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Truth about Painkillers
- Generally, painkillers are categorized into two groups: non-narcotic and narcotic.
- Your risk of developing an addiction to painkillers is higher if you have been addicted to substances, such as alcohol or cigarettes, in the past.
If you’re suffering from ongoing pain thanks to an injury, arthritis, or surgery, you may have taken painkillers to help you deal with the discomfort. However, before you start taking these medications there are a number of things you should know about the risks involved and steps you can take to ensure you are using them safely.
Two Types of Painkillers
Generally, painkillers are categorized into two groups: non-narcotic and narcotic. The non-narcotic variety are those available over-the-counter, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. You don’t need a prescription for any of these drugs. Narcotic painkillers are stronger and are meant to be used only under the close supervision of the physician.
While non-narcotic painkillers can be used in moderation with few serious side effects, they may not work for all types of chronic pain. In fact, if you suffer from pain for more than ten days, you probably need to take a narcotic painkiller instead. Of course, there are risks involved in taking these medications.
Potential Side Effects
Many of these narcotic drugs can cause mild side effects, such as constipation and dry mouth. Most also result in varying degrees of drowsiness so they should never be taken while driving or while operating heavy machinery.
More serious side effects have been discovered in some types of these painkillers. For example, the drugs known as Cox-2 inhibitors fell under fire a couple of years ago because some of the most high profile of these prescriptions were linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke in patients. Vioxx was pulled off the market as a result of fears about this increased risk. Studies involving Celebrex have also linked the painkiller to a higher risk of heart disease but only when doses were higher than recommended.
Although Cox-2 inhibitors are now not being recommended for use in patients who have heart disease or who are at great risk of developing heart disease, these painkillers are now being used as a last resort for pain management.
Painkillers & Addiction
Side effects are not the only concern you should have about prescribed painkillers. While non-narcotic painkillers work by reliving the inflammation that is the source of the pain, narcotic painkillers work on the brain and the pain receptors. For this reason, these painkillers are more likely to lead to addiction. Any painkiller can be addictive but those classed in the opioids family are the most dangerous. These include codeine, oxycodone, morphine, meperidine, and hydrocodone.
Your risk of developing an addiction is higher if you have been addicted to substances, such as alcohol or cigarettes, in the past.
Safely Taking Painkillers
While there are risks associated with painkillers, they are sometimes the best or only option available for effective management of chronic pain. Of course, you should always start off with the lowest strength non-narcotic medicine you can then increase the strength of your painkillers as needed.
You should also take only the medication and the dosage that has been prescribed for you. Altering your doctor’s orders can increase your risk of addiction and your chance of developing serious side effects.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
|Pain Relievers5 Dec 2008