Opioids are a class of medicine that are used to relieve moderate to severe pain (analgesics) and can be used for both acute (fast onset and short duration) and chronic pain (pain of longer duration). Opioids bind to proteins known as opioid receptors found in many parts of the body, particularly the central nervous system, to cause a decline in the way you feel and respond to pain.
Opioids are one part of a treatment regimen for pain. Mild to moderate pain is usually treated initially with non-opioid drugs such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory pain medicines. Other pain treatments also include exercise programs, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Opioids are useful when other pain medicines such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory pain killers are not effective in relieving pain when the benefits of opioid treatment potentially outweigh the risks. Sometimes they are used in combination with other pain killers to enhance their effect.
Opioids are available as different types of preparations; syrups, tablets, capsules, patches and injections. How you use the drug will differ depending upon the preparation and the drug. Take your medicine only as directed by your doctor, if unsure please consult your doctor / pharmacist.
Opioids may be divided into those which have a strong effect versus those with a weaker effect. Common examples include:
Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are pregnant, intend to get pregnant or are breast-feeding.
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