Pain killers are powerful drugs that interfere with the nervous system’s transmission of the nerve signals we perceive as pain. Most painkillers also stimulate portions of the brain associated with pleasure. Thus, in addition to blocking pain, they produce a “high.” The most powerful prescription painkillers are called opioids, which are opium-like compounds. They are manufactured to react on the nervous system in the same way as drugs derived from the opium poppy, like heroin.
The most commonly abused opioid painkillers include oxycodone, hydrocodone, meperidine, hydromorphone and propoxyphene. There are many different pain medicines, and each one has advantages and risks. Some types of pain respond better to certain medicines than others. Each person may also have a slightly different response to a pain reliever.