Dangers of Opioid Pain Relievers: What You Need to Know

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More and more, we are hearing about the use and abuse of opioid pain medications in recent years. Experts say the widespread abuse of this class of drugs started more than two decades ago. Across the country today, healthcare authorities are paying much more attention to the problem, and doctors are taking this into consideration when prescribing opioids.

Before you consider taking them, learn more about these powerful medications.

How they work

Opioids are a class of medications that reduces the intensity of pain signals to the brain. They also affect the brain areas that control emotion, which helps to diminish the effects of a painful stimulus. For this reason, they can be addictive.

They include:

Hydrocodone (Vicodin®) and Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®): These powerful opioids are most commonly prescribed for a range of painful conditions such as injury-related pain, cancer pain or dental pain.

Morphine: This is often used before and after a surgical procedure to alleviate severe pain

Codeine: This is most often prescribed for mild pain. It is also prescribed for other health issues such as coughs and severe diarrhea.

Some shocking facts about opioids

“The role of opioids in treating chronic pain is small and limited to a narrow subset of patients,” says Richard Rosenquist, MD, Chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Pain Management. “In general today, pain specialists are rarely prescribing opioids for chronic pain.”

Statistics are according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC).

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