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Analgesics, Opioid

Analgesics, Opioid

Definition

Opioid analgesics, also known as narcotic analgesics, are pain relievers that act on the central nervous system. Like all narcotics, they may become habit-forming if used over long periods.

Purpose

Opioid analgesics are used to relieve pain from a variety of conditions. Some are used before or during surgery (including dental surgery) both to relieve pain and to make anesthetics work more effectively. They may also be used for the same purposes during labor and delivery.

Opioid analgesics
Drug Route of
administration
Onset of
action (min)
Time to peak
effect (min)
Duration of
action (h)
Strong agonists
Fentanyl (Sublimaze) IM 7-15 20-30 1-2
IV 1-2 3-5 0.5-1
Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) Oral 30 90-120 4
IM 15
IV 10-15 30-60 2-3
Sub-Q 30 15-30
Levorphanol (Levo-Dromoran) Oral 10-60 90-120 4-5
IM
IV 60 4-5
Sub-Q 10-60 within 20
Meperidine (Demerol) Oral 15 60-90 2-4
IM 10-15
IV 30-50 2-4
Sub-Q 1
Methadone (Dolophine) Oral 30-60 90-120 4-6
IM
IV 10-20 60-120 4-5
Morphine (many trade names) Oral 60-120 4-5
IM 10-30
IV 30-60 4-5
Sub-Q
Epidural 10-30 20 4-5
Oxymorphone (Numorphan) IM 10-15 30-90 3-6
IV
Sub-Q 5-10 15-30 3-4
Rectal
Mild-to-moderate agonists
Codiene (many trade names) Oral 30-40 60-120 4
IM 10-30 30-60 4
Sub-Q 10-30 4
Hydrocodone (Hycodan) Oral 10-30 30-60 4-6
Oxycodone (Percodan) Oral 60 3-4
Propoxyphene (Darvon, Dolene) Oral 15-60 120 4-6
Butophanol (Stadol) IM 10-30 30-60 3-4
IV 2-3 30 2-4
Nalbuphine (Nubian) IM within 15 60 3-6
IV 2-3 30 3-4
Sub-Q within 15 3-6
Pentazocine (Talwin) Oral 15-30 60-90 3
IM 15-20 30-60 2-3
IV 2-3 15-30 2-3
Sub-Q 15-20 30-60 2-3

Opioids are also given to relieve the pain of terminal cancer, diabetic neuropathy, lower back pain, and other chronic diseases or disorders. The World Health Organization (WHO) has established a three-stage "ladder" for the use of opioids in managing cancer pain.

Description

Opioid analgesics relieve pain by acting directly on the central nervous system. However, this can also lead to unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, breathing problems, and physical or mental dependence.

Among the drugs in this category are codeine, propoxyphene (Darvon), propoxyphene and acetaminophen (Darvocet N), meperidine (Demerol), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), morphine, oxycodone, oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet), and hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Lortab, Anexsia). These drugs come in many formstablets, syrups, suppositories, and injections, and are sold only by prescription. For some, a new prescription is required for each new supplyrefills are prohibited according to federal regulations.

Recommended dosage

Recommended doses vary, depending on the type of opioid analgesic and the form in which it is being used. Doses may be different for different patients. Check with the physician who prescribed the drug or the pharmacist who filled the prescription for correct dosages, and make sure to understand how to take the drug.

Always take opioid analgesics exactly as directed. Never take larger or more frequent doses, and do not take the drug for longer than directed. Do not stop taking the drug suddenly without checking with the physician or dentist who prescribed it. Gradually tapering the dose may the chance of withdrawal symptoms.

Precautions

Anyone who uses opioid analgesicsor any narcoticover a long time may become physically or mentally dependent on the drug. Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal symptoms when the person stops taking the medicine. Building tolerance to these drugs is also possible when they are used for a long period. Over time, the body needs larger and larger doses to relieve pain.

Take these drugs exactly as directed. Never take more than the recommended dose, and do not take the drugs more often than directed. If the drugs do not seem to be working, consult your physician. Do not share these or any other prescription drugs with others because the drug may have a completely different effect on the person for whom it was not prescribed.

