Pain killer medications have certain adverse effects

Posted by Haripriya Munipalli on Fri, Sep 21, 2012  
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Pain killers are usually used to get relief from pain. These medications might cause problems to the general health and even the specific organs in the body. There are several pain killer medications like tricyclic antidepressants, NSAIDs, anti-epileptic drugs, medications used for depression and anxiety and skeletal muscle relaxants. This article discusses the side effects of opioids that are used as pain relievers.


Opioids are the pain killer medications that are commonly used by the public and they all possess similar mechanism of action. All the opioids will have mostly common side effects. Opioids were observed to be showing strong influence on the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous system and show less impact on skin, cardiovascular system, urinary and other functions. The adverse effects of the medication might be due to the byproducts released by the drug when it is metabolized, total daily dosage, using single drug or combination of drugs, enhancing the drug quantity and rise in patient’s age.


The effects of opioids on central nervous system might be stimulatory or inhibitory. If there is heavy buildup of opioids and its products in the body, stimulatory effects like becoming sensitive to pain, seizures and muscle twitching result. The other opioid effects on CNS are delirium with hallucinations, drowsiness or sedation and cognition changes. The opioid affected people might have heavy dizziness. Opioids, when administered along with benzodiazepine drugs or alcohol might enhance the adverse effects on central nervous system.


The adverse effects of opioid on gastrointestinal system include nausea and constipation. People taking pain killers are probably afraid of facing nausea. Nausea is often accompanied by vomiting, which can lead to dehydration that can enhance the nausea. Acute nausea can be treated using surgical procedures while chronic nausea is still more unbearable. The cause of nausea or worsening of nausea might be due to another adverse effect of opioid called constipation. Constipation usually results when the opioid drug shows decreased bowel movements and reduced secretions of the intestine. To treat constipation, stool softeners or stimulant laxatives are essential. Sometimes, suppositories or use of enema also treats constipation.


Person taking opioid drugs for long period to succumb the chronic pain might encounter respiratory depression. The patients suffering from the lung disease must be careful from opioids. The cardiovascular side effects of opioids are associated with a specific drug and are not found to appear in all the chronic pain patients using opioids. Opioids in combination with histamines might cause adverse effects such as depression in heart and vascular dilation. It is important for the person to choose the type of opioid as well as the dosage that should be used.


Bladder spasm, urinary retention and urgency are some of the problems due to use of opioids seen in old patients. Though they have tolerance to these issues, changes in the dosage and drug can bring relief to the problems. It is not understood exactly whether itching is the actual cause of opioid usage. Itching might be due to the use of histamines as well. Opioids are also observed to have impact on the temperature maintenance center of the brain. As the brain center for regulating body temperature gets impaired, there will be loss of body temperature. Opioids will reduce libido as well.


Often people feel that allergy might result from opioid usage, which may not be correct. Usually histamine usage results in allergies that are misunderstood to have resulted from opioid usage. The proper assessment of the patient and prescription of relevant drugs is the best way of dealing with the opioid side effects.



Larry C. Driver, MD. Side effects of pain medications (part I), reprinted with permission from the Chronic Pain Report, Volume I, Issue 4, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association Review,


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