Narcotics, also called opioid pain relievers, are reserved for pain that is severe and not helped by other types of painkillers. Narcotics work by binding to receptors in the brain, blocking your feeling of pain and, therefore, your limitations from pain. These drugs do have the potential for abuse and addiction. Addition, however, is less of a problem than once thought when these medicines are used as prescribed for relief of pain. While these medicines should be used carefully and only under the direct supervision of a doctor, they can be effective at reducing pain.

Examples of opioids include:

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

Possible side effects

In addition to the risk of addiction, opioids can cause:

  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Itching

When taking narcotics, do not drink alcohol, drive, or operate heavy machinery.

Review Date: 6/29/2011

Reviewed By: Andrew W. Piasecki, MD, Camden Bone and Joint, LLC, Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports Medicine, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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