How much do you now about pain medications? Pain comes and goes during your lifetime. No one is exempt from needing a pain reliever from time to time. Pain medications, also known as painkillers,,can reduce your fever and relieve your headache or muscle pain, but they can also lead to addictions and other health problems. Do you know the difference between the painkillers that work for kind of pain you have, and the kind that can lead to health problems? Drugs designed for the alleviation of pain have different strengths and specific uses. Also, they’re not generally meant to be the permanent solution to any pain. Your doctor may be prescribing certain pain medications for chronic pain, and you should know what they are and the risks that they pose.

Opioids are the strongest pain medications and most often lead to addiction and overdose

Opioids include drugs like Oxycodone and Fentanyl. They are synthetic forms of heroin that were originally designed for end-stage cancer pain, not for pain from surgery or dental procedures. Unfortunately, doctors began prescribing opioids for moderate pain which created addiction and launched the continuing opioid crisis that causes tens of thousands of overdoses and deaths every year. Never purchase an opioid on the internet or take someone else’s legally prescribed pain medications. Opioids, are at least 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and extremely addictive. Fentanyl is often added to street drugs and can kill people just by touching it. There is hope for recovery, however, with fentanyl addiction treatment or rehabilitation facility.

Addiction and deaths have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is concern that the opioid problem will persist even during the Biden administration.

If you’re taking opioids, here are crucial things to know

  • Don’t take more than your doctor prescribed. Too much medication can cause respiratory depression that can lead to death.
  • Don’t chew, break, cut, crush or dissolve the tablet because this may alter the drug’s absorption rate.
  • Follow the dosage frequency your doctor prescribed. Don’t take more than necessary for your condition.
  • Don’t replace what your doctor prescribed with other opioid types. Different drugs have different absorption rates. Some are long-acting, while others are short-acting. Some medicines are extended-release, which means they contain more robust formulation and last longer inside your body. Fentanyl transdermal patch is an example of extended-release pain treatment.
  • Extreme caution is advised for pregnant and lactating mothers because of the possible adverse effects the substance may have on unborn babies.
  • People with a history of alcohol, substance, or opioid abuse are not ideal candidates for using opioids in pain therapy.

Opioid side effects include

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Not able to concentrate
  • Constipation
  • Breathing problems
  • Hallucinations, seizures, agitation, or euphoria
  • Itching that is not related to allergies
  • Muscular contractions and rigidity
  • Low heart rate and blood pressure
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Pupil constriction

The strongest pain medications aren’t the best

Just because you are feeling discomfort doesn’t mean you have to take the strongest pain medications out there. Research has proven that over the counter (OTC) drugs are just as effective as prescription meds for most pain. you need to take medicines, begin with those proven to have minimal side effects. And be careful to choose a drug that doesn’t have an adverse reaction to the other medications you’re taking.

Even if it’s easy to buy OTC pain relief pills, gels, and capsules, it’s still advisable that you consult your doctor, mainly if your pain is persistent and if you have already been taking OTC meds for at least three days. You may be taking the wrong type of drug for the kind of pain you are experiencing. The kind of pain medication you should take depends on the kind of pain you have.

For mild to moderate pain

Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol and Tylenol, is mainly used as an analgesic to fight fever. However, this OTC medicine also provides relief for minor pains, such as headaches, menstrual cramps, or even toothache. If you are suffering from slight discomfort, you can take this drug safely. But only use the prescribed amount. Warnings include:

  • Don’t take acetaminophen with other medications containing acetaminophen or paracetamol. Some flu or cold medications already include this formulation, so taking an additional acetaminophen dose might lead to overdose or adverse reactions.
  • People with liver cirrhosis or other liver diseases should consult with their doctor before taking this OTC treatment.
  • Acetaminophen may increase the anti-clotting effect of warfarin.
  • Don’t take acetaminophen with alcohol.

