Chronic Pain

Various Types of Painkillers Explained

There are several different types of painkillers. They come in both natural and synthesized types and most are available in various strengths. First of all, the pain relief that is given by analgesics works by blocking the pain signals from travelling to the brain or they interfere with the brain being able to understand the signals. However, analgesics do not generate a loss of consciousness or provide anesthesia.

Quite often, you hear about celebrities overdosing and dying or perhaps being committed to rehab centers due to excessive use of painkillers. Usually, pharmaceutical companies produce and trade painkillers. Though there are some painkillers that have a specific use in the healthcare world, most of them are actually made for common, everyday use. There are some that can be taken for mild body aches and pains.

When you’re experiencing mild pain, you can take a simple painkiller- for example, paracetamol. However, if you have severe chronic pain, you’ll more than likely want to take morphine-opioid painkillers. Only an experienced medical professional will be able to determine which type of painkiller is best for the person who is experiencing the pain.

History of Painkillers

Opiates is the earliest painkiller that was invented. Opium was actually produced by the Assyrians, Egyptians, Sumerians, and Babylonians around 3400 BC. It was used in Greece by the Hippocrates (a Greek physician), in conjunction with a drug labeled as “salacin,” which was produced by Felix Hoffman, a German chemist, in 5th century BC.

Aspirin comes from this original drug, salacin. In 19th century Germany, acetaminophen began being produced. Finally, in the 20th century, NSAIDs, or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs were created. The first official NSAID, Indomethacin was found by Tsung-Ying Shen, a Chinese chemist during the 1960s.

types of painkillers

Types of Painkillers

Did you know that there are two types of analgesics, or painkillers? They are as follows:

Non-Narcotic Painkillers

These are OTC (over the counter) non-prescription pain medications. The most commonly used one is acetaminophen- also called “Tylenol.” It is one of the most well liked painkillers because it is effective for mild to moderate pain and is priced reasonably. However, you must know that the safety of this particular painkiller depends on whether or not it is being used appropriately according to the instructions that are provided on the packaging.

If you do not take this painkiller according to the specific instructions, you take the risk of dangerous side effects. For example, if you take over 4000 milligrams per day or if you take it for a prolonged period of time, you magnify the risk of doing some serious damage to your liver.

Acetaminophen actually turns into metabolites, which end up getting eradicated from your body. When you take a larger dose than is recommended, a large amount of these metabolites are created- more than your body can eliminate. This is what causes the liver damage. Also, if you consume alcohol while taking acetaminophen, you magnify the risk of doing damage to your liver. So- bottom line- follow the directions on the package and avoid drinking alcohol while taking this drug.

Narcotic Painkillers

This group of painkillers is actually divided into two different types. They are as follows:

1) Opiates- made from the alkaloids that are present in opium- which is a white liquid that is extracted from the unripe seeds of the poppy plant.

2) Opioids- this type of painkiller is one that binds to the opioid receptors in your central nervous system, or even your gastrointestinal tract. They are made from opiates. These are used in the medical world as very strong painkillers to relive chronic or severe pain that can’t be relieved with non-narcotic painkillers. When using these types of painkillers, you should use the lowest dose possible, as they can be very addictive.

The dosage should only be changed slightly and steadily in order to avoid adverse effects such as depression of the respiratory system. Despite these facts, there are lots of debates occurring regarding opioids and their options for being used in treatment of non-malignant chronic pain, such as arthritis. There are a few scientists that say these types of painkillers can be consumed safely for a long time without fear of becoming addicted or encountering deadly side effects. There are four broad groups under this umbrella of opioids.

A) Opioid peptides that the body creates on its own

B) Morphine, and other opium alkaloids

C) Heroin, and other semi-synthetic opioids

D) Pethidine, Demerol, or other totally synthetic opioids

Very few researchers put aspirin and other NSAIDS in the group of analgesics, because they do have several analgesic properties. However, instead of being totally analgesic, they mostly have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Anti-Inflammatory Painkillers- How Do They Work?

In general, painkillers work by actively causing a reduction in the amount of prostaglandins produced within the body. What are prostaglandins, you ask? Prostaglandins are actually chemicals that are created and then discharged by the cells at the injury sites. They are the reason that you get inflammation and swelling when you have an injury.

They also work to make your nerve endings much more sensitive, which causes pain. The anti-inflammatory painkillers work to prevent these enzymes/chemicals that produce the prostaglandins from working. This means that the less prostaglandins produced by your body’s cells, the less pain and inflammation you will experience.

When it comes to painkillers, there is a pretty wide variety. You can find them available in natural and synthesized and in varying strengths. The pain relief provided by analgesics works by blocking pain signals from travelling from the painful site to the brain or prevent the brain from understanding the signals. However, remember that analgesics do not cause an individual from losing consciousness, nor are they used to provide an anesthesia effect.

When you’re experiencing mild pain, you can take a simple painkiller- for example, paracetamol. However, if you have severe chronic pain, you’ll more than likely want to take morphine-opioid painkillers. Only an experienced medical professional will be able to determine which type of painkiller is best for the person who is experiencing the pain.

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