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Painkillers: Separating Fact From Fiction

A recent article in the Buffalo News about this topic prompted the idea for this post. This is something everyone should know about pain medications before taking them.  An educated decision is the best kind to make!

 Here is a synopsis of the article.  It was based on the thoughts of Dr. Richard Rosenquist, chairman of pain management at the Cleveland Clinic, and his assessment of six common myths about opioid drugs...a.k.a. "painkillers."

Myth #1: The more you take, the better they work.

In the short term, it is possible, that after experiencing an injury, or surgery, for instance, that two pills will work better than one at relieving pain. However, if two pills are become the usual dosage, a tolerance to the medication can develop, leading to further problems. (Tolerance occurs when an individual experiences a decrease in effectiveness over time, leading to the need to take more drug to achieve the same effect.)

Myth# 2: If you actually take pain medication for a valid reason, you cannot become addicted.

Anyone can become addicted to these medications, no matter how upstanding or well-intended that person may be. It has nothing to do with moral character and everything to do with the addictive nature of the medication.

Myth# #3:  Everyone who takes these drugs will become addicted to them.

While the drugs we are taking about in this post have an addiction potential, it does not mean that everyone who takes them will automatically become an addict.  It is important for health care professionals to assess the risk potential for each patient, taking into consideration their family medical history, past drug or alcohol abuse issues, and individual medical and mental health history.

It's also important to note that anyone who takes pain medication over an extended period of time will go through withdrawal whenever the medication is stopped.  That is just a natural consequence of using this type of medication.

Myth #4: There are no long term consequences to taking pain medication.

Addiction is not the only problem that results from long term usage of opioids.  Endocrine disturbances can occur, amongst other things. Many other problems can result. Some examples are decreased libido and increased risk of osteoporosis.

Myth # 5: You should always avoid painkillers altogether.

While it's valid to be concerned about long term use of these medications due to abuse potential, addictive nature, etc. they certainly have their place in medicine.  They are best used wisely--following surgery or an injury, for example.  The best practice is to use them on a short term basis only.

Myth# 6: Pain medication can fix your pain.

In truth, pain medication does not do anything to fix your pain, it only masks it from you.  The real focus should be on what else is being done to address the pain issue, whether it be surgery, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, diet or the like.  

Sources: Wikipedia, Buffalo News, University of Minnesota


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