Patients undergoing pharmacologic (otherwise known as medical) pain management may be prescribed narcotics (opioids) and analgesics if they have acute (short-term) pain, post-operative pain, and/or certain types of chronic (long-term) pain. A variety of narcotics and analgesics are available, however, only a select few may be suitable as treatment for a given pain condition. During preliminary consultations at the Regional Pain Institute, our pain management physicians will help determine if pharmacologic pain management is the right treatment approach, if narcotics/analgesics are the correct form of medication, and if so, what prescription and method of application is the most appropriate for you.
There are two types of analgesics: non-narcotics and narcotics. One of the more common non-narcotic analgesics is acetaminophen, which is an over-the-counter pain reliever that is effective for mild to moderate acute pain relief. Narcotic analgesics generally consist of opiates and opioids, which are prescribed as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, demerol, and more for severe or chronic pain. These and other pain medications may be administered in one of the following ways:
- Hypodermic – needle injection
- Oral – capsule, syrup, or tablet
- Intravenous – catheter insertion into a vein
- Transdermal – patch
- Topical – cream
- Rectal – suppository
Narcotics and analgesics interfere and stop the transmission of pain messages to the brain. The goal of this form of pain management is not to eliminate pain, but to reduce and alter the perception of pain. Similar to other treatments, there are risks and side effects associated with the use of narcotic and analgesic medications. These drugs are strong, and for some patients, become habit-forming. Long-term use could result in mental and physical dependence, and/or a high tolerance in which more and more doses are needed to obtain the same initial pain relief.
The physicians at the Regional Pain Institute will perform a thorough medical history and examination before considering this form of pharmacologic care for your pain. They will likely inquire about your family’s medical history as well to discern predisposed or genetic conditions. If this treatment approach is recommended, our pain management physicians will educate you on the possible side effects from a single drug, the dangers of combining different medications, and regulatory prescription guidelines. In order for this type of treatment to be safe and effective, they will closely and continuously monitor your pain intensity, level of functioning, and adherence to prescribed treatment after medications are prescribed. Following your doctor’s orders regarding dosing or the directions on the label is critically important to your ultimate goal of obtaining pain relief and a achieving a better quality of life.