When pain from a chronic condition, surgery or sudden injury cannot be relieved by way of over-the-counter medicines, a prescription strength pain medication may be necessary for relief.
While the benefits of such medication for comfort are obvious, patients should be advised of some less obvious drawbacks to be considered when taking these medicines.
The most commonly prescribed pain medications (or “painkillers”) are powerful drugs known as opioids. These medicines include, but are not limited to:
- Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
Before taking any of these prescription opioid medications, patients should ask questions, learn all they can about the drug being prescribed, and take into consideration some of the down sides of opioid use:
It is not uncommon for any medication to have side effects, which may vary in intensity and type from one patient to another. However, the benefits of the drug will outweigh the risks in many cases, so patients are less likely to be concerned about possible side effects. Yet one must remain aware that extreme adverse reactions are possible and therefore proceed with caution when filling any opioid prescription.
Some of the more common physical side effects from taking prescription pain medications include:
- Weakened immune system
On the extreme end of the spectrum, and most often associated with long-term opioid use, those who over-use opioids are at risk of slowed breathing, low blood pressure, coma or even death.
2. Behavioral / Emotional Consequences
Adverse reactions to prescription opioid medications are not limited to physical risks; as there may also be consequences for the patient’s mental and/or emotional state, or strain on interpersonal relationships as a result of opioid-influenced behaviors.
Opioid medications may bring relief from suffering, often replacing the pain with feelings of euphoria. But these drugs may also cause cognitive impairment, confusion, sedation and other undesired side effects that have a significant impact on the ability of a patient to function normally and make responsible decisions. The resulting changes in behavior and mental state can lead to depression, isolation, fear of addiction and an overall reduction in productivity and quality of life.
When taking these medications, patients should be vigilant to note any obvious changes in behavior or personal interactions and discuss these observations with your prescribing physician to determine whether a non-opioid pain medicine may be a better alternative.
3. Masking of Symptoms
The human body has a built-in alert system to indicate when something is wrong; pain is one of those symptoms which draws our attention to injuries or possible medical conditions.
Long-term use of opioids has the potential to ‘hide’ important physical alerts by blocking the perception of pain or other abnormalities, thereby depriving us of critical information being provided by our own bodies. As a consequence, certain injuries or conditions may go unnoticed for a time, increasing the risk of further damage or deterioration.
For this reason, opioids should be taken only as long as absolutely necessary and never in higher dosage than is recommended by a qualified pain physician.
4. Risk for Addiction
Because prescription pain medications provide relief and restore a more functional quality of life, it’s natural for a person to want to remain in such a state of comfort as long as possible. As tolerance to opioids builds up, and more medication is needed to provide an optimal level of pain relief, the risk of dependency on these drugs is significantly increased.
It is important that patients are thoroughly counseled by their prescribing physician about the dangers of opioid addiction and given resources for recovery from an existing dependency if needed. To learn more about the warning signs and dangers of opioid dependency, read What Pain Patients Should Know About Addiction to Pain Medications.
Whenever possible, it’s best to avoid taking prescription pain medications at all. But if your pain condition necessitates the use of opioids for relief, always follow physician instructions and proper dosages, and be on the lookout for side effects or signs of addiction. If you experience any abnormal symptoms, consult your prescribing physician immediately.
Can Your Chronic Pain Be Relieved Without Opioids?
At Florida Pain Relief Centers, our physicians take great care to prescribe opioid medications only when needed, and to prescribe responsibly. When medications are absolutely necessary, our pain management experts will always counsel the patient with important drug information and resources.
In many cases, the latest alternative treatment methods may relieve chronic pain without need for opioids at all. We offer several minimally invasive options for relief from your chronic pain without addictive medications.
To find out how best to treat your chronic pain, call Florida Pain Relief Centers today at 800.215.0029 to schedule a consultation or click the button below to set up an appointment online at one of our clinic locations so we can discuss options for helping restore you to a more pain-free lifestyle.