Painkillers can relieve pain that occurs anywhere in the body. They have various kinds with different mechanisms of action depending on the source, duration and severity of the pain. Therefore, they should not be used without consulting a doctor, including for those without a prescription. They should not be given to anyone else. The doctor’s instructions for use of the drug should be strictly followed. Using these drugs unconsciously can lead to serious, even fatal consequences. Each painkiller has different side effects. Most of them can damage digestive systems. Stomach pain, ulcers, digestive system bleeding, stomach and intestinal perforation are among main common side effects. Painkillers should be used cautiously, especially in pregnancy and children.
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A painkiller is a medication that relieves acute/chronic pain by acting on the central nervous system. It is also called analgesic in medical literature. There are many types of painkillers with different mechanisms of action depending on the source of the pain.
Depending on its capacity of pain relief and side effects, it can be provided over the counter or with prescription. It may be in the form of tablet, capsule, serum, suppository, gel or spray. There are also neuropathic medications that alleviate pain related to nerve damage by affecting the peripheral nervous system, which are not listed in the painkiller group. (1)
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Painkillers are safe and effective if the instructions are strictly followed. But, if taken unconsciously, they can have extremely dangerous and even fatal consequences.
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It is not advised to use painkillers in every painful situation. You can get information from the doctor about non-drug treatments and recommendations (including quitting smoking, healthy eating, exercise, etc.), including some lifestyle changes.
Pain as a sign indicating that something is wrong in the body, is usually caused by a tissue damage. The pain may be mild, moderate or severe depending on the advancement of damage at the source of the pain. In addition, depending on its duration, the pain may suddenly develop and relieve in a short time (acute) or may last long (chronic). Hence, the function of painkillers is different.
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Over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin containing especially acetylsalicylic acid should never be used in the following situations and conditions:
Those who have to use them with caution (under the supervision of a doctor):
Alcohol can increase the side effects of painkillers and cause serious health problems. Therefore, alcohol or even food products containing alcohol are not recommended to take together with painkillers.
Relieve pain (and fever) by reducing inflammation in the blood. They do not contain cortisone (steroids). Aspirin and ibuprofen are listed in this group. They are used for mild to moderate pain such as headache, injury, arthritis symptoms. (2)
They increase the pain threshold of the body. They are used for mild to moderate pain such as headache, migraine, menstrual pain, toothache, pain due to influenza infections, and muscle-joint pain. (3)
The most powerful painkillers. Codeine, tramadol and morphine are included in this group. They have the power of changing the pain messages in the brain. Opioids are often used for severe pain experienced by cancer patients. They can be prescribed with NSAIDs or paracetamol. (4)
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Two different drugs are combined. They generally contain a standard analgesic such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen and a low-dose opoid such as codeine or dihydrocodeine. They are recommended when NSAIDs or paracetamol do not work or when stronger painkillers are needed.
Cortisone containing painkillers used in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries. Also used to relieve pain caused by autoimmune diseases such as arthritis. (5)
Reduces pain in tense muscle groups with its calming effect on the central nervous system. (6)
There are also medicines with pain relieving properties although their basic function is different. Non-analgesic drugs that relieve neurological pain by acting on the peripheral nervous system include:
It is a kind of addiction that develops with unconscious use of painkillers without the supervision of a doctor and can be treated. To prevent this possibility:
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In addition, opoid painkillers can be used out of purpose as they produce euphoria that makes the patient feel good. Long-term use may cause drug addiction, even if the doctor’s instructions are followed. Besides, some narcotic painkillers that relieve cancer pain or other serious health problems are believed not to cause addiction.
Opoids are the most powerful pain medication. Grading their pain relief power is based on their morphine content. Codeine is at the bottom of this group, and is usually prescribed with paracetamol to relieve pain caused by dental treatment.
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At the top are hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and oxymorphone (Opana), which are stronger than morphine. The strongest of these drugs is fetanyl, which is administered intravenously, and is 70-100 times more effective than morphine.
The main function of all painkillers is to stop the pain. However, because the action mechanism of each of them works differently, appropriate painkiller should be used depending on the source of the pain.
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Paracetamol is the safest drug for use in infants and children during pregnancy and from birth. Also, it does not cause stomach irritation and side effects are not observed if used properly.
If you are allergic to this active ingredient found in some painkillers, a rash may develop. Other side effects are rare. However, it may cause liver damage if taken in high doses or with alcohol. It should also be used with caution (low dose) by those with kidney and liver problems.
In the first use, they may cause drowsiness, dizziness and hypoventilation (respiratory depression), ie ineffective and slow breathing. However, these effects disappear over time.
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Prolonged use may cause serious side effects. The most important are:
The common side effect of all muscle relaxants is drowsiness. Depending on the type of muscle relaxant, side effects such as addiction, dry mouth, constipation, confusion and loss of balance may be observed.
Resources and References:1- Pain medications - narcotics2- Pain Relievers3- Which painkiller?4- A Guide to Safe Use of Pain Medicine
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