Pain Relief vs. Addiction and Overdose: Four Steps to Maintain an Appropriate Equilibrium

By Justina Igwe (Nursing Student in Nigeria at the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus)


Opioids have been one of the world’s most effective pain relievers since Friedrich Serturner of Germany extracted an opioid analgesic from opium in 1803. Extracted from opium papaver (Papaver Somiferus) a species of flowering plant that grows in all temperate regions of the world with its origin being Asia Minor, Opioids are largely used in healthcare facilities to relieve patients suffering from both acute and chronic pain.


When consumed, opioids activate the release of endorphins (the feel-good neurotransmitters) which suppresses the perception of pain and intensify the feelings of pleasure, creating a temporary yet powerful sense of well-being.

However, when the dose wears off, the patient feels depressed and wants another dose which will make them feel that sense of well-being again. (This is actually the first point toward potential addiction).

Opioids have now become a substance of concern as the world is fighting to strike a balance between their use as pain relievers and euphoriants necessitating abuse. Tragically, the CDC estimates that about one million people have died of drug overdose since 1999, of which 82.3% were opioid-involved overdose deaths involving a synthetic opioid.

As expected, reducing the burden of suffering from pain and reducing opioid addiction and overdose deaths pose a major public health challenge.

Below are four steps that can be taken to achieve that balance:

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To read Ms. Igwe’s article, please go to PSQH (Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare) by clicking here.

One thought on “Pain Relief vs. Addiction and Overdose: Four Steps to Maintain an Appropriate Equilibrium

  1. When opioids are indicated, here are some key points to keep in mind:

    “Refuse to dispense prescription opioids directly to patients.”

    This does not make sense if the patient is deemed independent. I believe opioids are more effective for pain relief that various psychotropic medications. Do you mean “blister pack” opioids to insure the patient takes the analgesic correctly vs. refusing to dispense prescription opioids directly to patients.

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