But it's important to remember that opioids only suppress pain. "Opioids don't work on the source of the pain like NSAIDswhich can reduce inflammationdo," says Jeffrey Goldstein, MD, director of the Spine Service at New York University's Hospital for Joint Diseases. "Instead they just mask the pain and help you deal with it."
Even when not abused, opioids do have side effects including:
- Respiratory depression (slowed rate of breathing, one of the more serious concerns)
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty urinating
A "tightwire balancing act" on narcotics
When contractor Nicholas Severais, 58, of San Mateo, Calif., fell off a roof several years ago and broke one of his vertebrae, he was put on a whole slew of opioids during the course of his treatment. They alleviated the pain but brought other challenges.