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Opioid Pain Management


An opioid, or narcotic, is a type of medicine used to treat pain. Examples of opioids are morphine, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone.


Take your medicine as directed:

  • Too much narcotic medicine may be life-threatening. You may become dependent on the opioid. Your body may get used to the opioid and not control pain as well as it used to. You may become addicted to the opioid and use it when you do not need it. Some narcotic medicines also contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Too much of these medicines can cause liver or kidney damage, or stomach bleeding.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to have your dose adjusted. You may be referred to a pain specialist. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Try other ways to manage your pain:

Any of the following can be helpful if it is not time to take your pain medicine:

  • Do deep breathing, listen to music, or read. These relaxation techniques can help take your mind off your pain.
  • Apply heat or ice as directed.
  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help decrease your pain.

Opioid safety measures:

  • Keep opioid medicine in a safe place. Store your opioid medicine in a locked cabinet to keep it away from children and others.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you use opioids. Alcohol combined with an opioid can make you sleepy and slow your breathing rate. You may stop breathing completely.
  • Do not use opioid medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain gets worse or you have new pain.
  • You cannot do your usual activities because of side effects from the opioid.
  • You are constipated or have abdominal pain.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You are breathing slower than usual, or you have trouble breathing.
  • Your heart is beating slower than usual.
  • Your heart feels like it is jumping or fluttering.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You are so sleepy that you cannot stay awake.
  • You are too dizzy to stand up.
  • You have severe muscle pain or weakness.
  • You see or hear things that are not real.

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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.