Opioids refer to a group of narcotic painkiller medications which are either obtained from opium or are derived synthetically. This group of drugs includes heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone, and oxycodone. Opioids were traditionally prescribed to treat primarily cancer pain, post-operative pain or acute pain following an accident.
Since the 1990’s however, opioid prescriptions to treat chronic pain conditions including back pain, have greatly increased.
Opioid narcotic administration can have serious side effects if not taken correctly, including possible toxicity to the body, physical dependence, and the loss of efficacy due to developmental tolerance and psychological dependence or addiction.
Opioid therapy should be considered as the last treatment option in cases of unrelieved pain despite alternative medications (non-opioid drugs). Patients should be informed regarding the side effects of opioids and should be recommended to follow-up with their doctor regularly. Monthly appointments should be scheduled to assess the dose of the drug until the patient experiences partial or complete relief from pain.