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Pain Relief

The analgesic or analgesic drug class includes the following agents: aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, melatonin, acetaminophen, phenytoin, acetaminophen-related NSAIDs such as nifedipine, and cyclopentolate acetate. For the remainder of the section, the term analgesic refers to the active ingredient prescribed by the physician.

This section of the MedWatch page describes how an opioid is used for the management of pain, a condition commonly known as chronic pain.

How opioids work

The central nerve pathway: Opioid receptors on the central nervous system respond to substances that activate the opioid receptors that are in the spinal cord. When the opioid receptor is activated, the body generates endorphins as the primary analgesic substance at the site of active pain. However, in severe cases of pain, the body may not be able to produce sufficient amounts of endorphins to effectively relieve pain symptoms. Therefore, opioids help relieve pain without the possibility of withdrawal.

Endorphins: Endorphins are the primary substance produced by the endoparasitic cells in the body. They are released into the blood stream in the form of the endorphins. These endorphins are not used by the body in any other way; however, endorphins are essential to maintaining or restoring the body's homeostasis (the state of balance of internal and external stimuli). This causes the endorphin system to be activated when pain arises.

Aspirin: Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that blocks prostaglandins from binding to and being released from nerve cells. Endorphins are released into the bloodstream to provide relief from pain.

Treating pain with one or more agents

There are two types of pain-relieving agents known as oral analgesics and NSAIDs. Aspirin is an effective pain-relieving agent. However, aspirin is usually prescribed only for a short time and only before exercise. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin and naproxen are effective pain-relieving agents. Both ibuprofen or acetaminophen are good pain-killers, but NSAIDs are effective pain-killers for a prolonged period of time.

Opioids: Opioids provide pain relief that is usually sustained for a longer period of time. Although it is not possible to administer all of the active ingredient of an opioid, the majority of effective dose of an opioid will be administered to the patient. Therefore, the use of an opioid in the control of cancer pain is not recommended at this time.

Other pain-killing drugs include benzodiazepines, such as diazepam and lorazepam; and acetaminophen (known as Tylenol in the United States), acetaminophen and aspirin (known as Tylenol in Canada). There are two main types of analgesic: oral and injection. Both are used as a temporary remedy for pain, to make it tolerable or to prevent the development of chronic pain. Most analgesics and anesthetics are a combination of a chemical substance and a non-surgical agent that is administered on the patient's skin or as an injection. The anesthetics are used to enhance or relieve pain and, in some instances, as an alternative to surgical intervention. Analgesics commonly act through specific interactions between their central nervous system stimulating effects and other pain stimuli provided by the patient. Other forms of pain-killing agent, such as benzodiazepines, are used to counteract or prevent the development of these harmful effects. In addition to the pain-killing effects, analgesics have been shown to provide protection against serious complications of surgery. They also reduce pain in cancer patients.

Anesthesiology

Anesthesiology is a special field within medicine that focuses on the management and diagnosis of pain and related conditions, including sleep disorders, cardiovascular disorders, migraine headaches, and anxiety disorders. Anesthetists assist patients for a number of reasons, including monitoring of a patient's breathing, applying general anesthesia, controlling sedation, assessing for the presence of respiratory arrest, and performing postoperative or therapeutic procedures. The field is widely misunderstood because many physicians are unaware that anesthesiologists are involved in the treatment of pain and related disorders. Anesthetists are trained and employed to perform procedures that control or manage the effects of the patient's condition. They evaluate potential complications of the surgical procedure and, when needed, perform the procedures safely and in a minimally invasive manner. Anesthesiologists may be assigned to a specific group of procedures, such as cardiopulmonary surgery, or may perform all procedures within the general anesthesiology specialty. Anesthesiologists can receive advanced medical training in many disciplines that include anesthesiology as one of their areas of specialization. Anesthesiology is a highly specialized field that is increasingly being practiced by women and minorities.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders, also known as nervous system disorders, are a serious clinical condition that has been reported to affect millions of people worldwide. Anxiety disorders are characterized by fear, anxiety, and nervousness, often accompanied by impaired physical functioning. These disorders can occur in an individual, a family, a group, or a society. An estimated 20 percent of those who suffer from anxiety disorders die from these conditions. Many individuals with anxiety disorders seek treatment for their disorders, which has led to a major shift in the way that people are treated for their disorders.