An analgesic or painkiller is any member of the group of drugs used to achieve analgesia, relief from pain.
Analgesic drugs act in various ways on the peripheral and central nervous systems. They are distinct from anesthetics, which temporarily affect, and in some instances completely eliminate, sensation. Analgesics include paracetamol (known in North America as acetaminophen or simply APAP), the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as the salicylates, and opioid drugs such as morphine and oxycodone.
When choosing analgesics, the severity and response to other medication determine the choice of agent; the World Health Organization (WHO) pain ladder specifies mild analgesics as its first step.
Analgesic choice is also determined by the type of pain: For neuropathic pain, traditional analgesics are less effective, and there is often benefit from classes of drugs that are not normally considered analgesics, such as tricyclic antidepressants and anticonvulsants.