Children and older people are especially sensitive to opioid analgesics and may have serious breathing problems after taking them. Children may also become unusually restless or agitated when given these drugs.

Opioid analgesics increase the effects of alcohol. Anyone taking these drugs should not drink alcoholic beverages.

Some of these drugs may also contain aspirin, caffeine, or acetaminophen. Refer to the entries on each of these drugs for additional precautions.

Special conditions

People with certain medical conditions or who are taking certain other medicines can have problems if they take opioid analgesics. Before taking these drugs, be sure to let the physician know about any of these conditions.

ALLERGIES. Let the physician know about any allergies to foods, dyes, preservatives, or other substances and about any previous reactions to opioid analgesics.

PREGNANCY. Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while taking opioid analgesics should let their physicians know. No evidence exists that these drugs cause birth defects in people, but some do cause birth defects and other problems when given to pregnant animals in experiments. Babies can become dependent on opioid analgesics if their mothers use too much during pregnancy. This can cause the baby to go through withdrawal symptoms after birth. If taken just before delivery, some opioid analgesics may cause serious breathing problems in the newborn.

BREAST FEEDING. Some opioid analgesics can pass into breast milk. Women who are breast feeding should check with their physicians about the safety of taking these drugs.

KEY TERMS

Analgesic Medicine used to relieve pain.

Central nervous system The brain and spinal cord.

Colitis Inflammation of the colon (large bowel)

Hallucination A false or distorted perception of objects, sounds, or events that seems real. Hallucinations usually result from drugs or mental disorders.

Inflammation Pain, redness, swelling, and heat that usually develop in response to injury or illness.

Narcotic A drug derived from opium or compounds similar to opium. Such drugs are potent pain relievers and can affect mood and behavior. Long-term use of narcotics can lead to dependence and tolerance.

Tolerance A decrease in sensitivity to a drug. When tolerance occurs, a person must take more and more of the drug to get the same effect.

Withdrawal symptoms A group of physical or mental symptoms that may occur when a person suddenly stops using a drug to which he or she has become dependent.

OTHER MEDICAL CONDITIONS. These conditions may influence the effects of opioid analgesics:

  • head injury. The effects of some opioid analgesics may be stronger and may interfere with recovery in people with head injuries.
  • history of convulsions. Some of these drugs may trigger convulsions.
  • asthma, emphysema, or any chronic lung disease
  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • HIV infection. Patients undergoing highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART, are at increased risk for adverse effects from opioid analgesics.
  • underactive thyroid. The chance of side effects may be greater.
  • Addison's disease (a disease of the adrenal glands)
  • colitis
  • gallbladder disease or gallstones. Side effects can be dangerous in people with these conditions.
  • enlarged prostate or other urinary problems
  • current or past alcohol abuse
  • current or past drug abuse, especially narcotic abuse
  • current or past emotional problems. The chance of side effects may be greater.

USE OF CERTAIN MEDICINES. Taking opioid narcotics with certain other drugs may increase the chances of serious side effects.

Side effects

Some people experience drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, or a false sense of well-being after taking opioid analgesics. Anyone who takes these drugs should not drive, use machines, or do anything else that might be dangerous until they know how the drug affects them. Nausea and vomiting are common side effects, especially when first beginning to take the medicine. If these symptoms do not go away after the first few doses, check with the physician or dentist who prescribed the medicine.

Dry mouth is another common side effect. Dry mouth can be relieved by sucking on sugarless hard candy or ice chips or by chewing sugarless gum. Saliva substitutes, which come in liquid or tablet forms, also may help. Patients who must use opioid analgesics over long periods and who have dry mouth should see their dentists, as the problem can lead to tooth decay and other dental problems.

The following side effects are less common. They usually do not need medical attention and will go away after the first few doses. If they continue or interfere with normal activity, check with the physician who prescribed the medicine.

