Basic Terms for Pain-Relieving Medications

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  • 0:01 Analgesics
  • 0:43 NSAIDs
  • 1:45 Narcotic Analgesics
  • 2:21 Other Pain Relievers
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Pain is a horrific thing and proper pain relief is important for any treatment plan where pain is evident. This lesson goes over the basic, but important terminology behind the general types of pain relievers.


You can hurt yourself in one of many ways. You might get cut, bumped, or have something broken or torn. Ouch! There are two major ways by which pain can be counteracted, and then there are some alternative or roundabout options as well. And that's exactly what we're going to learn.

The basic term for pain-relieving medications is analgesics, and it usually refers to drugs that don't also produce a simultaneous loss of consciousness, meaning these are drugs that relieve pain without knocking you unconscious. The word analgesia comes from 'an-,' meaning without, and '-algesia,' which means sensitivity to pain.


If you've ever seen the lesson on inflammation, you would've seen that one of the five key parts of inflammation is dolor, or pain. Inflammation is a component of your body's reaction to some sort of injury, be it from a cut or from an infectious agent. This inflammation is good. It is like a protective police force out to ensure you don't get sick from an injury. However, it is also bad because it causes pain and can actually lead to things like scarring, if not controlled.

So, to stop the pain associated with inflammation we turn to a group of drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. I'm positive you've taken one or known someone who has. Many NSAIDs are totally OTC - that is to say, over the counter. There's:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen, the generic for Advil or Motrin
  • Naproxen, the generic for Aleve

In short, these guys stop or mitigate inflammation and, thus, relieve pain.

Narcotic Analgesics

But sometimes pain comes about from sources other than inflammation, like chronic nerve pain. Or, the pain is so severe that no safe amount of an NSAID can be given to stop the pain. In such cases, we turn to narcotic analgesics, drugs derived from opium or opium-like compounds, or drugs that produces similar effects to them. These drugs are so powerful, they can cause addictions in people who take them, and are rightfully prescription-only medications. Examples of such drugs include morphine, fentanyl, and hydromorphone.

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