An analgesic (alges/o = sensitivity to pain) is a drug that lessens pain. Mild analgesics

relieve mild to moderate pain, such as myalgias, headaches, and toothaches. More potent

analgesics are narcotics or opioids, which are derived from opium. These drugs may induce

stupor (a condition of near-unconsciousness and reduced mental and physical activity).

They are used only to relieve severe pain because they may produce dependence.

Some non-narcotic analgesics reduce fever, pain, and inflammation and are used for

joint disorders (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis), painful menstruation, and acute

pain due to minor injuries or infection. These agents are not steroid hormones (such as

cortisone) and are known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs act

on tissues to inhibit prostaglandins (hormone-like substances that sensitize peripheral

pain receptors). A newer class of stronger NSAIDs is the COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2)

inhibitors. These agents block prostaglandin production. They relieve pain and inflammation

as do traditional NSAIDs but produce fewer gastrointestinal side effects than with NSAIDs.

However, they may increase the risk of clot formation and heart attacks (myocardial

infarctions). Examples of COX-2 inhibitors are Celebrex and Bextra.