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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