Opiate Agonists are a class of drugs that help stop pain, stop coughing and bronchial spasms, sedate patients, and treat drug addiction and withdrawal. These drugs act like opiates (heroin, morphine, etc.) but their purpose is to avoid drug addiction by making the brain react in the same way, while not causing addiction symptoms. Opiate Agonists will commonly cause the feeling of euphoria and/or make the patient feel pain free or not care about the pain. They may be administered by mouth or in an injection. Usually, the higher the dosage, the more relief that the patient will feel.
As a pain treatment, certain drugs have short-term effects such as Acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is often given in combination with other drugs such as Hydrocodone to enhance their pain relieving effects. These drugs are used on an “as needed” basis for the temporary relief of pain and are not long lasting.
For longer lasting pain relief, drugs such as Extended Release Oxycodone, may be prescribed. It is especially important to use the extended release versions of these drugs exactly as instructed since the discharge of the pain reliever into the blood stream must be slow enough not to cause too much of the drug to enter the body at once. Severe reactions may result. Methadone, is one example of a drug that has long been used to fight heroin addiction. It helps stop the side effects of withdrawal such as shaking, sweating, nausea, and pain. A monitored program of Methadone can help a person transition into an addiction free life.
Although this class of drug seeks to avoid drug addiction, physical dependence may still occur so it is particularly important to work with your doctor to avoid reliance. Some people may reach a tolerance level where the drug may not function as it did before. Because these drugs also suppress the respiratory system, it is important to take only the dosage prescribed so that the patient does not suffer any difficulty in breathing.
Side effects common to this class of drug include constipation (very common); nausea, which usually goes away after taking the drug for a while; sleepiness, fatigue and/or unclear thinking; itching; dry mouth; sexual dysfunction; or the inability to urinate completely. Patients may vary considerably in their reactions to these drugs and one particular drug may cause some side effects while another in this same category, will not.