Analgesics, opioid

Opioid analgesics are used to relieve pain from a variety of conditions. Someare used before or during surgery (including dental surgery) both to relievepain and to make anesthetics work more effectively. They may also be used for the same purposes during labor and delivery.

Opioid analgesics relieve pain by acting directly on the central nervous system. However, this can also lead to unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness,dizziness, breathing problems, and physical or mental dependence.

Among the drugs in this category are codeine, propoxyphene (Darvon), propoxyphene and acetaminophen (Darvocet N), meperidine (Demerol), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), morphine, oxycodone, oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet),and hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Lortab, Anexsia). These drugs come in many forms--tablets, syrups, suppositories, and injections, and are sold only byprescription. For some, a new prescription is required for each new supply--refills are prohibited according to federal regulations.

Anyone who uses opioid analgesics or any narcotic--over a long time may become physically or mentally dependent on the drug. Physical dependence may leadto withdrawal symptoms when the person stops taking the medicine. Building tolerance to these drugs is also possible when they are used for a long period.Over time, the body needs larger and larger doses to relieve pain.

These drugs should be taken exactly as directed. The recommended dose shouldnever be exceeded, not should they be taken more often than directed. If thedrugs do not seem to be working, the doctor should be consulted. It's important not to share these or any other prescription drugs with other people because the drug may have different effects on different people.

Children and older people are especially sensitive to opioid analgesics and may have serious breathing problems after taking them. Children may also become unusually restless or agitated when given these drugs.

Opioid analgesics increase the effects of alcohol. Anyone taking these drugsshould not drink alcoholic beverages.

People with certain medical conditions or who are taking other medicines canhave problems if they take opioid analgesics. Side effects can be dangerous in people with certain medical conditions such as allergies; heart, kidney, orliver disease; history of convulsions; or asthma, emphysema, or any chroniclung disease. Women who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding should let their physicians know. It is important that the physician knows about any current or past alcohol or drug abuse.

Opioid analgesics should not be taken with other medications without the physician's approval. Drug interactions can be severe and possibly fatal.

Some people experience drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, or a false sense of well-being after taking opioid analgesics. Anyone who takes these drugsshould not drive, use machines, or do anything else that might be dangerousuntil they know how the drug affects them. Nausea and vomiting are common side effects, especially when first beginning to take the medicine. If these symptoms do not go away after the first few doses, check with the physician or dentist who prescribed the medicine.

Dry mouth is another common side effect. Patients who must use opioid analgesics over long periods and who have dry mouth should see their dentists, as the problem can lead to tooth decay and other dental problems.

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