Navigate Up

Women's Center - A-Z Index

#
Y

Print This Page

Pain medications - narcotics

Alternative Names

Painkillers; Drugs for pain; Analgesics

Information

Narcotics (also called opioid pain relievers) are used only for pain that is severe and is not helped by other types of painkillers. When used carefully and under a doctor's direct care, these drugs can be effective at reducing pain.

Narcotics work by binding to receptors in the brain and blocking the feeling of pain. They work well for short-term pain relief. Almost always, you should limit their use to no more than 3 to 4 months.

NAMES OF NARCOTICS

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic) -- available as a patch
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Morphine (MS Contin)
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan)
  • Tramadol (Ultram)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone

TAKING NARCOTICS

Always take narcotics as prescribed, unless you have side effects. Your doctor may suggest that you only take pain pills when you feel pain.

At other times, the health care provider may suggest taking a narcotic on a regular schedule. Allowing the pain medication to wear off before taking more of it can make the pain difficult to control. Taking narcotics to control the pain of cancer or other medical problems does not itself lead to addiction.

Store narcotics safely and securely if other people live in your home.

You may need a pain specialist to help you manage long-term pain.

SIDE EFFECTS OF NARCOTICS

Drowsiness and impaired judgment often occur with these medications. When taking narcotics, do not drink alcohol, drive, or operate heavy machinery.

You can relieve itching by reducing the dose or talking to your health care provider about switching medications.

To help with constipation, talk to your health care provider about drinking more fluids, getting more exercise, eating foods with extra fiber, and using stool softeners.

If nausea or vomiting occur, try taking narcotics with food.

References

Max MB. Pain. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 28.

Zhou YL. Principles of pain management. In: Bradley WG, Daroff Rb, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Bradley: Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 48.

Updated: 5/22/2011

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com