The Various Forms Of Painkillers And Their Side Effects

By Marisa Ramiccio. May 7th 2016

After surgery or other major physical trauma, your doctor will more than likely prescribe painkillers to help ease the pain during recovery. However, your doctor should also advise you on certain precautionary measures to ensure these painkillers won’t do more harm than good. If taken improperly, painkillers can produce some serious side effects that could have you feeling worse instead of better.

Many people are not aware of the adverse effects of pain medication, particularly of the more serious side effects. Below is a list of the different types of painkillers and the side effects they can cause.

Side Effects Of Opioids

Opioids, which are sometimes called morphine-type drugs, were originally derived from poppy juice, but now are made synthetically. Opioids include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and tramadol. Opioids are sometimes administered intravenously, but can also be taken in pill form, as an injection, as a patch or as a nasal spray. Common side effects of opioids include:

  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Constipation
  • A dry mouth
  • Itchy skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling sick
  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you’ve taken too high of a dose, you may experience the following side effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Pain and skin sensitivity
  • Agitation
  • Very vivid dreams
  • Shaking, twitches, muscle spasms or body tremors
  • Blur or fuzziness around the edge of vision

Because all opioids tend to cause constipation, it’s recommended that you drink plenty of fluids, especially water, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. If you can, try to move around as much as possible to also combat this side effect.

Getting sick is also common while taking opioids, so you may need to take some anti-sickness medication as well to avoid feeling ill. Once your body is used to the painkillers, your doctor will probably take you off of the anti-sickness medication.

Side Effects Of Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Anti-inflammatory painkillers are often used in conjunction with opioids and are often referred to as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS. Some of these drugs are available without a prescription, such as ibuprofen and aspirin. These painkillers can easily irritate the digestive system, so it’s best to take these drugs on a full stomach. Side effects include:

  • Ulcers
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Kidney problems
  • Slow blood clotting

Side Effects Of Steroids

Steroids are used to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries, and can help reduce any swelling that may occur. Like anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids can irritate the digestive system, particularly the stomach, so it’s best not to take them on an empty stomach. Common side effects include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Indigestion
  • Increase in appetite
  • Increase in energy

If you’ve taken steroids for a prolonged period of time, you may experience these side effects:

  • Loss of muscle strength
  • An increased risk of infection
  • Increase in blood sugar
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Sugar present in urine

Stopping steroid use cold turkey can also cause illness, so when you are ready to stop taking them, wean yourself off of them gradually.

Side Effects Of Anti-Epileptic Drugs

Anti-epileptic drugs can prevent the onset of fits or seizures but can also be used to control nerve pain. They can cause side effects such as:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling sleepy or drowsy
  • Feeling sick
  • Loss of appetite

Anti-epileptic drugs can also cause memory problems and make bones brittle and thin, especially for older people. Some doctors may suggest taking vitamin supplements or other ways to combat these side effects.

Side Effects Of Antidepressants

With antidepressants, the side effects that may occur vary depending on which medication you take. The side effects you may experience while on antidepressants are:

  • A dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in your sleep pattern
  • A decrease or increase in appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Headaches
  • An upset stomach
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety

Side Effects Of Bisphosphonates

This type of painkiller is typically used by patients who have advanced stages of cancer as it helps with bone pain. Along with reducing pain, bisphosphonates also reduce the risk of bone breakage and can also prevent bone thinning. But on the negative side, bisphosphonates can also cause the following:

  • Muscle aches
  • Sickness
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • A skin rash

Overdosing on painkillers or taking them with alcohol can have serious if not fatal side effects such as respiratory depression, a coma or even cardiac arrest. If you have to take painkillers, make sure you are taking the proper dosage and are aware of the potential side effects those drugs can have on you.

You should also consult with your doctor on the way the painkiller is administered. The method in which the medication is taken can provide its own side effects depending on your health condition. If you’ve taken pain medication before, that can also produce unwanted effects if you’ve built up a tolerance to the previous medication.

If you do experience negative side effects from pain medication, consult with your doctor. You may need to lower your dosage, change medications or take it through an alternative method.


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