Harvard Men's Health Watch

Opioid painkillers: Take the strong stuff only when you need it

Opioid painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone offer relief from pain, but the body gets used to them, requiring ever-higher doses. Taken long-term, they can also have side effects such as severe constipation and sedation leading to falls. These drugs should be used for the shortest time possible, generally no longer than four to six weeks. If pain persists, it is best to transition to less risky forms of pain control. These could include non-opioid pain relievers, counseling on how to adapt better to pain, and complementary and alternative treatments, like acupuncture and meditation. A pain specialist can offer assistance in planning a long-term strategy for chronic pain control.
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