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Special Concerns for Women

Advantages and Possible Side Effects of Analgesics

Analgesics include NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen, acetaminophen, Cox-2 inhibitors, and opioids. NSAIDs and acetaminophen, which are available without a prescription, are widely used for back pain and headaches. Many people dislike the idea of taking prescription opioids because of fear of becoming addicted.  However, there is an important difference between addiction, which happens to a minority of pain patients, and tolerance (the drug has less effect over time, resulting in the need for a larger dose) or dependence (development of withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it). In contrast, addiction involves relying on drugs to escape from (not cope with) lifeís realitiesónot just to relieve pain.  Most medical practitioners recommend opioids only when other medications donít help and when they can improve how well you function without causing serious damage.  Some opioids reduce sexual desire and response, and their long-term effects have not been adequately studied.  They should never be taken with other narcotics, tranquilizers, alcohol, or anything that induces sleepiness.

For detailed information about pain management medications, including efficacy, side effects and potential drug interactions, see Medline Plus, health information from the National Library of Medicine.

Last revised: March 2005

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