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Opioid pain medication

Opioid pain medication may be recommended for intense or long-term pain.

Codeine is an opioid medication found in some pain killing products available from pharmacies, while stronger forms of opioid medications are only available on prescription from a doctor.

Opioid medication can become addictive over time.

Opioids, also known as opioid analgesics are the strongest types of painkiller and may be supplied as a tablet or patch. This type of painkiller may be recommended for intense pain for conditions ranging from arthritis to cancer pain.

Opioids work by blocking chemical sites in cells that control the sensation of pain.

Opioids include:

Complications of opioids

Side effects are common with opioids, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting. These are common side-effects at the start of opioid therapy. If they are a problem, they can be controlled with non- prescription medication for nausea or, in some cases, with prescription drugs such as prochlorperazine. The nausea and vomiting usually wear off within a few days, then the anti-emetic (anti-nausea and -vomiting) medication can be stopped.
  • Dizziness. Dizziness and sleepiness are common side-effects of opioids. That is why you are advised not to drive, drink alcohol or operate machinery while taking opioids. People with chronic pain often develop a tolerance for these side-effects and can pursue all the normal activities of daily living while on opioid therapy.
  • Constipation. Opioids nearly always cause this problem, and constipation will continue to be a problem for as long as you take opioids. Constipation can become a serious issue if you do not deal with it. If the stool is completely blocked (faecal impaction) it has to be treated using a procedure where the doctor or nurse puts a gloved finger up your rectum and pulls out pieces of faeces until the problem is cleared. Better to prevent this problem rather than needing it to be it treated. There are a variety of laxatives available without a prescription, such as senna and docusate. Take enough of them to make sure your bowels move every day.

Addiction and opioids

Some people worry about becoming addicted to opioids, for example, people with chronic pain. However, for most adults, if they do not already have a substance (alcohol or drug) abuse problem, addiction is less of a concern even when opioids are used on a long-term basis.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 01, 2016

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