A narcotic is a medicine used to alleviate pain. This may be prescribed by your provider if you have had a recent surgery or experienced an injury. These medicines are legal when prescribed by your provider, but are not to be taken without a prescription. Other common names for narcotics include prescription pain pills or opioids.
Some commonly prescribed narcotics include:
When you take a narcotic medicine, you may feel dizzy, drowsy, experience nausea or vomiting, have trouble concentrating or feel grouchy. These side effects typically go away over time, but can return if you temporarily stop or decrease the amount of medicine you are taking. You are may also experience these symptoms again if your provider increases your dose. One side effect that commonly occurs and will not go away over time is constipation. Health care professionals refer to this as “opioid induced constipation”. The only way to resolve opioid induced constipation is to stop taking the narcotic. Your provider may recommend you take another over the counter medicine to help produce bowel movements while on the medication.
Talk to your provider if you experience any of the above side effects while taking your narcotic.
Taking a narcotic can make you more likely to experience more severe side effects. These are called risks. Risks associated with taking narcotic medicines include:
44 people a day die from prescription opioid overdose. The majority of deaths occur in people ages 25-54 who are non-hispanic whites.
How long you take your narcotic medicine will depend on the reason you are taking it. Your provider may decide to stop or slowly taper off your narcotic medicine if it is no longer helping you or you are at increased risk of side effects. If you begin taking a narcotic and do not experience pain relief within 1 month, it is very unlikely that you will experience pain relief with long term use. For most patients, 3 days of treatment or less is typically long enough to experience pain relief (unless pain is caused by major surgery).
Your provider will work with you to stop or slowly taper off your narcotic medicine. Do not abruptly stop taking your medicine unless your provider tells you to do so.
Depending on how much of the medicine you take and how long you have been taking it, you could experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the medicine. Withdrawal occurs when your body becomes dependent on the narcotic and is then stopped abruptly. This can be very uncomfortable and may influence you to take the medicine again.
Having a family history of addiction increases your risk of becoming addicted as well. It is important that you tell your health care provider if you or a family member has a history of drug or alcohol addiction.
Risk factors for addiction include (NIH):
Risk factors for overdose (or addiction) include (CDC):
NO. Sharing of your narcotic medicine is illegal and when taken by someone other than yourself could be life threatening. People who take a narcotic medicine that was not prescribed for them are more likely to become addicted and abuse heroin, an illicit street drug. It is very important that you do not share your medicine with anyone.
MedReturn is a service available for safe disposal of unwanted medicine. These units are available throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Be sure to remove of any personal information prior to disposing of the medicine. This includes your name, address, or phone number.
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