Pain relievers are medications that reduce pain and/or inflammation. Over-the-counter (OTC) formulations treat minor aches and pains and are typically intended for short-term use. Stronger pain medications can be prescribed to help manage severe pain.

The strongest prescription pain relievers are opioids—medicines originally derived from opium that work to block the feeling of pain. Opioids can be highly addictive.

Neither OTC or prescription pain relievers should be taken long term without a doctor’s guidance. Remember that sharing prescription pain pills can be dangerous to others. Individual medical history and current medical conditions help determine whether a drug should be prescribed.

OTC pain medications: Prescription pain medications:
Generic
Brand Name
Generic Brand Name
Acetaminophen
Tylenol®
Hydrocodone with acetaminophen
Lortab®
Lorcet®
Norco®
Vicodin®
Ibuprofen
Motrin®
Advil®
Oxycodone with acetaminophen
Percocet®
Roxicet®
Naproxen Sodium
Aleve®
Tramadol
Ultram®
Salicylate
Bayer®
Excedrin®
BC® Powder
Tapentadol
Nucynta®
    Morphine
Avinza®
Kadian®
MS Contin®
    Hydromorphone
Dilaudid®

 

What can happen when pain relievers are taken inappropriately?

Taking more of a pain medication can have significant adverse reactions and even life-threatening consequences, including:

  • OTC medications
  • stomach ulcers
  • increased bleeding
  • liver injury or liver failure

Prescription pain relievers:

  • confusion
  • disorientation
  • excessive sedation
  • liver injury or liver failure
  • addiction
  • death

Taking too many prescription pain medications at one time or taking them with other sedatives like alcohol or sleep aids can cause a person to stop breathing.

How can misuse of pain relievers be prevented?

If you’re taking pain relievers, these steps can help prevent a medication poisoning:

  • Always follow the dosing directions prescribed by your doctor.
  • Don’t share your medication with others. Some drug interactions can be life threatening.
  • Avoid taking multiple products that all contain acetaminophen.
  • Make sure all medications (prescription and over-the-counter) are out of the reach of all of the children living in or visiting your home.
  • Be very cautious to avoid accidently taking extra doses when you have already taken a dose.

Call Carolinas Poison Center, your doctor, or your pharmacy if you have questions about your pain medication and possible drug interactions with other medications. You don’t have to wait for a problem to arise before calling Carolinas Poison Center. You can call with questions, too.

What should you do if you or someone you know has taken a pain medication incorrectly?

If the person is not breathing or unresponsive, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, you can call Carolinas Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for medication assistance from our specially trained nurses and pharmacists 24 hours a day.

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