Choosing Between Opioid Pain Medications and Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatories

Choosing Between Opioid Pain Medications and Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatories

Choosing between pain medications can be tough, especially with the large media involvement in opioid overdoses and misuses recently. The choice should be a much easier one than it is because patients need relief from pain to manage their daily lives. The intensity and duration of your pain really determine what sort of pain medication you should be taking. It is important to honestly discuss with a doctor your symptoms and attempt to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10.


Benefits of Opioids


Opioid medication is considered a narcotic and is used to treat a wide range of intense pain. The way it works is by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord so the brain does not receive pain signals. Studies have shown that opioids have the ability to reduce pain by 65%. They are most likely to work for your chronic pain if you see a reduction in the first two weeks of treatment.

The older you are, the higher your risk of developing these conditions

The most common types of opioid medication are:


  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydromorphone


They can be extremely useful in reducing chronic pain for a variety of conditions but must be used properly under a doctor’s supervision. If your pain is extremely severe opioid medications may be the only thing strong enough to reduce and relive it.


Complications of Opioids


Opioids can react with other medications you are taking, so make sure your provider has a list of what you are currently on before they prescribe you medication. Some of the most common side effects of this pain medication are:


  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Dependency


It is very important to watch the number of opioids you are taking and only take the prescribed amount. It is a highly dependent drug, so addiction rates are a concern for doctors. You should not stop taking these medications unless you have discussed with a doctor a plan to reduce the amount you take. It can cause withdrawal symptoms if not properly weaned off.


Benefits of Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatories


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are commonly referred to as NSAIDs. They are generally over the counter anti-inflammatory medications that do not contain steroids and help to reduce pain. The most common forms of NSAIDs are:


  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Aleve
  • Celebrex


These medications can be found in drug stores, or in higher doses with a prescription. They are very safe to take when following the instructions for your age group. NSAIDs relieve pain by preventing the body’s cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes from working. COX enzymes make hormone-like substances called prostaglandins that cause pain and inflammation. NSAIDs are most often prescribed for arthritis and for the pain resulting from muscle sprains, strains, back and neck injuries, and menstrual cramps.


Complications of Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatories


If you take more than the recommended dose (and sometimes even the recommended dose) of NSAIDs, side effects can include nausea, stomach pain, bleeding, and ulcers. NSAIDs also can increase your risk of cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes. They can also interact with drugs prescribed to treat heart diseases, such as blood thinners, antihypertensive drugs, and aspirin. Large doses of NSAIDs can lead to kidney problems, fluid retention, and high blood pressure. The older you are, the higher your risk of developing these conditions. There is also a limit to how much pain they can control.


How Do I Choose Between The Two


The level of your pain will determine whether you need traditional over the counter pain relievers or stronger opioid medications. There are always risks with taking pain medications, but if you are informed, and have discussed the treatment with your doctor they can be very effective at relieving your pain.

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