  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • restlessness or nervousness
  • nightmares, unusual dreams, or problems sleeping
  • weakness or tiredness
  • mental sluggishness
  • stomach pain or cramps
  • blurred or double vision or other vision problems
  • problems urinating, such as pain, difficulty urinating, frequent urge to urinate, or decreased amount of urine
  • constipation.

Other side effects may be more serious and may require quick medical attention. These symptoms could be signs of an overdose. Get emergency medical care immediately.

  • cold, clammy skin
  • bluish discoloration of the skin
  • extremely small pupils
  • serious difficulty breathing or extremely slow breathing
  • extreme sleepiness or unresponsiveness
  • severe weakness
  • confusion
  • severe dizziness
  • severe drowsiness
  • slow heartbeat
  • low blood pressure
  • severe nervousness or restlessness

In addition, these less common side effects do not require emergency medical care, but should have medical attention as soon as possible:

  • hallucinations or a sense of unreality
  • depression or other mood changes
  • ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • pounding or unusually fast heartbeat
  • itching, hives, or rash
  • facial swelling
  • trembling or twitching
  • dark urine, pale stools, or yellow eyes or skin (after taking propoxyphene)
  • increased sweating, red or flushed face (more common after taking hydrocodone and meperidine)

Interactions

Anyone taking these drugs should notify his or her physician before taking opioid analgesics:

  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as antihistamines and other medicines for allergies, hay fever, or colds; tranquilizers; some other prescription pain relievers; seizure medicines; muscle relaxants; sleeping pills; some anesthetics (including dental anesthetics).
  • Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, such as phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate). The combination of the opioid analgesic meperidine (Demerol) and MAO inhibitors is especially dangerous.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil).
  • Anti-seizure medicines, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol). May lead to serious side effects, including coma, when combined with propoxyphene and acetaminophen (Darvocet-N) or propoxyphene (Darvon).
  • Muscle relaxants, such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril).
  • Sleeping pills, such as triazolam (Halcion).
  • Blood-thinning drugs, such as warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Naltrexone (Trexan, Revia). Cancels the effects of opioid analgesics.
  • Rifampin (Rifadin).
  • Zidovudine (AZT, Retrovir). Serious side effects when combined with morphine.

Opioids may also interact with certain herbal preparations sold as dietary supplements. Among the herbs known to interact with opioids are valerian (Valeriana officinalis ), ginseng (Panax ginseng ), kava kava (Piper methysticum ), and chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla ). As of early 2004 the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is beginning a study of the possible interactions between St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum, a herb frequently used to relieve symptoms of depression, and the opioid analgesics fentanyl and oxycodone. It is just as important for patients to inform their doctor of herbal remedies that they take on a regular basis as it is to give the doctor a list of their other prescription medications.

Resources

BOOKS

Beers, Mark H., MD, and Robert Berkow, MD., editors. "Pain." Section 14, Chapter 167 In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 2002.

Pelletier, Dr. Kenneth R. The Best Alternative Medicine, Part I: Western Herbal Medicine. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Wilson, Billie Ann, RN, PhD, Carolyn L. Stang, PharmD, and Margaret T. Shannon, RN, PhD. Nurses Drug Guide 2000. Stamford, CT: Appleton and Lange, 1999.

PERIODICALS

Campbell, D. C. "Parenteral Opioids for Labor Analgesia." Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 46 (September 2003): 616-622.

Compton, P., and P. Athanasos. "Chronic Pain, Substance Abuse and Addiction." Nursing Clinics of North America 38 (September 2003): 525-537.

Faragon, J. J., and P. J. Piliero. "Drug Interactions Associated with HAART: Focus on Treatments for Addiction and Recreational Drugs." AIDS Reader 13 (September 2003): 433-450.

Markowitz, J. S., J. L. Donovan, C. L. DeVane, et al. "Effect of St John's Wort on Drug Metabolism by Induction of Cytochrome P450 3A4 Enzyme." Journal of the American Medical Association 290 (September 17, 2003): 1500-1504.

