The term “painkillers” is another common word used to refer to pain relievers. These types of medications help to treat health problems, such as:
Painkillers can be either over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicine. If you need a specific type of painkillers, your doctor will determine which one is the most appropriate for your case. Some individuals may find that pain relief sets in with one particular painkiller than another.
Here is a list of the generic (and brand name) OTC painkillers:
In cases in which OTC medication is not enough for pain relief, your doctor may have you on other types of prescription drugs, such as opioids. Prescription painkillers can bring on a sense of euphoria (extreme happiness) because it binds to receptors in the brain and lowers pain perception.
However, if some individuals have underlying risk factors like prior substance abuse, painkillers could lead to misuse or chronic abuse. This means that there are the added risks of overdose or, in severe cases, death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a woman will visit the emergency room for prescription painkiller misuse or overdose every 3 minutes.
Some painkillers have an increased risk of misuse. For example, opioids are known to build physical and psychological dependence. This means that you could face more intense withdrawal symptoms if you take a particular opioid longer.
Some common prescription opioid pain medication (also known as opiate analgesics) include:
Oxycodone and heroin are equally powerful, and both affect the central nervous system in the same way.
Rehab facilities are open and accepting new patients
The side effects and risks associated with painkillers can vary.
For example, if you take acetaminophen, serious side effects may include:
The risk of a severe event occurring is low.
However, if you take NSAIDs, like aspirin, common side effects could include:
In more serious cases, side effects could also be as follows:
It is important to know that NSAIDs increase the risk of stomach problems, such as ulcers bleeding, or holes in the stomach or intestine. Also, this risk increases when you consume alcoholic beverages while taking this particular painkiller.
Finally, if you take opioids, side effects could include:
Opioid effects will depend on the dose, administration route (how you take the drug), and prior exposure to the opioid in question. However, in general, opioid use runs the risk of tolerance (a higher dose is needed to achieve the same effects as initially) and psychological dependence.
If you take opioids for an extended period, there is the risk of developing physical dependence. This means that you will experience withdrawal symptoms after taking the drug.
In the most extreme cases, you could develop opioid use disorder (OUD). OUD is a medical diagnosis given to individuals who experience serious impairment or distress because of continuous opioid misuse.
In 2016, approximately 2.1 million people in the United States were living with a substance use disorder (SUD) related to prescription opioid pain medication.
Some painkillers have a higher potential for abuse and dependence. If individuals are not careful, the risk of overdose could occur. However, other reasons may also contribute to an overdose.
Here is a list of some causes of painkiller overdose:
If you or someone you are with overdoses, do not hesitate to call the local emergency number (911) or the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222).
If you or someone else overdoses on opioids, then you should administer Naloxone. Naloxone helps reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. It is available without the need for a prescription. You can get the drug as an intranasal spray or as an intramuscular injection.
A person who overdoses on painkillers can face life-threatening symptoms (like stopped breathing) and experience long-term health consequences. If that person does not receive proper medical assistance right away, permanent damage may set in the brain and other organs.
Overdose death may also occur.
The most common symptoms of painkiller overdose are as follows:
Men face a higher risk of dying of prescription painkiller overdoses than women, although the gap between the two sexes is closing.
If you or someone you are with overdoses, call the local emergency number (911) or the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222).
If possible, try to have the following information ready for emergency assistance:
Also, if you or someone else overdoses on opioids, then you should administer Naloxone. Naloxone can counteract the effects of an opiate overdose, and you do not need a prescription for this drug. It comes as an intranasal spray or as an intramuscular injection.
In cases of painkiller overdoses, you should take the container with you to the emergency department, if possible.
Doctors will examine and monitor the person’s vital signs (e.g., temperature and blood pressure) and design a treatment plan to address symptoms.
A person overdosing on painkillers may receive or undergo the following tests or procedures:
A person suspected of overdosing should receive emergency help as soon as possible. Any delay in treatment increases the risk of irreversible damage or death.
If you or a loved one have problems with painkiller misuse and dependence, you have different addiction treatment options, including:
According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA), MAT has delivered the following benefits in individuals with an opioid use disorder (OUD):
With the many promising treatments available, the path to recovery is within sight.
You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.
“CDC Vital Signs - Prescription Painkiller Overdoses.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 July 2013, www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/prescriptionpainkilleroverdoses/infographic.html.
“Drugs of Abuse.” DEA, United States Drug Enforcement Administration, 15 June 2017, www.dea.gov/documents/2017/06/15/drugs-abuse.
“Hydrocodone/Oxycodone Overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8 Feb. 2021, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007285.htm.
“Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Research Report Overview.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, 29 May 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/overview.
“Pain Relievers.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 11 Feb. 2021, medlineplus.gov/painrelievers.html.
“What Are Opioids?” HHS.gov, Https://Plus.google.com/+HHS, www.hhs.gov/opioids/prevention/index.html.