Non-Narcotic Analgesics (Non-Opioids)

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What they are: Non-narcotic analgesics are medications used to control pain and inflammation. They are available at drugstores without a prescription or by prescription when given at higher doses.

Examples include: Tylenol (chemical name: acetaminophen); non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, Motrin or Advil (chemical name: ibuprofen), and Aleve or Naprosyn (chemical name: naproxen sodium)

What they're used for: Non-opioids are used to treat acute or persistent pain that is mild to moderate. They also may be used in combination with other medications or therapies to treat moderate to severe pain.

How they're taken: Non-opioids are taken by mouth.

Possible side effects include:

Because NSAIDs can interfere with the blood's ability to clot, they are not recommended if you are about to have surgery or if you are on chemotherapy. They also are not recommended if you:

  • are taking steroids, blood pressure medications, blood-thinning medications, prescription medications for arthritis, oral medications for diabetes or gout, or lithium
  • have stomach ulcers or a history of ulcers, gout, or bleeding disorders
  • have kidney problems

Additional information: Acetaminophen and NSAID products sometimes contain additives such as caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and can lessen pain; antihistamines to help with sleep and relaxation; and/or "buffering" ingredients intended to decrease stomach upset. Also, other over-the-counter medications you may already be taking for pain can contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Read labels carefully to make sure you are not taking too high a dose or getting any additives you do not want.

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