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Safe Use Of Narcotics


A narcotic is a type of medicine used to treat pain. Examples of narcotics are codeine, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Pain control and management may help you rest, heal, and return to your daily activities. You and your family will receive information about how to manage your pain at home. The instructions will include what to do if you have side effects as your pain is managed. It will also include information about how to handle narcotic medicine safely. It is important to follow all instructions so your pain is managed effectively.


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 woken.
  • You have a seizure.

Return to the emergency department 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 or pain specialist 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 cannot stop vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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 medicine can transfer to your baby through your blood and breast milk.
  • Do not suddenly stop taking narcotic pain medicine. If you have been taking narcotic pain medicine for longer than 2 weeks, a sudden stop may cause dangerous side effects. Ask your healthcare provider for more information before you stop taking your medicine.
  • 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 narcotic 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 with an 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.
  • Prevent constipation. Drink more liquids and eat more 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.
  • Follow instructions for what to do with medicine you do not use. Your healthcare provider will give you instructions for how to dispose of narcotic pain medicine safely. This helps make sure no one else takes the 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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.