Pain

Pain is the unpleasant psychological experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Pain may be acute, periodic, or continuous; sharp, dull/aching, or burning; annoying, uncomfortable, or unbearable.

Psychopharmacology

Pain occurs in response to readily identifiable accidents, injury, or medical treatments (e.g., surgery); to ambiguous or mixed causes (e.g., weather conditions, disturbed sleep, work environment); and to unknown immediate causes (e.g., undiagnosed pathology, forgotten injury). Pain is treated by a variety of pharmacologic agents including: opiates (e.g., morphine, meperidine, fentanyl, codeine), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., salicylic acid derivatives such as aspirin; para-aminophenol derivatives such as acetaminophen; indole and indene acetic acids such as indomethacin) and drugs that are selectively used to treat specific pain-related disorders (e.g., the 5-HT1D agonist, sumatriptan, to treat migraine headaches). With regard to pain of known cause, pharma-cologic treatments are relatively effective for the vast majority of people. With regard to pain of ambiguous or unknown origin and with regard to continuous pain, pharmacologic treatments have mixed results. For example, opiate medications alter how chronic pain patients perceive and cope with pain but do not completely alleviate the pain.

Unfortunately, currently available analgesics have many undesirable side effects including sedation, respiratory depression, gastrointestinal upset or constipation, pruritus, and addiction. Ongoing investigations are attempting to develop analgesic medications with greater efficacy and few side effects.

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