Soares, L. G., M. Marins, and R. Uchoa. "Intravenous Fentanyl for Cancer Pain: A 'Fast Titration' Protocol for the Emergency Room." Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 26 (September 2003): 876-881.

Watson, C. P., D. Moulin, J. Watt-Watson, et al. "Controlled-Release Oxycodone Relieves Neuropathic Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Painful Diabetic Neuropathy." Pain 105 (September 2003): 71-78.

ORGANIZATIONS

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse. P.O. Box 7923, Gaithersburg, MD 20898-7923. (888) 644-6226. http://nccam.nih.gov.

U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857. (888) 463-6332. http://www.fda.gov.

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Analgesics, Opioid

Analgesics, opioid

Definition

Opioid analgesics , also known as narcotic analgesics, are pain relievers that act on the central nervous system. Like all narcotics, they may become habit-forming if used over long periods.


Purpose

Opioid analgesics are used to relieve pain from a variety of conditions. Some are used before or during surgery (including dental surgery), both to relieve pain and to make anesthetics work more effectively. They may also be used for the same purposes during labor and delivery.


Description

Opioid analgesics relieve pain by acting directly on the central nervous system. However, this can also lead to unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, breathing problems, and physical or mental dependence.

Among the drugs in this category are codeine; propoxyphene (Darvon); propoxyphene and acetaminophen (Darvocet N); meperidine (Demerol); hydromorphone (Dilaudid); morphine; oxycodone; oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet); and hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Lortab, Anexsia). These drugs come in many formstablets, syrups, suppositories, and injectionsand are sold only by prescription. For some, a new prescription is required for each new supply; refills are prohibited, according to federal regulations.


Recommended dosage

Recommended doses vary, depending on the type of opioid analgesic and the form in which it is being used. Doses may be different for different patients. The person should check with the physician who prescribed the drug or the pharmacist who filled the prescription for correct dosages, and to understand how to take the drug.

A patient should always take opioid analgesics exactly as directed. Larger or more frequent doses should never be taken, and the drug should not be taken for longer than directed. The person should not stop taking the drug suddenly without checking with the physician or dentist who prescribed it. Gradually tapering the dose may reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms.

For pain following major surgery, it is common practice to give narcotic analgesics by intravenous injection for the first 2448 hours. This may be followed by oral narcotics for the next 2448 hours, and then non-narcotic analgesics.

Many hospitals use patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), a system in which the analgesics are given intravenously (by vein), and the patient can control the dose by pushing a button on a pump. This system lets the patient have more control over the amount of medication needed to relieve pain, and eliminates the anxiety that comes from expecting the return of pain when the dose wears off.


Precautions

Anyone who uses opioid analgesicsor any narcoticover a long time may become physically or mentally dependent on the drug. Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal symptoms when the person stops taking the medicine. Building tolerance to these drugs is also possible when they are used for a long period. The need for larger and more frequent doses is due to enzyme induction, in which narcotics are metabolized by the liver and changed to a form that can be eliminated from the body. The metabolism of narcotics relies on enzymes that are produced by the liver. As narcotics are used, the liver produces more and more of these enzymes, so that a dose of pain medication is removed from the body more rapidly. This is not a problem when narcotics are used for surgical pain, since this type of pain only lasts for a short time.

Opiod analgesics should be taken exactly as directed. It is not advised to take more than the recommended dose, or more often than directed. If the drugs do not seem to be working, the physician should be consulted. These drugs (or any other prescription drugs) should never be shared with others because the drug may have a completely different effect on different people.

