The Basics of Opioids


Pat F. Bass, III, MD, MPH    

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Questions about the long-term benefits of opioid pain medications are increasing. It’s important that patients understand the basics before beginning treatment, because while opioids provide effective pain relief in the short term, the risk of side effects and long-term impacts like addiction must be taken into account.

How Opioids Work

Opioids provide pain relief by mimicking pain-relieving chemicals that are produced by our bodies naturally. In order for pain signals to reach your brain (and for you to feel pain), the signal must travel through a receptor. Opioid drugs bind to these receptors in your brain and other parts of the body to block your perception of pain. Thus, the cause of the pain does not go away, but you may feel less pain. A common misconception of patients is that opioids will make them pain free.

Many people feel like opioid-induced constipation is not a serious enough problem to bring to their doctor. These experts explain that there’s a lot you can do to treat OIC—and doing so can prevent complications and greatly improve your quality of life.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jul 28, 2016

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