Treatment Options for Painkiller-Induced Constipation

By

Farshad Ahadian, MD

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Chronic pain is a widespread problem in the United States, affecting many Americans’ physical and mental health, work performance, and quality of life. When over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen don’t do the trick, physicians often turn to prescribing opioid analgesics, also known as narcotics, to ease pain.


Opioids were once reserved for short-term pain and cancer-related pain, but in the 1990s, a variety of long-acting opioids came to the market, leading to a dramatic increase in the long-term use of opioids for chronic, non-cancer related pain. While opioids provide needed relief to those suffering from chronic pain, they’re not a magic fix. These drugs come with a long list of side effects, as well as the risk of addiction and overdose.

Constipation from taking opioids is different from regular constipation, which means it must be treated differently, too. Experts on opioid-induced constipation discuss solutions, from lifestyle changes to medication.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jul 18, 2016