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Pain Medications

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Pain Medications and Their Types

Pain medications are drugs that are used to relieve pain caused by an injury, disease, or surgery. Pain medications are divided into two large groups: analgesics and adjuvant drugs, which are also known as supplemental drugs. 

According to Ballantyne (2008), there are three main types of analgesic drugs: 

  1. The opioid drugs. Their purpose is to relieve severe pain. The opioid drugs act on opioid receptors, which are located in the nervous system. They include such drugs as morphine, codeine, methadone, etc.
  2. The non-opioids, also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Their aim is to decrease pain. NSAIDs modify chemical reactions which occur in the injured area. They include aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. 
  3. Combination drugs. They consist of both opioid and non-opioid drugs. These analgesics include such drugs as Tylenol #3 and #4 and Vicodin.   

Adjuvant medications can be prescribed as supplements to analgesic drugs.  Adjuvant medications include:

  1. Muscle Relaxants. Their aim is to decrease painful spasms in muscles.
  2. Anticonvulsants. They reduce neurological pain.
  3. Sedatives. These medications provide short-term treatment of sleep problems.
  4. Anti-anxiety drugs. They reduce anxiety and nervous tension.
  5. Antidepressants. These drugs are used to eliminate the symptoms of depression (Mercadante & Bruera, 2006).

Pharmacology of the Opioids

Opioids are narcotic pain relief drugs. They include natural, semi-synthetic or synthetic opiates.

The mechanism of drug action involves binding of the opioids to opioid receptors in the peripheral and central nervous systems. The mechanism of their action extends to the gastrointestinal tract. Ballantyne (2008) explains that the therapeutic efficacy of the opioids depends on several factors. It is necessary to define the receptor to which an opioid binds, the chemical reaction between them, and whether the opioid acts as an agonist or an antagonist. For example, such drugs as oxycodone and morphine act as agonists to produce the effect of analgesia. As a result, their potential allows them to reduce severe pain.

The Adverse Effects of the Opioids

Opioid drugs cause adverse effects even in low concentrations. The side effects can be physical and psychological. Ballantyne (2008) outlines such physical adverse effects as dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, itching, constipation, urinary retention, respiratory depression and sexual dysfunction. Psychological side effects include frequent changes of one’s emotional state. Some of the adverse effects disappear with continued use of opioids.

The Addiction and Toxicity Caused by the Opioid Drugs

Opioids are safe enough when they are used for a short time. In other cases, opioids cause addiction. Patients often increase their doses to achieve the desired effect. As a result, they develop habituation to the analgesic effects of the drug.

According to Mercadante and Bruera (2006), opioids do not cause intoxication of any organs. What is more, opioid medications do not cause renal toxicity or gastrointestinal bleeding. However, it is not allowed to mix these drugs with sleeping tablets or alcohol. The mixing of these products can cause the aspiration of gastric contents into lungs.

Conclusion

Pain medications are used to relieve pain. These drugs are divided into two large groups: analgesics and adjuvant medications. These painkillers reduce pain by acting through various physiological mechanisms.

The opioids are the analgesics. These medications are highly effective. However, the use of opioid analgesics can cause dependency and tolerability to therapeutic effects.

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