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Opioids are chemical drugs that are designed to attach themselves to receptors in the body. Most receptors are found within the lining of the intestines as well as the central and peripheral nervous system. Once they are attached, they will automatically send a signal to the brain that will cause the brain to reduce pain reactions. It can also produce an overall relaxed feeling and slow down breathing.

There are good and bad effects of taking opioids and different reactions depend on which receptor that they are affecting. For example, the calming and relaxed feeling that is felt after taking an opioid drug is caused by the opioid receptors actually connecting with the opioid drug. The receptors that are in the brain and spinal cord are responsible for the pain relief that most people experience but also cause drowsiness and a sense of peacefulness.

Complaints of constipation, becoming addicted, anxiety or depression as well as the pupils becoming small are all side effects. If long term use is necessary, then doctors may prescribe medications to help offset some of the negative side effects.

What Are Opioids Used to Treat?

Opioids are usually used long term and used to treat many issues but mostly to treat chronic pain that may come from severe injuries or arthritis as well as other conditions such as cancer. When used to treat injuries, an anti-inflammatory drug is usually used together with the opioid to prevent inflammation. However they must be used carefully because of the chance of addiction. Other ways they can be used are:

  • Frequently used to help with anxiety before any procedure or operation.
  • During some surgeries, it is commonly used to help with anesthesia.
  • Oddly enough, some types of opioids can actually even be used to help people who are addicted to another type of opioid.
  • Used in strong cough medicines.
  • Some types of anxiety can be treated.

What are the Common Side Effects?

The most common side effects that have been reported are:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itching
  • Tiny pupils
  • Dry mouth

However, many side effects subside within a week or two. If these side effects do not go away on their own, then laxatives or anti-nausea medications may be used. But, patients should be aware that long term use can sometimes affect your immune system, making you more able to fall ill. If the patient becomes tolerant to the drug and constantly requires a higher dose, then the doctor should be notified. This could be the first possible sign of the body becoming addicted.


Some patients report hyperalgesia, which consists of feeling more pain instead of less when using opioids. This can sometimes become a problem if used long term. However, it is reported in a higher number of people who have developed a higher tolerance to the drug. Reducing the dosage amount usually solves this problem. If it doesn’t, then switching to a non-opioid drug would be the next step.

Are Opioids Right for You

If you currently suffer with extreme back pain, ask your doctor if you are a good candidate for being prescribed opioid drugs. The doctor will be able to prescribe the right medication and dose to help control your pain and help you return to a normal pain free life.