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Opiate Pain Relievers for Cancer Pain


Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
hydrocodoneLortab, Norco, Vicodin, Dolophine, Methadose, Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Ultram

Hydrocodone is available as tablets, capsules, or syrups. It is sometimes combined with other medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Generic NameBrand Name
methadoneDolophine, Methadose, Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Ultram

Methadone is available as pills or as a liquid that you swallow. It is also given as a shot.

Generic NameBrand Name
morphineAvinza, Kadian, MS Contin, OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Ultram

Morphine is available as pills or as rectal suppositories. It is also given as a shot or intravenously. Pills such as MS Contin supply a controlled release of morphine.

Generic NameBrand Name
oxycodoneOxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Ultram

Oxycodone is available as pills, controlled-release tablets, or a liquid that you swallow. It is sometimes combined with acetaminophen or aspirin.

Generic NameBrand Name
tramadolUltram

Tramadol is available as pills or capsules. It is also available as a pill that dissolves in your mouth.

Opiate pain relievers are also called opiates, opioids, or narcotics.

How It Works

Opiate pain relievers act upon specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord to ease pain and reduce your emotional response to pain.

Why It Is Used

Opiate pain relievers are used to ease pain caused by surgery, accident or injury, or chronic illness such as cancer.

Methadone also is used to treat addiction to opiates, such as heroin.

Hydrocodone also is used to control coughing.

How Well It Works

These medicines work well to manage pain.

Hydrocodone effectively controls cough.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Callor other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Signs of an overdose, including:
    • Cold, clammy skin.
    • Confusion.
    • Severe nervousness or restlessness.
    • Severe dizziness, drowsiness, or weakness.
    • Slow breathing.
    • Seizures.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • A fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Redness or flushing of the face.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Constipation.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Opiate pain relievers are strong medicines that can be very helpful in treating pain, especially after an injury or surgery. They are safest when you use them exactly as your doctor prescribes. But there is a risk of addiction when you take them for more than a few days. The risk is lower if you follow your doctor's instructions on how to take them. Your risk is slightly higher if you or someone in your family has a history of substance abuse. If you are worried about addiction, talk with your doctor.

Some of these medicines have acetaminophen in them. Check the labels on all the other nonprescription and prescription medicines you take. Many medicines have acetaminophen. Do not take two or more medicines with acetaminophen in them unless your doctor has told you to. Taking too much acetaminophen can be harmful. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Dry mouth is common with these medicines. To help with dry mouth, you can chew sugarless gum, suck on sugarless candy, or melt ice in your mouth. If you continue to have problems with dry mouth after a couple of weeks, call your doctor. Dry mouth can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMichael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
Last RevisedFebruary 5, 2013

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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