What is Painkillers/Analgesics?
Painkillers/Analgesics for sale medicines are used as part of a strategy to manage short (acute) or long-term (chronic) pain. They work by targeting the cause of the pain or by reducing the feeling of pain. Some pain-relief can be purchased ‘over-the-counter’ (OTC), meaning you don’t need a prescription from your doctor to access them. If your pain persists, is not being adequately controlled or you are not sure how to cope with your pain, you should speak to your doctor. They may recommend different strategies for managing long-term (chronic) pain, including prescription medicines, as well as strategies that don’t involve medicine.
What are the different types of Painkillers/Analgesics?
As everyone’s experience of pain is different, individuals need different ways to help manage their pain. Different pain-relief options suit particular circumstances, as well.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines include:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, aspirin or diclofenac
- gels and creams containing medicines — such as NSAIDs and capsaicin — that are absorbed through your skin (topical medicines)
Your doctor may also recommend a prescription medicine, such as:
- anti-epileptic medicines, such as pregabalin, gabapentin or carbamazepine
- antidepressants, such as amitriptyline or duloxetine
- opioids, for example codeine, morphine or tramadol
- other types of medicine that treat the cause of your pain, such as muscle relaxants or corticosteroids.
There are also many ways to reduce pain that don’t involve medicines, such as stress management, meditation or exercise. Talk to your GP about which alternatives may be useful for you.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines
Some Painkillers/Analgesics for sale, for mild-to-moderate pain, can be purchased from your pharmacist without a prescription.
While OTC medicines are more easily accessed they still carry risks. These medicines can sometimes cause unwanted side effects and affect how well other medicines work, especially prescription medicines.
Your pharmacist can help you to decide if it is safe to take OTC medicines for pain relief alongside with your other medicines.
There are 2 common types of OTC Painkillers/Analgesics for sale:
- Paracetamol: often recommended as the first medicine to try if you have short-term pain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): a group of medicines that work by reducing swelling and inflammation, and relieving pain. These include aspirin, ibuprofen and diclofenac.
Prescription Painkillers/Analgesics for sale
You need a doctor’s prescription to access certain medicines from a pharmacist. Dentists and some authorised nurses can also prescribe these medicines.
Some NSAIDs, which you can buy over the counter in low doses, are available in higher strengths on a prescription (such as diclofenac and naproxen). Other NSAIDs (such as meloxicam) and COX-2 inhibitors (such as celecoxib) are only available on a prescription.
These medicines may not be suitable for people with stomach problems, liver problems, high blood pressure (hypertension) or asthma.
Opioids (such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine) can be used to treat moderate to severe short-term (actute) pain, including after surgery or an injury, or for chronic pain in people with cancer. They should only be used when your doctor decides that other treatments are not able to manage your pain or you can’t tolerate them.
There is no clear evidence that opioids are helpful in managing chronic non-cancer pain.
Opioids can be addictive and may cause serious side effects such as life-threatening breathing problems. Nausea, vomiting, constipation and drowsiness may also occur.
The longer a person takes opioids, the more likely they are to experience unwanted side effects. It’s best to take opioids for the shortest time possible.
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