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Opioid Medications

What are opioids?

Opioids (or opiates) are narcotic medications that disassociate a patient from his or her pain. Codeine (which is often prescribed in the form of Tylenol #3) is one of the most commonly used opioids in the world. Other stronger opioids you may be familiar with include:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, for example)
  • Oxycodone (Percocet and Oxycontin being common forms)
  • Morphine

What do opioid medications treat?

Opioids are most commonly used in treating acute, short-term pain. In a few cases, opioids may be prescribed for managing chronic pain. Opioids help with pain relief by suppressing perception of pain. When your body is under the influence of opiates, fewer pain signals are delivered to the brain by the nervous system.

Are opioids safe to use?

Opiates are safe to use for managing chronic pain when they are prescribed under close physician supervision. Because opiates do not treat the source of the pain, your physician will likely try other treatment options before advising the use of opioids for chronic pain management.

How effective are opioid medications for pain relief?

Opioids can be extremely effective in helping with pain management. Once you begin opioid use, your pain management specialist will monitor your comfort level and side effects to determine whether a different drug or dosage might be better for you. As you prepare to start opiate usage, your pain management specialist may recommend that you use a daily pain log to record pain levels. A pain log can help keep track of how successful a particular opioid is for minimizing your pain. 

What risks are associated with the use of opioid medications?

Long-term use of pain medication does pose a small risk of dependency. This risk is higher for patients who have a history of substance abuse. Other potential side effects include nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, and constipation. Serious side effects, though rare, include fast or slow heartbeat, flushing of the face, difficulty breathing sweating, and hives. Call 911 immediately if you experience any of these serious side effects while taking opioids.

Are opioid medications right for my pain?

Only your physician or a pain management specialist can evaluate your condition. If other pain management options have not been successful for you, then physician-supervised use of opiates may be beneficial. For more information about opioid medications – or to schedule an appointment – contact Pain Management Associates at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute today. Pain management specialists serving Mesa, AZ.


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