Information about this medicine

What are the most important things you need to know about your medicines?

Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.

The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Why are opiates used?

Opiates are used to relieve moderate to severe pain. They may be used for a short time, such as after surgery, or for long-term pain.

Opiates don't cure a health problem. But they help you manage the pain.

What are some examples of opiates?

Here are some examples of opiates and other medicines that have opiates in them. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.

  • codeine (Tylenol 3)
  • hydrocodone (Norco)
  • oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)

This is not a complete list of opiates.

What about side effects?

Some people feel sleepy, feel dizzy or lightheaded, have nausea or vomiting, or become constipated while using an opiate.

General information about side effects

All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.

But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.

If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Cautions about opiates

Cautions for opiates include the following:

  • Some opiates have acetaminophen (Tylenol) in them, and taking too much acetaminophen can be harmful. So check the labels on all the other medicines you take, because many other medicines also contain acetaminophen. This includes over-the-counter medicines. Do not take other medicines with acetaminophen in them unless your doctor has told you to. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about this.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery until you can think clearly. Opiates may affect your judgment and decision making. Talk with your doctor about when it is safe to drive.
  • Opiates are strong medicines. 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 use. If you are worried about addiction, talk with your doctor.
  • Your body gets used to opiates if you take them for a long time. This is called physical dependence. Physical dependence is not addiction. You could have withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them. Symptoms include nausea, sweating, chills, diarrhea, and shaking. But you can avoid these symptoms if you slowly stop taking the medicine as your doctor tells you to.

Cautions for all medicines

  • Allergic reactions: All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
  • Drug interactions: Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
  • Harm to unborn babies and newborns: If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you take could harm your baby.
  • Other health problems: Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. Other health problems may affect your medicine. Or the medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.

Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

Current as ofFebruary 19, 2016