Ask a Nurse: Popping pain pills?

Americans make up ~4.6 percent of the world’s population, yet have been consuming 80 percent of the global opioid supply and 99 percent of the global hydrocodone supply1! According to the CDC in 2008, 14,800 died of an opioid overdose… more than heroin and cocaine COMBINED2.

Opioids like morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and fentanyl bind to the opioid receptors in the body, which alter the perception of pain3.  These medications may offer some relief, however, not without risk.  Possible side effects include sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression3.  These medications can be fatal, especially when combined with alcohol and benzodiazepines like Xanax.

So what are some other options?  Attack pain from several angles: topically with Lidocaine, ice, and/or heat, decrease inflammation with NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, ibuprofen and Celebrex, and alter the perception of the pain with NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor antagonists or blockers like ketamine, methadone, and dextromethorphan4.  These medications can synergistically promote pain reduction.

Special consideration must be taken concerning one’s genetics when battling chronic pain.  The Pain Medication DNA Insight℠ is a simple genetic test, which helps identify a patient’s response to specific pain medications.  Personalized medication management is essential in identifying the right drug and dosage for a patient.

Lastly, yet most importantly, being on an anti-inflammatory diet is essential to reducing the symptoms of pain.  Several foods most people consume on a daily basis are only further worsening their pain, such as bread, pasta, refined sugars, and processed foods.

As stated by one of my favorite client’s, “Before I started this lifestyle I seriously thought I was dying.  I was hurting all over!  My joint pain was unbearable!  Just after a week of eating right and getting rid of the poisonous processed foods my joint pain nearly disappeared!”

Ask a Nurse is sponsored by Perfect Form Center for Wellness & Anti-Aging.




  1. The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) Fact Sheet.
  2. Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses.
  3. Opioid Complications and Side Effects. Pain Physician 2008.;11;S105-S120.pdf

BIO: Hollie is a critical care nurse and co-creator of Perfect Form Center for Wellness & Anti-Aging. She was awarded Nurse of Year Award for Excellence on May 9, 2014 by the Polk County Organization of Nurse Executives. For more information, go to, or call Hollie at (863) 299-9111.

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