Information about this medicine

What are the most important things you need to know about your medicines?

Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.

The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Why are opioids used?

Opioids are used to relieve moderate to severe pain. They may be used for a short time, such as after surgery. Or in some cases a doctor might prescribe them for long-term pain.

There are two types of opioids. Short-acting opioids are often used for acute pain or for breakthrough pain. Long-acting opioids are often used for around-the-clock pain.

Opioids don't cure a health problem. But they help you manage the pain.

What are some examples of opioids?

Here are some examples of opioids and other medicines that have opioids in them. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.

  • codeine (Tylenol 3)
  • hydrocodone (Norco)
  • oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)

This is not a complete list of opioids.

What about side effects?

Some people feel sleepy, feel dizzy or lightheaded, have nausea or vomiting, or become constipated while using an opioid.

General information about side effects

All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.

But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.

If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Cautions about opioids

  • Opioids are strong medicines. They can help you manage pain when you use them the right way. But if you misuse them, they can cause serious harm and even death.
  • If you decide to take opioids, here are some things to remember.
    • Keep your doctor informed. You can get addicted to opioids. The risk is higher if you have a history of substance use. Your doctor will monitor you closely for signs of misuse and addiction and to figure out when you no longer need to take opioids.
    • Make a treatment plan. The goal of your plan is to be able to function and do the things you need to do, even if you still have some pain. You might be able to manage your pain with other non-opioid options like physical therapy, relaxation, or over-the-counter pain medicines.
    • Be aware of the side effects. Opioids can cause serious side effects, such as constipation, dry mouth, and nausea. And over time, you may need a higher dose to get pain relief. This is called tolerance. Your body also gets used to opioids. This is called physical dependence. If you suddenly stop taking them, you may have withdrawal symptoms.
  • If you need to take opioids to manage your pain, remember these safety tips.
    • Follow directions carefully. It's easy to misuse opioids if you take a dose other than what's prescribed by your doctor. This can lead to overdose and even death. Even sharing them with someone they weren't meant for is misuse.
    • Be cautious. Opioids may affect your judgment and decision making. Do not drive or operate machinery until you can think clearly. Talk with your doctor about when it is safe to drive.
    • Reduce the risk of drug interactions. Opioids can be dangerous if you take them with alcohol or with certain drugs like sleeping pills and muscle relaxers. Make sure your doctor knows about all the other medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines. Don't start any new medicines before you talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
    • Keep others safe. Store opioids in a safe and secure place. Make sure that pets, children, friends, and family can't get to them. When you're done using opioids, make sure to properly dispose of them. You can either use a community drug take-back program or your drugstore's mail-back program. If one of these programs isn't available, you can flush opioid skin patches and unused opioid pills down the toilet.
    • Reduce the risk of overdose. Misuse of opioids can be very dangerous. Protect yourself by asking your doctor about a naloxone rescue kit. It can help you—and even save your life—if you take too much of an opioid.

Cautions for all medicines

  • Allergic reactions: All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
  • Drug interactions: Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
  • Harm to unborn babies and newborns: If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you take could harm your baby.
  • Other health problems: Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. Other health problems may affect your medicine. Or the medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.

Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

Current as ofJune 1, 2017