Pain Management - Side Effects of Pain Medicines

All medicines have side effects. But many side effects can be managed so that you can still take the medicine. Talk to your doctor if you have any side effects. Your doctor may change your dose or the type of medicine you take.

Examples of side effects of over-the-counter medicines

Examples of side effects of prescription medicines

  • Corticosteroids

    These may cause:

    • Nausea and vomiting.
    • Swelling of hands and feet.
    • Increased appetite.
    • Increased risk of infection.
    • Osteoporosis (with long-term use).
    • Cataracts (with long-term use).

    Because of the chance of side effects, doctors usually try to prescribe steroid medicines only for a short time.

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.

If you are taking a long-acting opiate pain reliever, make sure you know how to use it safely.

  • Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants

    These may cause:


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk with your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.

For more information, see the topic Dealing With Medicine Side Effects and Interactions.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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