Pain Medications 101: Know The Risks

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Pain MedicationsThere are millions of people in the US taking pain medications for acute and chronic pain. There are several kinds of pain medications including over the counter pain medications, narcotic-like pain medications, and narcotic pain medications.

There are risks in taking all of these pain medications and, before you take them, you should know the risks.

Over The Counter Pain Medications

There are two types of over the counter pain remedies: non-NSAID pain relievers and NSAID pain relievers:

  •  Non-NSAID pain relievers. These include medications like acetaminophen and paracetamol. These medications act to raise the pain threshold so you don’t feel the pain as much. Acetaminophen is marketed as Tylenol. The big risks in taking medications like Tylenol is that they can be damaging to the liver when taken in large doses. Overdoses of Tylenol can result in liver failure and death within days as the liver damage is not reversible.
  • NSAID pain relievers. NSAIDs stand for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. They include things like aspirin, ibuprofen (marketed as Motrin and Advil), and naproxen (marketed as Naprosyn and Aleve). These medications carry the major risk of irritation to the stomach lining and stomach ulcers, especially when taken in excess or taken without food. There are prescription NSAIDs your doctor might prescribe for you that carry the same risks as ibuprofen and naproxen. Some NSAIDs and aspirin can thin your blood resulting in bleeding when you have surgery or sustain some kind of trauma. This is why these medications are not recommended to be taken for at least a week prior to surgery.

Narcotic Like Pain Relievers

The main medication in this category is Ultram (tramadol). While Ultram can be an effective painkiller, it carries the risk of getting hallucinations, agitation, nausea, vomiting, fever, rapid heart rate, seizures, hyperactive reflexes, fainting, loss of coordination, and a red skin rash that can blister.

While Ultram has a less chance of addiction when taking the medication, there is still a slight risk of addiction, particularly in those who suffer from addiction disorders.

Some Narcotic Pain Relievers

There are several different kinds of narcotic pain relievers, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and combinations of hydrocodone and acetaminophen (marketed as Vicodin), and oxycodone and acetaminophen (marketed as Percocet).

Long acting narcotic pain relievers include OxyContin, which is often taken by people with chronic pain disorders. These carry risks of respiratory depression, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and drowsiness.

These medications carry a high risk of addiction so that people have an increased tolerance for the medication and have a difficult time getting off the medications once started.

Who Shouldn’t Take Narcotic Pain Relievers?

Narcotic pain relievers are highly addictive. They shouldn’t be taken for any length of time in individuals who suffer from alcohol addiction, opioid addiction, or who have addictive personalities.

These people can become addicted to these medications very easily and cannot get off them without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, typically agitation, rapid heart rate, and drug-seeking behaviors.

The elderly should also probably stay away from narcotic pain relievers because they carry an increased risk of constipation, confusion, and delirium, because they don’t tolerate taking these medications very well and the medications can build up in their system fairly rapidly.

It should be noted that, even with the addiction potential, narcotics can and should be used in patients who suffer from a terminal disease. Narcotics should not be withheld from those who are terminal, even if it means they become hooked on taking the medications.

Avoiding The Trap Of Taking Narcotics

If you feel you are at risk for side effects or addiction to narcotic pain relievers or even to Ultram, you should think twice about taking these medications for pain relief. Instead, take a strong nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, which carries no risk of addiction.

If you must take a narcotic, take them sparingly and use non-medical means of controlling the pain, such as distraction and alternative medicine techniques.
Make sure your doctor knows of your addiction potential so that only a few pills are prescribed at a time and the doctor takes special note of how many you are taken and doesn’t over-prescribe the medications.

Speak with your doctor and consult with him or her about the various medications at your disposal.