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Narcotic Pain Management


A narcotic

is a type of medicine used to treat pain. Examples of narcotics are codeine, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

Side effects of narcotic medicines:

The most common side effect is constipation. Drink more liquids and eat high-fiber foods to help prevent constipation. Ask your healthcare provider what liquids are right for you and how much you should drink. Also ask for a list of foods that contain fiber. Other side effects include nausea, sleepiness, and itchiness. You may need to take your narcotic medicine with food to decrease nausea. Ask your healthcare provider other ways to manage side effects.

Call 911 or have someone call 911 for any of the following:

  • You are breathing slower than normal, or you have trouble breathing.
  • You cannot be awakened.
  • You have a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your heart is beating slower than usual.
  • Your heart feels like it is jumping or fluttering.
  • You have trouble staying awake.
  • You have severe muscle pain or weakness.
  • You see or hear things that are not real.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You are too dizzy to stand up.
  • Your pain gets worse or you have new pain.
  • Your pain does not get better after you use your narcotic medicine.
  • You cannot do your usual activities because of side effects from the narcotic.
  • You are constipated or have abdominal pain.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Take narcotic medicine as directed:

  • Health problems such as trouble breathing, liver or kidney damage, or stomach bleeding may occur. Any of these problems can become life-threatening.
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be included in some narcotic medicines. Too much of these medicines can cause liver or kidney damage, or stomach bleeding. These problems can become life-threatening.
  • Dependence means your body needs the medicine to keep it from going through withdrawal.
  • Tolerance means the medicine does not control pain as well as it used to. You need higher doses of the medicine to get pain relief.
  • Addiction means you are not able to control the use of the medicine. You use it when you do not have pain and you have cravings for the medicine.

Narcotic safety:

  • Take your medicine as directed. Ask if you need more information on how to take your medicine correctly. Follow up with your healthcare provider regularly. You may need to have your dose adjusted. Do not use narcotic medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Narcotic medicines can be transferred to your baby through your blood and breast milk.
  • Give your healthcare provider a list of all your medicines. Include any over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbs. It can be dangerous to take narcotics with certain other medicines, such as antihistamines.
  • Keep your medicine in a safe place. Store your narcotic medicine in a locked cabinet to keep it away from children and others.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you use narcotics. Alcohol use with a narcotic medicine can make you sleepy and slow your breathing rate. You may stop breathing completely.
  • Do not drive or operate heavy machinery after you take narcotic medicine. Narcotic medicine can make you drowsy and make it hard to concentrate. You may injure yourself or others if you drive or operate heavy machinery while taking your medicine.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may be referred to a pain specialist for more tests and treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.