Side affects from acetaminophen overuse

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Dark urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Yellowing of eyes and ski

Pain relievers for inflammation

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) provide relief for acute aches caused by swelling or inflammation. This type of pain medication works by stopping prostaglandins responsible for intensifying pain in the areas where there’s swelling. Thus, this type of medication effectively treats musculoskeletal discomfort such as sprains, strains, and aches due to certain arthritis types. For moderate pain, there are OTC NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. Warnings include:

  • Don’t mix alcohol and NSAIDs. People who consume at least three alcoholic drinks a day should not take NSAIDs without their doctors’ consent. 
  • Frequent and long-term use of NSAIDs can increase the risk of bowel and stomach problems, such as bleeding and ulcers. It’s prevalent among older patients or those already suffering from ulcers and other gastric conditions.
  • You should not take NSAIDs immediately before or after a heart bypass operation.
  • Individuals taking low-dose aspirin or other blood-thinning agents for their cardiovascular conditions shouldn’t use other NSAIDs like naproxen or ibuprofen because it may lead to bleeding problems.
  • Long-term use of NSAIDs, other than aspirin, may raise the chances of stroke or heart attack, particularly for smokers and people who already have pre-existing diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol levels.

Non-Aspirin NSAIDs side effects

  • Heartburn
  • Excess gas
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Bloated feeling
  • Severe headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus
  • Photosensitivity
  • Weakness in one side of the body
  • Bloody or tarry stools
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Severe stomachache
  • Black or bloody vomit
  • Urinary problems
  • Jaundice 
  • Unusual weight gain

Pain medications for chronic pain

How is chronic pain different? If you have arthritis or other chronic pain types, doctors usually prescribe OTC NSAIDs first because they can ease the pain with minimal side effects. However, if OTC drugs don’t work, doctors often recommend prescription-grade NSAIDs for chronic pain brought about by inflammatory diseases. Such prescription-strength drugs are usually 50% stronger than the regular OTC anti-inflammatory formulations. Some popular prescription-only NSAIDs are celecoxib, mefenamic acid, and diclofenac. How to manage chronic pain.

Be honest with your doctor

It’s always important to be completely honest with your doctor about your symptoms and other drugs you may be taking. You should divulge all medications or supplements you’re taking. Also, tell your physician about all your health conditions. This will allow your doctor to choose the proper pain medications. Some pain relievers may decrease certain medicines’ potency, produce adverse reactions with some food supplements, or exacerbate some symptoms.

Don’t Use Other People’s Prescription Meds

People love to share information about what worked for them, especially if they’ve been suffering from chronic pain. However, the remedy that has worked perfectly for your neighbor doesn’t mean it will work for you too. So, never attempt to ask for or use the prescribed pain meds used by your friend, neighbor, or family members. Every patient is unique and has different existing conditions, drug tolerance, body makeup, and medical needs. Even if you and your identical twin are both suffering from arthritic pain or gout, don’t be tempted to share the same prescribed medication.

Ask questions if you’re unsure what pain medications to take

When you consult your doctor, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions. Doctors are also humans, and they typically see many patients in a day. They may forget to explain things to their patients.

Since your health and well-being are at stake, be proactive and ask for clarifications if you don’t understand the instructions given to you regarding prescription medication. If you’re afraid of taking opioids, you can always ask for alternative options. Your doctor will appreciate your openness and feedback, which can lead to finding the best treatment for your discomfort.

Try alternative pain relief techniques

Popping a pill isn’t the only option to fight pain and discomfort. There are many means to ease the pain. If you can help it, you may opt for chemical-free or drug-free pain treatment. Whether you are feeling mild, moderate, or even severe pain, you should try alternative therapies. By doing so, you don’t have to rely on pain meds for the long haul. Some treatments you may want to try for your pain include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga
  • Meditation and relaxation techniques
  • Massage and therapeutic therapy
  • Aromatherapy and essential oils
  • Tai Chi
  • Hypnotherapy

Be educated

Pain medication isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy. Everyone has specific needs, particular conditions, and degrees of tolerance. In short, what works for you doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for your loved ones or friends. On top of that, pain medication can have adverse side effects and may even cause addiction.

Whether your pills are OTC or doctor prescribed, you need to take extra care when using drugs designed to alleviate pain. Before you take any pain meds, you need to consider several crucial factors like side effects, types of painkillers, and if there are drug-free treatments for your condition.


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