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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. Some types of these medications can be given during surgery to reduce post-surgical pain and lessen the need for narcotics.

Examples include: Non-prescription options: 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). Surgical options: Exparel (chemical name: bupivacaine liposome injectable suspension) and IV Tylenol (chemical name: acetaminophen).

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: Most non-opioids are taken by mouth. Some are given by injection or IV before, during, or after a surgical procedure.

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. Ask your doctor about any prescription pain medications that may be used before, during, and after surgery to better understand how they work to control pain and reduce narcotic requirements, as well as any potential side effects.

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