Pain management is a tricky subject. Everyday in hospitals and offices across the world, doctors try and weigh benefits and risks of treating patients who are suffering. Pain – especially the chronic and persistent kind – can make life unmanageable.
Injuries, illness and surgeries can leave people in unimaginable pain but opioids have proven very effective in minimizing the suffering. This, of course, is a good thing and prescription painkillers have long been prized for helping people through difficult times.
Dependence And Addiction Are Perhaps Best Known Risks Of Opioids Use
But, as with any prescription medication, there is a downside. To explain it in simplistic terms, opioids attach to receptors in the brain and body, blocking pain signals quickly and effectively. One of the most well known risks is opioid dependence. Over time, the body becomes used to a drug and exhibits signs of withdrawal if therapy stops.
If there is escalation in use, or any other type of misuse or abuse, patients run the real risk of becoming dependent. This is characterized by both physical and psychological dependence, and continued use despite potential harm. But, many people do take opioids such as Vicodin and Oxycodone without becoming addicted, however dependency is a very likely ourcome.
Taking Opiates, Especially At High Dosages, Can Cause Internal Damage
There are other problems that can develop. First up is gastrointestinal damage due to opiate intake. This is especially troublesome for people taking high dosages of opiates. Symptoms of this can manifest as chronic constipation, stomach inflammation, ulcers, chronic heartburn, belching, gas, upset stomach and abdominal bloating. Long-term constipation can lead to blockages, which can be very dangerous. Bowels can rupture, leading to sepsis or death.
In addition to this, users also run the risk for severe allergic reaction to opioids and potentially fatal drug interactions. Opioids depress the central nervous system and can hamper breathing if mixed with substances that also have this effect. These include alcohol, sedatives, other opiates, barbiturates and some sleeping medications.
Doctors and researchers have also linked the prolonged use of opioids to problems such as:
- Potential cardiovascular problems
- Risk of falls and other accidents due to sedation
- Problems with sex drive
There Are Other Options Available To Help Fight Pain
Record numbers of opioids are prescribed every year, and in many cases, for conditions that might be better treated with other types of painkillers. Some doctors say it’s important for people to realize that non-narcotic medications are adequate to treat many cases of headaches, menstrual cramps and musculoskeletal pain.
Sometimes, people are so fearful about pain that they request opiates from their doctors. Many would probably find that over-the-counter or non-narcotic prescription medications would be adequate to treat this pain.