Learn More About The Different Groups Of Painkillers

Groups of Painkillers
We all experience pain at one time or another during our lives so it's helpful to understand how painkillers actually work!
Painkillers fall into two categories, namely non-opioids and opioids and there are two ways in which painkillers work.
Either they block the nerve pathways that transmit pain signals from the body to the brain or by reducing the perception of pain by preventing further transmission of pain signals once they reach the brain!

Non Opioid Painkillers

Non-opioid painkillers are not as strong as opioids and many are available over-the-counter. Their side effects are rarely a problem if they are taken occasionally, as suggested and according to the recommended dosage.
Two types of non-opioid drugs are available and include:

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Opioid Painkillers

Opioids are powerful painkillers which have similar properties to drugs that are derived from opium such as morphine. Opioids are given to treat pain that occurs during a heart attack or a myocardial infarction, pain following surgery or a serious injury and even pain experienced with cancer.
Dependence may occur if opioid painkillers are taken for an extended or long period of time. This is because prolonged usage leads to tolerance which means that higher doses of the painkiller need to be given to achieve the same effect or level of pain relief. A person is unlikely to become dependent if they take the painkiller for a few days only to relieve severe pain.
Side effects that may be experienced with opioids include clouded thought, nausea, vomiting, constipation, drowsiness and depressed breathing.
Opioids work directly on the brain. They work in the same way as endorphins which are substances that are naturally produced by the brain in response to pain. Endorphins stop the cell-to-cell transmission of the pain signal in the brain.
Opioid medicines include:
Smith Dr.T (Ed), The BMA Complete Family Health Guide, 2000: 516, 819-820, 912-3. ISBN 0-7513-2722-0
Beers MH (Ed-in-chief), The Merck Manual of Medical Information Second Home Edition: 402–405,408-409,519, 1132,1441-2. Simon & Schuster Inc: Pocket Books 2003. ISBN 0-7434-7734-0
The British Medical Association New Guide to Medicines and Drugs 7th Edition 2007:80-1,252,395
Martindale The Complete Drug Reference 33rd Edition 2002:27-8,69,1329
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