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Prescription medications such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives are very useful treatment tools but sometimes people do not take them as directed and may become addicted. Patients, healthcare professionals, and pharmacists all have roles in preventing misuse and addiction to prescription medications. Opioids are commonly prescribed because of their effective analgesic, or pain relieving, properties. Among the compounds that fall within this classa??sometimes referred to as narcoticsa??are morphine, codeine, and related medications.
Opioids act by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract.
In addition, opioid medications can affect regions of the brain that mediate what we perceive as pleasure, resulting in the initial euphoria that many opioids produce. Opioids may interact with other medications and are only safe to use with other medications under a physiciana??s supervision. Chronic use of opioids can result in tolerance to the medications so that higher doses must be taken to obtain the same initial effects.
Methadone, a synthetic opioid that blocks the effects of heroin and other opioids, eliminates withdrawal symptoms and relieves craving.
Naltrexone is a long-acting opioid blocker often used with highly motivated individuals in treatment programs promoting complete abstinence. Buprenorphine, another synthetic opioid, is a recent addition to the arsenal of medications for treating addiction to heroin and other opiates.


Sign up to receive free updates on back pain treatments, research, and doctor-reviewed spine health information. This information is not designed to replace a physician's independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient. An overview of central nervous system (CNS) depressants and stimulants; their prescribed use and guidelines to prevent abuse. Pain relievers make surgery possible, and enable many individuals with chronic pain to lead productive lives. For example, when a doctor prescribes a pain relief medication, CNS depressant, or stimulant, the patient should follow the directions for use carefully, learn what effects the medication could have, and determine any potential interactions with other medications. Many studies have shown that properly managed medical use of opioid analgesic compounds is safe and rarely causes addiction, which is defined as compulsive, often uncontrollable use. When these compounds attach to certain opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, they can effectively change the way a person experiences pain. They can also produce drowsiness, cause constipation, and, depending upon the amount taken, depress breathing. Typically, they should not be used with substances such as alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines.
Long-term use also can lead to physical dependencea??the body adapts to the presence of the substance and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced abruptly.Individuals taking prescribed opioid medications should not only be given these medications under appropriate medical supervision, but also should be medically supervised when stopping use in order to reduce or avoid withdrawal symptoms. Options for effectively treating addiction to prescription opioids are drawn from research on treating heroin addiction.


Since these substances slow breathing, their combined effects could lead to lifea??threatening respiratory depression. Symptoms of withdrawal can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (a??cold turkeya??), and involuntary leg movements.
However, the inappropriate or nonmedical use of prescription medications is a serious public health concern.
Physicians and other healthcare providers should screen for any type of substance abuse during routine history-taking, with questions about which prescriptions and over-thecounter medicines the patient is taking and why. Nonmedical use of prescription medications like opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and stimulants can lead to abuse and addiction, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use. Over time, providers should note any rapid increases in the amount of a medication neededa??which may indicate the development of tolerancea??or frequent requests for refills before the quantity prescribed should have been used. In addition to their effective pain relieving properties, some of these medications can be used to relieve severe diarrhea (Lomotil, for example, which is diphenoxylate) or severe coughs (codeine).




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