Children and older people are especially sensitive to opioid analgesics and may have serious breathing problems after taking them. Children may also become unusually

Opioid analgesics
drug route of administration onset of action (min) time to peak effect (min) duration of action (h)
strong agonists
fentanyl (sublimaze) im 715 2030 12
  iv 12 35 0.51
hydromorphone (dilaudid) oral 30 90120 4
  im 15    
  iv 1015 3060 23
  sub-q 30   1530
levorphanol (levo-dromoran) oral 1060 90120 45
  im      
  iv 60 45
  sub-q 1060 within 20  
meperidine (demerol) oral 15 6090 24
  im 1015    
  iv   3050 24
  sub-q 1    
methadone (dolophine) oral 3060 90120 46
  im      
  iv 1020 60120 45
morphine (many trade names) oral 60120 45
  im 1030    
  iv   3060 45
  sub-q    
  epidural 1030 20 45
oxymorphone (numorphan) im 1015 3090 36
  iv      
  sub-q 510 1530 34
  rectal      
mild-to-moderate agonists
codiene (many trade names) oral 3040 60120 4
  im 1030 3060 4
  sub-q 1030   4
hydrocodone (hycodan) oral 1030 3060 46
oxycodone (percodan) oral 60 34
propoxyphene (darvon, dolene) oral 1560 120 46
butophanol (stadol) im 1030 3060 34
  iv 23 30 24
nalbuphine (nubian) im within 15 60 36
  iv 23 30 34
  sub-q within 15 36
pentazocine (talwin) oral 1530 6090 3
  im 1520 3060 23
  iv 23 1530 23
  sub-q 1520 3060 23



restless or agitated when given these drugs. These problems can be controlled by adjusting the dose of medication to a safer level.

Opioid analgesics increase the effects of alcohol. Anyone taking these drugs should not drink alcoholic beverages. Some of these drugs may also contain aspirin , caffeine, or acetaminophen. A person should refer to the entries on each of these drugs for additional precautions.


Special conditions

People with certain medical conditions or who are taking certain other medicines can have problems if they take opioid analgesics. Before prescribing these drugs, the physician should be informed of any of these conditions.

allergies. The patient should let the physician know about any allergies to foods, dyes, preservatives, or other substances, and about any previous reactions to opioid analgesics.

pregnancy. Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while taking opioid analgesics should let their physicians know. No evidence exists that these drugs cause birth defects in people, but some do cause birth defects and other problems when given to pregnant animals in experiments. Babies can become dependent on opioid analgesics if their mothers use too much during pregnancy. This can cause the baby to go through withdrawal symptoms after birth. If taken just before delivery, some opioid analgesics may cause serious breathing problems in the newborn.

breastfeeding. Some opioid analgesics can pass into breast milk. Women who are breastfeeding should check with their physicians about the safety of taking these drugs.

other medical conditions. These conditions may influence the effects of opioid analgesics:

  • head injury (The effects of some opioid analgesics may be stronger and may interfere with recovery in people with head injuries.)
  • history of convulsions (Some of these drugs may trigger convulsions.)
  • asthma, emphysema, or any chronic lung disease
  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • underactive thyroid (The chance of side effects may be greater.)
  • Addison's disease (a disease of the adrenal glands)
  • colitis
  • gallbladder disease or gallstones (Side effects can be dangerous in people with these conditions.)
  • enlarged prostate or other urinary problems
  • current or past alcohol abuse
  • current or past drug abuse, especially narcotic abuse
  • current or past emotional problems (The chance of side effects may be greater.)

use of certain medicines. Taking opioid narcotics with certain other drugs may increase the chances of serious side effects. In some cases, the physician may combine narcotic analgesics with other drugs that increase the activity of the analgesic. These include some sedatives, tranquilizers, and antihistamines. When these drugs are used together with narcotic analgesics, it may be possible to get the same pain relief with a lower dose of narcotic.


Side effects

Some people experience drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, or a false sense of well-being after taking opioid analgesics. Anyone who takes these drugs should not drive, use machinery, or do anything else that might be dangerous until they know how the drug affects them. Nausea and vomiting are common side effects, especially when first beginning to take the medicine. If these symptoms do not go away after the first few doses, the person should check with the physician or dentist who prescribed the medicine.

Dry mouth is another common side effect, which can be relieved by sucking on sugarless hard candy or ice chips or by chewing sugarless gum. Saliva substitutes, which come in liquid or tablet forms, may also help. Patients who must use opioid analgesics over long periods and who have dry mouth should see their dentists, as the problem can lead to tooth decay and other dental problems.

