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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Arthritis and Narcotic Pain Medication

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There are a variety of strong pain relievers, including narcotic drugs, that your doctor may prescribe to help relieve arthritis pain.

Often, these pain relievers are combined with acetaminophen (Tylenol). They include:

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Narcotics for Arthritis Pain

If you're taking a narcotic for arthritis pain, keep in mind that alcohol and drugs containing acetaminophen or Tylenol don't mix. The combination can greatly increase your risk of severe liver damage.

When you take narcotic drugs, you also run the risk of developing a tolerance to the drugs. That means you need more and more of the drugs in order to get the same effect. You also run the risk of becoming dependent or even addicted. In addition, narcotic drugs can cause side effects such as constipation, drowsiness, dry mouth, and difficulty urinating. The drugs methylnaltrexone (Relistor) and naloxegol (Movantik) are approved to treat constipation due to opioid use in those with chronic pain.

How Do Narcotics Relieve Arthritis Pain?

Unlike ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, or other NSAID drugs, narcotics do not decrease the inflammation that occurs with arthritis. Narcotic drugs work on pain receptors on nerve cells to relieve pain.

If you have pain that isn't relieved by a narcotic drug or NSAID alone, speak to your doctor about combining the two. In some cases, an NSAID/narcotic combination may relieve pain better than either alone.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on January 14, 2015
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