Narcotic painkillers have addictive properties and can be dangerous to take. There are pain medications that are non-narcotic, and these are much safer in most cases.
Do Non-Narcotic Pain Meds Exist?
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The most common non-narcotic pain meds including aspirin, acetaminophen, and NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) exist under a variety of brand names. Their abilities to control certain types and levels of pain, however, may be limited. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Some types of pain respond better to one kind of medicine than to another kind.”
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Acetaminophen is an analgesic pain and fever reducer most commonly known as Tylenol and available without a prescription. Acetaminophen provides pain relief for the most frequently experienced mild to moderate pain issues such as headaches and body aches. It can be dangerous if taken in high doses, more than 2000 mg per day, affecting liver and renal functions.
Acetaminophen toxicity has been linked to numerous liver diseases and failures requiring nearly as many liver transplants in the United States as alcohol.
Aspirin is perhaps, one of the oldest non-narcotic pain meds that relieves minor aches and pains, reduces fever, and as is also considered an NSAID for its helpful anti-inflammatory properties although in some people, it can actually cause swelling. There is also an elevated risk of gastrointestinal ulcers, unusual bleeding, and ringing in the ears which can be signs of dangerous blood pressure levels.
Aspirin should be used with caution when taking other medications and is not recommended for chronic pain conditions. It is not recommended to treat high fever in children such as exists with the flu or chicken pox due to increased risk potentials for Reyes Syndrome, a potentially fatal syndrome affecting the brain and liver.
There are many different types of NSAIDs used to treat different types of pain. The most common over the counter (OTC) NSAIDs in addition to aspirin are ibuprofen and naproxen such as in Advil, Motrin, or Aleve. According to the NIH, “When taken for a short time (no longer than 10 days), NSAIDs are safe for most people.”
Before using any OTC NSAID pain reliever, you should check with your physician for current medication interactions such as may occur with blood thinners. Ulcers and gastrointestinal bleedings have been linked to NSAID use and you should always check with your doctor if you have medical issues that may make using NSAIDs more dangerous such as heart, liver, or kidney disease.
There is a wider variety of NSAIDs prescribed to treat neuropathic or chronic pain issues such as neuropathic pain from nerve compressions, post-injuries, amputations, or diabetes.
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Other Non-Narcotic Pain Meds
Other non-narcotic pain meds may include muscle relaxers, beta-blockers, anticonvulsants, anti-depressants, neuroleptics, and anti-arrythmics (beta-blockers) which can decrease the rate of pain stimuli and impulse firing mechanisms in the central and peripheral nervous systems to help modulate the pain response.
For more information on non-opioid treatment for pain, see: Non-Narcotic Pain Relief