The following side effects are less common. They usually do not need medical attention and will go away after the first few doses. If they continue or interfere with normal activity, the patient should check with the physician who prescribed the medicine for:

  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • restlessness or nervousness
  • nightmares, unusual dreams, or problems sleeping
  • weakness or tiredness
  • mental sluggishness
  • stomach pain or cramps
  • blurred or double vision or other vision problems
  • problems urinating such as pain, difficulty urinating, frequent urge to urinate, or decreased amount of urine
  • constipation

Other side effects may be more serious and may require quick medical attention. These symptoms could be signs of an overdose. The person should get emergency medical care immediately:

  • cold, clammy skin
  • bluish discoloration of the skin
  • extremely small pupils
  • serious difficulty breathing or extremely slow breathing
  • extreme sleepiness or unresponsiveness
  • severe weakness
  • confusion
  • severe dizziness
  • severe drowsiness
  • slow heartbeat
  • low blood pressure
  • severe nervousness or restlessness

In addition, the following less-common side effects do not require emergency medical care, but should have medical attention as soon as possible, and include:

  • hallucinations, or a sense of unreality
  • depression or other mood changes
  • ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • pounding or unusually fast heartbeat
  • itching, hives, or rash
  • facial swelling
  • trembling or twitching
  • dark urine, pale stools, or yellow eyes or skin (after taking propoxyphene)
  • increased sweating, red or flushed face (more common after taking hydrocodone and meperidine)

Interactions

Anyone taking the following drugs should notify his or her physician before taking opioid analgesics:

  • central nervous system (CNS) depressants such as antihistamines and other medicines for allergies, hay fever, or colds; tranquilizers; some other prescription pain relievers; seizure medicines; sleeping pills; some anesthetics (including dental anesthetics)
  • monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors such as phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate) (The combination of the opioid analgesic meperidine [Demerol] and MAO inhibitors is especially dangerous.)
  • tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • anti-seizure medicines such as carbamazepine (Tegretol) (They may lead to serious side effects, including coma, when combined with propoxyphene and acetaminophen [Darvocet-N] or propoxyphene [Darvon].)
  • muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
  • sleeping pills such as triazolam (Halcion)
  • blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Naltrexone (Trexan, Revia) (It cancels the effects of opioid analgesics.)
  • Rifampin (Rifadin)
  • Zidovudine (AZT, Retrovir) (It causes serious side effects when combined with morphine.)

Resources

books

AHFS: Drug Information. Washington, DC: American Society Healthsystems Pharmaceuticals, 2002.

Drug Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis: Facts & Comparisons, 2003.

Reynolds, J.E.F., ed. Martindale: The Extra Pharmacopeia, 31st ed. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1993.

other

"Narcotic Analgesics for Surgery and Obstetrics (Systemic)." Medline Plus Drug Information. [cited May 2003] <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/uspdi/202391.html>.


Nancy Ross-Flanigan Sam Uretsky, PharmD

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Opioids

Opioids

Definition

Opioids are narcotic drugs that are generally prescribed to manage pain. The most commonly prescribed opioids are: buprenorphine, butorphanol, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, levorphanol, meperidine , methadone, morphine, nalbuphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, pentazocine, and propoxyphene. These opioids are prescribed alone or in combination with aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

The most common brand names for these drugs are:

  • Actiq
  • Astramorph PF
  • Buprenex
  • Cotanal-65
  • Darvon
  • Demerol
  • Dilaudid
  • Dolophine
  • Duragesic
  • Duramorph
  • Hydrostat IR
  • Kadian
  • Levo-Dromoran
  • Methadose
  • M S Contin
  • MSIR
  • MS/L
  • MS/S
  • Nubain
  • Numorphan
  • OMS
  • Oramorph SR
  • OxyContin
  • PP-Cap
  • Rescudose
  • RMS Uniserts
  • Roxanol
  • Roxicodone
  • Stadol
  • Talwin

