Are Opioids the Best Way to Manage Pain?
Treatment admissions for prescription pain medication have risen roughly five fold over the past decade. The most abused pain medications are those that contain natural or synthetic chemicals based on morphine, the active ingredient in opium. These drugs act in a similar way as the pain-relieving chemicals that the body naturally produces.
When used as directed by a doctor, opioids such as Vicodin and OxyContin are safe and effective pain relievers. Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors in the body and triggering the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine which relieves pain. However, when they are abused, opioids can be fatal.
When used as directed, opioids deliver pain relief over a 12 hour period. However when taken at higher levels, or crushed, chewed, or consumed with alcohol, dopamine can flood the brain, creating the risk of an overdose.
It is important to note that 95 percent of pains go away naturally over time, so if you can live without opioids it may be the right thing to do. However, there are people who suffer from chronic pain, and taking opioids may be one of the best treatment options for them, but unfortunately there is always the danger of addiction and abuse, so a long term patient's use must be closely monitored.
Opioid abuse can result in drowsiness, constipation and depressed breathing. Long term users can also develop a physical dependence as well as tolerance, so the user will require increasing amounts to get the same effect.
While opioids are an important way to relieve pain, they should be used carefully and only as prescribed by a qualified physician. If you can relieve your pain safely another way, it may be preferable, but always consult with a physician first.
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