What are painkillers?

Prescription painkillers are powerful drugs that interfere with the nervous system’s transmission of the nerve signals we perceive as pain. Most painkillers also stimulate portions of the brain associated with pleasure. Thus, in addition to blocking pain, they produce a “high.”

Painkillers are medicines that are used to treat pain. There are a large number of painkillers available and they all come in various different brand names. They can be taken:

-By mouth as liquids, tablets, or capsules.
-By injection.
-Via the back passage (rectum) as suppositories.

Oxycodone

Oxycodone has the greatest potential for abuse and the greatest dangers. It is as powerful as heroin and affects the nervous system the same way. Oxycodone is sold under many trade names, such as Percodan, Endodan, Roxiprin, Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet and OxyContin. It comes in tablet form.

Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is used in combination with other chemicals and is available in prescription pain medications as tablets, capsules and syrups. Trade names include Anexsia, Dicodid, Hycodan, Hycomine, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Tussionex and Vicodin. Sales and production of this drug have increased significantly in recent years, as has its illicit use.

Meperidine

Meperidine (brand name Demerol) and hydromorphone (Dilaudid) come in tablets and propoxyphene (Darvon) in capsules, but all three have been known to be crushed and injected, snorted or smoked. Darvon, banned in the UK since 2005, is among the top ten drugs reported in drug abuse deaths in the US. Dilaudid, considered eight times more potent than morphine, is often called “drug store heroin” on the streets.

Non-opioid painkillers

This includes paracetamol. Some of these are available over the counter from pharmacies and supermarkets. Other types need a prescription.

Anti-inflammatory drugs

Such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These are also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. Some of these can be bought over the counter, and some need a prescription.

Compound painkillers

This is when two different drugs are combined into one. This could be a painkiller with an NSAID, or an opioid painkiller with a non-opioid painkiller. An example is co-codamol, which combines paracetamol with codeine.

Opioid painkillers

Such as codeine, tramadol and morphine. These are only available on prescription.

What are analgesics?

Analgesics is the medical name for painkillers and they mean the same thing. We’ll use the term painkillers here.

You will probably be recommended non-opioid painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs first. It may be recommended that you take them at the same time. If these don’t work, or you need stronger pain medication, then you may be offered compound painkillers or opioid painkillers.

Codeine

Codeine does not work very well on its own. It works better when combined with paracetamol in a single pill. You can buy co-codamol (paracetamol and low-dose codeine) over the counter. Higher-dose codeine has to be prescribed.

Morphine

Morphine and morphine-like drugs (such as oxycodone, fentanyl and buprenorphine) are the strongest painkillers there are.

Depending on your individual circumstances, these types of painkiller may be prescribed as a patch, an injection, or sometimes in a pump you control yourself.

But they all work in similar ways and should only be used for severe pain.

What are the possible side-effects?

It is not possible to list all the possible side-effects of each painkiller in this leaflet. However, as with all medicines, there are a number of side-effects that have been reported with each of the different painkillers. If you want more information specific to your painkiller then you should contact us at. [email protected]

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