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Analgesics are pain relievers. They are used to block mild to severe pain signals sent through out the nervous system to the brain. Some analgesics are better at relieving certain types of pain than others and their effectiveness can vary from person to person. There are two types of analgesics, narcotic and non-narcotic.

Some common non-narcotic analgesics include:

  • Acetaminophen (brand named Tylenol)
  • Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Brand named Motrin, Advil and Motrin IB)
  • Naproxen (Brand named Naprosyn and Aleve)
  • Nabumetone (Brand named Relafen)

Though these drugs are relatively safe to use regularly, over use of them especially in combination with alcohol can cause liver damage. There is also a category of NSAIDS called COX-2 inhibitors that are affective against the enzyme that causes inflammation. Familiar names of these drugs include:

  • Celecoxib or Celebrex
  • Rofecoxib or Vioxx
  • Valdecoxib or Bextra

Narcotic Analgesics are called opiates and opioids. Opioid are a derivative of opiates which are found in opium, an extract from the unripened seeds of the poppy.

There are four broad classes of opioids:

  • Endogenous opioid peptides (produced in the body: endorphins, dynorphins, enkephalins)
  • Opium alkaloids (morphine, codeine, thebaine)
  • Semi-synthetic opioids (heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, dihydrocodeine, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, nicomorphine)
  • Fully synthetic opioids (pethidine or Demerol, methadone, fentanyl, propoxyphene, pentazocine, buprenorphine, butorphanol, tramadol, and more)

The action of opioids is to bind the opioid receptors in the central nervous system or gastrointestinal tract. This helps to relieve pain and is why they are used for the treatment of severe to chronic pain. Because of the nature of the drugs and their side effects analgesics can become addictive. It will be necessary for someone who does not need the drugs, and yet have become addicted to them, to go to rehab. It is also possible to build up a tolerance to the medication which can lead to a need for higher dosages. Some who use these drugs have such high tolerance that the dosages they take could be fatal to someone unaccustomed to the drug. There can still be a lethal dose even for individuals with higher tolerances. It is very important to deal with analgesic drug addiction in a drug rehab facility accustomed to dealing with pain killer addiction.

The following is a list of common names of these medicines: Acetaminophen or Tylenol, Codeine or Tylenol 2, 3, 4, Darvocet which is Propoxyphene and Acetaminophen combined, Darvon or Propoxyphene, Duragesic or the Fentanyl patch, Hydromorphone or Palladone, Dilaudid, Morphine or MSContin, Oramorph, Oxycodone or OxyContin and Roxicodone, Percocet or Oxydodone and Acetaminophen combined, Percodan or Oxydodone and Asprin combined, Talwin NX or Pentazocine and Naloxone combined, Ultracet or Tramadol and Acetaminophen combined, Ultram or Tramadol, Vicodin or Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen combined.

Side effects of Analgesics / Pain Killers

Narcotic Analgesics can lead to addiction and fecal impaction which can cause serious pain or even death, may cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, drowsiness, loss of coordination and balance. Opioid intoxication alters the mental state and may cause small pupils, respiratory depression, extreme sleepiness and unconsciousness. Pain killers that contain caffeine can cause nervousness and may lead to sleep problems.

Aspirin abuse may cause renal or hepatic impairment, GI irritation, Dyspepsia, and Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in the elderly. Ibuprofen can be irritating to the stomach and abuse or overdose may lead to cardiac, renal, or hepatic impairment. Paracetamol over use may lead to liver damage and renal or hepatic impairment, skin rashes, fatigue, dizziness, headache, sleep problems, nausea, and can be dangerous in combination with alcohol dependence, very high doses of Tylenol, or Acetaminophen can cause liver damage especially when taken in combination with alcohol.


The symptoms of withdrawal from narcotic analgesics can be very severe and it is important that there is a good support system readily available to the recovering addict. Drug rehab programs provide this type of support and are familiar with symptoms that result when the patient quits using. The symptoms that follow can be the same for all opiate analgesics whether the recovery is from Heroin or prescription pain killers. It is important to understand that prescription pain killers are just as physically addictive and dangerous as illegal street drugs.

Withdrawal symptoms can include all or some of the following:
Flu like symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, runny nose, abdominal pain, and goose bumps. Sweating, agitation, and dilated pupils may also be symptomatic during drug rehab. There may also be psychological symptoms such as depression and mental illness.

The biggest risk during drug rehab is relapse that could lead to death. Once an addict has gone through rehab, their tolerance to the drug is greatly reduced. Death may follow a return to analgesic drug abuse since the body is no longer used to the drugs. It is important to get involved in support groups to keep from returning to abuse of prescription or street drugs.

Rehab from prescription pain killers is a lengthy process that requires a great deal of patience for all parties involved. Though the initial withdrawal symptoms may subside, analgesic drug rehab may be a life long battle.

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