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What Are the Pros and Cons of Opioid Pain Management?

By C.B. Fox
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Opioid pain management is considered a safe and effective pain management technique. These drugs are effective at blocking pain and can be used to treat a variety of acute and chronic conditions. A variety of opioids are available for doctors to choose from, making it possible to tailor treatment to a patient's needs. The trouble with managing pain through the use of opioids is that patients can become addicted to these drugs and can develop a tolerance to them, making these drugs less effective.

Patients who are in pain and who use opioid pain management therapies benefit from the use of these drugs because the drugs can effectively and significantly reduce pain. Depending on the opioid used, these medications may be safely used to eliminate moderate to the most severe level of pain a patient experiences. Other types of pain medications, such as steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are not usually effective against extreme pain, so many patients require the use of opioid pain management in order to be pain free. Patients who have had an adverse reaction to other types of pain killers can usually take opioids as they are unrelated to drugs in other classes.

Another benefit of opioid pain management is that many opioids are available throughout the world. These drugs may be natural, plant-derived medications or synthetically created medicines and can each be used to target pain in slightly different ways. The wide variety of opioids available also allows doctors to choose a medication and a dosage that will effectively relieve pain for the proper duration of time.

The main problem with opioid pain management is that opioids are physically and mentally addictive. Patients may develop a need for opioids and may suffer adverse effects if they are not given these drugs on a regular schedule. Though not all patients will become addicted to opioids, drugs in this class are some of the most likely to lead to drug abuse, especially in patients with a propensity for substance abuse.

Another problem with opioid pain management is that patients can develop a tolerance to the medication over time. When opioids are used for acute pain, this is not an issue. Patients with chronic conditions, however, may find that it takes more and more opioids to effectively block the same amount of pain. Eventually, an opioid may become completely ineffective because the dose needed to block pain would endanger the health of the patient.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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