Monday medicine – Opioids pain medications

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What is an opioid pain medication?

An opioid pain medication is a prescribed narcotic pain medication that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Opioids are not an over the counter medications that you can buy at any drugstore.  Opioids must be a written prescription from a MD. Narcotic pain medications are medically termed opioids, and may be referred to as painkillers. They are derived from opium or made synthetically. Some narcotic pain medications contain both opium-derived and synthetic material.

Some types of opioid drugs include:

Who takes opioid pain medications?

These medications can help manage pain when prescribed for the right condition and when used properly. But when misused or abused, they can cause serious harm, including addiction, overdose and death. Just about anyone can take opioid pain medications for a wide range of illnesses, diseases, and injuries. It comes down to the degree o  of the pain and whether an over-the-counter (OTC) has been taken prior to the need of an opioid. OTC consists of acetaminophen, anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs), and any other OTC medication. Over-the-counter pain relievers, especially acetaminophen, are also sometimes used to treat chronic pain, such as that seen in arthritis. These drugs also lower fever and are often used for that purpose.

What forms of release does opioids come in?

Opioid pain medications comes in two different types of release.  Meaning how fast the medication is absorbed into the body once it taken. The first release is immediate release or IM.These medications are designed to provide the patient with quick relief from pain. Many people who have first been on pain medications are normally prescribed this type. (ie Vicodin, Percocet, etc) They do their job, provide a patient with instant relief, but its something that does not last a long time.

The second form is extended release or ER. These medications are designed to provide a patient with an even amount of pain relief through a course of time. Normally that spans 10 hours.Based on a patient’s problem, that could be changed to 8 hours or 12 hours.

What to do when there is breakthrough pain?

During the course of taking the extended release opioid medications, there may be times that there is what is called breakthrough pain.  This is  severe pain that erupts while a patient is already medicated with a long-acting painkiller. There may be a need to take and immediate release opioid pain medication when a person is already on an extended release medication.

“Breakthrough pain occurs when you’re doing something that triggers extra pain, like getting up after knee surgery,” explains Michael Ferrante, MD, director of the UCLA Pain Management Center. “Sometimes breakthrough pain just occurs, without any obvious trigger. In essence, it means the patient needs more medication to cover the chronic pain and another drug for the breakthrough pain.”

Side effects on opioid pain medication

Side effects from opioid pain medicine varies from each medication to the next. Common side effects for most is constipation,drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Most side effects subside after a while of taking the medication.

Should you be taking opioid pain medications?

Opioids can make a dramatic difference to people with moderate to severe pain. These drugs can be an effective therapy — as long as you use them safely and follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. For many chronic pain patients, opioid pain medications are a part of life and they are a must to have a ‘normal’ life.  Chronic pain patients and acute pain patients are two separate issues and should be dealt with that way.  Chronic pain patients need to be able to maintain living with pain on a day-to-day basis. And that, for the most part require opioid pain medications.

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