Non narcotic pain medication

What other kinds of pain meds are there that are NOT a narcotic? Dr. Burson lists alternatives to narcotic pain medication here.

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Non narcotic pain medicines

There are surprisingly few types of pain medications. These include:

Acetaminophen – Better known by its brand name Tylenol, acetaminophen relieves pain but is not an anti-inflammatory, so it’s less likely to cause stomach upset, and it’s not at all addicting. However, it can cause liver damage, particularly in people with underlying liver problems and in people who drink alcohol.

Anti-inflammatory medications – Besides the opioid class of drugs, there are anti-inflammatory medications. Some of these are over the counter, like naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Others are available by prescription. Traditional prescription anti-inflammatories include diclofenac (Voltaren), etodolac (Lodine), indomethacin (Indocin), meloxicam (Mobic), piroxicam (Feldene). The newest class of anti-inflammatories is the COX-2 inhibitors, named for the enzyme that they inhibit. The only drug in this class left on the market is celecoxib (Celebrex).

Medications by pain type – Then there are adjuvant medications: these are medications which aren’t strictly speaking pain medicines, but can be used for specific types of pain. For example, anti-seizure medications can help pain that is caused by damage to nerve cells. Certain anti-depressants have been shown to help pain relief, even in the absence of depression. Corticosteroids, commonly called “steroids” are often used for conditions which cause pain from inflammation, because this type of medication reduces inflammation. Muscle relaxants sometimes help with pain from muscle disorders.

Topical medications – Topical medications can help with some sorts of pain. One common topic agent is capsaicin, made from chili peppers, and it’s found in many over-the-counter medications. Lidocaine patches, available only by prescription, are helpful for some specific types of pain.

Tramadol – Tramadol (Ultram, Ultracet) is a unique prescription pain medication that probably works because of its action on the mu opioid receptor, and can cause opioid-like side effects. Some people report feeling high from it, and it has the potential to cause addiction, though probably not as likely as traditional opioids are.

About the author
Jana Burson M.D. is board-certified in Internal medicine, and certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. After practicing primary care for many years, she became interested in the treatment of addiction. For the last six years, her practice has focused exclusively on Addiction Medicine. She has written a book about prescription pain pill addiction: "Pain Pill Addiction: Prescription for Hope." Also see Dr. Burson's blog here.


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  1. I am now no longer taking Percocet due to fear of addiction, and for generalized pain due to Fibromyalsia and looking for something non-narcotic, besides Lyrika, Cymbalta, or Savella. Tried all for years and finally found Perc. BUT addictive personality scared me. Tramadol? Or Torodol? I have lost my life to Fibro pain and at 64 it has gotten worse. Any suggestions?

  2. It’s the people that just wants to get high off the s*** that fucks the people over that really needs it. it’s hard for someone who has cancer or back problems or muscle disease to get them because of the Da is cracking down because of the f****** pill heads that don’t need them so they’re trying to take everyone off of them because the ones that abuse the drug is making a bad name for the ones that actually need it. We can’t help it that dumb m************ they get high off the s*** and abused it the doctors need to quit giving them out to just anybody give them to the only one that needs it and has proof that they got medical problems

  3. I have been taking opiod medications to alleviate my lower back pain due to 2 herniated discs. Last year I accidentally overdosed on Methadone. Now no doctor will prescribe any pain medicines. I’ve tried Baclofen, Neurontin, tylenol, Codeine,Lidocaine patches, Physical therapy, Massage therapy, and acupuncture. How can I get a doctor to prescribe narcotic pain medicines now. What can I do to alleviate the pain?

  4. Dear Alex,
    Tramadol is Not A Narcotic. Please know what you’re talking about first before posting. This Can cause alot of anxiety for some people. Best regards.

  5. i have degenerative disc deasese and am trying to get away from tramadol and was looking for something stronger but no narcotics any suggestions

  6. Hello Jake. Yes, Lyrica can produce euphoria. In fact, controlled clinical studies of over 5500 patients have reported that 4 % of LYRICA-treated patients reported euphoria as an adverse reaction. Lyrica is made of pregabalin, an anticonvulsant drug used for neuropathic pain.

    For more about this issues, you can use these search terms to learn more: lyrica euphoria

  7. Be carefull if you select a pian specialist, i was referd to one by my pcp, the guy walked in looked at me and said whats the problem, so i showed him my leg and the other areas where the scleroderma(generilzed morphiea) was and how long i have had it. he said quote; i seen this before and when you are lying in the hospital with the soars all over you and dying i will give you pain meds to put you out of the misery,if i poke the spot that hurts and you dont scream and want to run out of here then you are in no pain;unquote.he didnt even give me a exam. i did report him to medicare and thiking of reporting him to the medical board.

    Do a search and look for a pain specialist that has been rated and has 4 to 5 stars,then ask your primary care pysician to refer you to him/her.

    I looked up the one i went to and he had 1 and a half stars.

  8. I have had a severe back injury and have been off work since Nov ‘ 06 and I first was on Vicodin and that didn’t work anymore so they had put me on the Norco to cover the pain. It works wonders and I take 1-2 around every 4 hrs. BUT it has became very habit forming and I don’t see an easy end to trying to cut back or get off these pills. They work great for pain but be careful! Online I found info which indicates that these drugs are addictive and there it may be problems due to side effects.

  9. A tramadol withdrawal cold turkey will not be fun, I assure you. The drug holds tight to receptors, is a narcotic, is addicting and Pharma “sold” this BS bill of goods to the medical community for profits not “safe waters.” Physicians remain in the dark. Don’t do it.

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