Narcotic Pain Medications

Pain defined is an unpleasant feeling that you get in one part of your body in response to stimuli, certain movements, and in some cases, the absence of movement. This unpleasant or uncomfortable feeling may go away quickly if the stimuli is removed, or you stop the movement that was making you uncomfortable. In other cases, an event occurs that causes bodily injury to your body, such as when the skin is broke, your muscles are pulled, or your ligaments and tendons become strained. Often, the pain that occurs due to these types of injuries is relatively fleeting and the pain goes away once these injuries have healed. In other cases, the injury to a certain part of the body never completely heals, and pain signals continue to emanate from that injured part of the body, disrupting the quality of a person's life. In some cases, the pain may restrict your ability to stand straight, hold coherent thoughts, stand for extended periods of time, and get a full night's sleep. For some people, NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications) and steroidal medications provide patient's with enough relief to get them back to the resumption of a normal life. For other people, these medications do provide significant joint pain or back pain relief but suffer from complications or side effects. In still other cases, these medications just don't work.

Let's take a closer look at narcotic pain medications, how they work, and the type of patients who should and shouldn't use them.

Narcotic Pain Medications: Narcotic medications are not meant to be a long-term treatment for pain syndromes. They are designed to provide pain relief for moderate to severe acute pain, and for those recovering from the effects of surgery. Narcotic (opiate-based) medications may be prescribed in the days following surgery or in the early phase of a physical therapy program. Narcotic pain medications are powerful, and they do work for most people. They are powerful pain relievers that also provide a feeling of euphoria, which feels very good. Narcotic medications are opioid-based. These opioid based medications bind to opioid receptors in the brain and throughout the body, to block the transmission of pain to the body. These synthetic opioids also bind to the pleasure centers in the brain, accounting for the feeling of euphoria that you would get if you used them. Common narcotic pain medications prescribed of severe and chronic pain include:
  • Oxycodone (e.g. Oxycontin, Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin)
  • Codeine (e.g. Tylenol with Codeine)
Contraindications: There are several reasons why doctors are hesitant to prescribe this treatment to their patients, even to those that are in severe pain. First is the possibility of tolerance and addiction. These medications have an effect on the physiology of the body that may continue long after drug has been removed from your system by the kidneys and liver. When you first begin taking these medications, they offer powerful analgesic effects, for a long time, on a small dose. Over time, though, you will have to take more of them just to get the same effect out of them that you had before. This may lead to dependence and possible addiction of this drug.