Opioids for Severe Back Pain and Neck Pain

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Opioids are a misunderstood class of pain medications. Because of certain controversies surrounding opioids, which you can read about later in this article, some doctors shy away from prescribing them. On the other hand, some patients feel uncomfortable taking an opioid because they're afraid of becoming addicted to it.

Opioids treat severely debilitating pain. That is, your doctor won't prescribe an opioid if you've had lingering back pain for a few days. In fact, doctors often prescribe opioids to cancer patients or as a post-surgical pain reliever. Their use for chronic pain relief, however, is a bit more controversial.

But when taken as directed and under the careful supervision of your doctor, opioids are a safe and effective treatment option for relieving debilitating chronic pain.

What Are Opioids and How Do They Work?
Opioids belong to a class of drugs and medications known as analgesics. The one similarity all analgesics share is that they are pain relievers. Opioids are powerful prescription-only analgesics.

Your doctor may refer to opioids as narcotics, which can make some patients hesitant to take them. Though the word "narcotic" carries some negative connotations, these types of drugs are a widely accepted treatment.

Opioids work by essentially decreasing your perception of, and therefore your reaction to, pain. They do this by interacting with specific proteins called opioid receptors. Opioid receptors are located throughout your body, but when opioid medications attach to receptors in your brain and spinal cord, they alter your perception of pain.

Additionally, some patients report that opioid medications give them a feeling of euphoria shortly after they start taking the medication. This is because some opioids affect the area of the brain that controls feelings of pleasure.

There are many  types of opioids. Below are a few of the most commonly prescribed opioids. (The generic names are listed first, with a brand name example in parentheses):

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Meperidine
  • Morphine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Fentanyl
Updated on: 04/22/14
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