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Pharmacologic Pain Management

Narcotics (Opioids) / Analgesics

In pharmacologic pain management, narcotics (opioids) analgesics may be prescribed to treat acute pain (severe, short-lived pain), post-operative pain, and certain types of chronic pain. Pain management physicians will help you determine if pharmacologic (medical) pain management is the right course of action for pain relief; therefore, regain your quality of life. A variety of narcotics and analgesics are available for pain treatment. Long acting opioids are used for treating base-line chronic pain while short acting opioids are used for treating breakthrough pain epidsodes. Breakthrough pain is an acute exacerbation of intense pain which may occur without warning. It may occur many times per day and each episode usually lasts up to 2 hours. Based on the type and severity of your pain, your physician will determine if a long acting, short acting, or both opioid medications are appropriate for you. Listed below are various types of narcotic/analgesic medications:

  • Morphine, long acting and short acting

  • Oxycodone, long acting and short acting

  • Hydromorphone, short acting

  • Oxymorphone, long acting and short acting

  • Fentanyl, long acting and short acting

  • Hydrocodone, short acting

  • Methadone, long acting

Narcotics analgesics work to relieve pain by binding to opioid receptors in the spinal cord and the brain which will mitigate the sensation of pain. Classified by the DEA as Class II or Class III, these medications must be used judiciously due to the potential risks and side effects . These drugs may become habit-forming (causing mental or physical dependence), and chronic use may result in a tolerance to the drug in which higher doses are needed to obtain the same initial pain relief. Patients should be aware of the possible drug withdrawal symptoms and the dangers of combining different medications.

More recently, proper guidelines of narcotic/analgesic prescription have emerged out of a national addiction epidemic. Both patients and physicians must comply with regulatory prescription guidelines in order for this type of pain management treatment to be safe and effective. If you are prescribed narcotics analgesics for pain, it is important that you follow your doctor’s orders regarding dosing or the directions on the label.