The individual should inform the doctor if other medications are used including those bought over-the-counter to avoid any complications.
Why should I use opioids?
Due to the controversy on the use of these pain medications, you might wonder why it is even prescribed by doctors. Remember that opioids are highly effective in minimizing severe pain and many individuals who have no relief from other treatment measures find relief with these medications. In such cases, the benefits of opioids exceed the risks. The detrimental side effects and potential for dependence do not occur in all cases. In most individuals with chronic pain, opioids can return their quality of life back to normal.
Before opioids are used, the doctor will carry out a complete assessment as well as set regular check-ups to monitor the condition. Some even start with a trial run in which the doses are gradually increased while being monitored for possible complications.