Medicinal Use of Opioids
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Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. When you have a mild headache or muscle ache, an over-the-counter pain reliever is usually enough to make you feel better. But if your pain is more severe, then your doctor will prescribe you an opioid.
Opioids are a type of narcotic pain medication. They can have serious side effects if you don't use them correctly. For people who have an opioid addiction, their problem often started with a prescription. Opioid drugs bind to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. They tell your brain you’re not in pain. They are used to treat moderate to severe pain that may not respond well to other pain medications.
Mechanism of action
Opioids attach to proteins called opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gut and other parts of the body. When this happens, the opioids block pain messages sent from the body through the spinal cord to the brain. While they can effectively relieve pain, opioids carry some risks and can be highly addictive. The risk of addiction is especially high when opioids are used to manage chronic pain over a long period of time.
Side effects of opioids include: Sleepiness, Constipation and Nausea. Opioids also can cause more serious side effects that can be life-threatening. The following might be symptoms of an opioid overdose and should be reported to a doctor immediately: Shallow breathing, Slowed heart rate and Loss of consciousness. In addition, if you suddenly stop taking opioids, you can sometimes experience symptoms such as jittery nerves or insomnia.
Addiction is also a possible effect of opioid. Opioids can make your brain and body believe the drug is necessary for survival. As you learn to tolerate the dose you’ve been prescribed, you may find that you need even more medication to relieve the pain which sometimes results in addiction.
Codeine which is only available in generic form, Fentanyl (Actiq, Abstral, Duragesic, Fentora), Hydrocodone (Hysingla, Zohydro ER), Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin), Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), Meperidine (Demerol), Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose), Morphine (Kadian, MS Contin, Morphabond), Oliceridine (Olynvik), Oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxaydo), Oxycodone, acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet), Oxycodone and naloxone.
An opioid overdose can be reversed with the drug naloxone when given right away. Improvements have been seen in some regions of the country in the form of decreasing availability of prescription opioid pain relievers and decreasing misuse among the nation’s teens. However, since 2007, overdose deaths related to heroin have been increasing. Fortunately, effective medications exist to treat opioid use disorders, including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.
A NIDA study found that once treatment is initiated, both a buprenorphine/naloxone combination and an extended release naltrexone formulation are similarly effective in treating opioid addiction. However, naltrexone requires full detoxification, so initiating treatment among active users was more difficult. These medications help many people recover from opioid addiction.