When combined with aspirin or acetaminophen, the most common brand names are:

  • Allay
  • Anexsia
  • Anolor
  • Bancap-HC
  • Capital with Codeine
  • Co-Gesic
  • Damason-P
  • Darvocet
  • Darvon
  • DHCplus
  • Dolacet
  • Dolagesic
  • Duocet
  • E-Lor
  • Empirin with codeine
  • Endocet
  • Endodan
  • EZ III
  • Hycomed
  • Hyco-Pap
  • Hydrocet
  • Hydrogesic
  • HY-PHEN
  • Lorcet
  • Lortab
  • Margesic
  • Oncet
  • Panacet
  • Panasal
  • Panlor
  • Percocet
  • Percodan
  • Phenaphen with codeine
  • Polygesic
  • Propacet
  • Propoxyphene Compound-65
  • Pyregesic-C
  • Roxicet
  • Roxilox
  • Roxiprin
  • Stagesic
  • Synalgos-DC
  • Talacen
  • Talwin compound
  • T-Gesic
  • Tylenol with codeine
  • Tylox
  • Ugesic
  • Vanacet
  • Vendone
  • Vicodin
  • Vicoprofen
  • Wygesic
  • Zydone

Purpose

Opioids are primarily used to manage pain. Some narcotics are also used just prior to, or during, surgery to increase the effectiveness of certain anesthetics. Codeine and hydrocodone are used to relieve coughing. Methadone is used to help people control their dependence on heroine or other narcotics.

Description

Opioids act on the central nervous system (CNS)to relieve pain. Many of these drugs are habit-forming and physical dependence may lead to withdrawal side effects when the medication is stopped. Because of the potential habit-forming nature of these drugs, most prescriptions cannot be refilled and a new prescription must be obtained after each preceding prescription runs out.

Recommended dosage

Opioids may be taken either orally (in pill or liquid form), by injection (or as part of an intravenous [IV]. line), as an anal suppository, or as a patch attached to the skin. The dosage prescribed may vary widely depending on the patient, the cancer being treated, and whether or not other medications are also being taken.

A typical adult dosage for buprenorphine is 0.3 mg injected into a muscle or vein every six hours as necessary. For children between the ages of two and twelve years, the dosage is typically 0.002 to 0.006 mg per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

A typical adult dosage for butorphanol is 1-4 mg injected into a muscle or 0.5-2 mg injected into a vein every four hours as necessary. For children between the ages of two and twelve years, the dosage is typically based on the body weight of the child.

A typical adult dosage for codeine is 15-60 mg taken orally or injected into a muscle or vein every four to six hours as necessary for pain. This dosage is decreased to 10 to 20 mg when codeine is used to control coughing.

Fentanyl is most often used to manage pain in cancer patients who are already receiving and are tolerant to other opioids. This drug is available as a lozenge and as a skin patch. It is not used for the treatment of pain caused by injury or surgery. The dosage of fentanyl is determined on an individual patient basis by that patient's oncologist.

A typical adult dosage for hydrocodone is 5-10 mg taken orally every four to six hours as necessary for pain, 5 mg to control coughing.

A typical adult dosage for hydromorphone is 1-2 mg injected into a muscle, 2-2.5 mg taken orally, or 3 mg taken as a suppository every three to six hours as necessary.

A typical adult dosage for levorphanol is 2-4 mg taken orally or injected into a vein every four hours as necessary.

A typical adult dosage for meperidine is 100 mg taken orally or injected into a muscle or vein every four hours as necessary.

A typical adult dosage for methadone is 5-20 mg as an oral solution, 2.5-10 mg as an oral tablet or injection, every four to eight hours as necessary for pain. When used for detoxification, methadone is initially given in a dose of 15-40 mg per day as an oral solution. This dose is then decreased until the patient no longer requires the medication. The injection form of methadone is only used for detoxification in patients who are unable to take the medication by mouth.

Morphine is most often used to manage severe, chronic pain in patients who have already been receiving other narcotic pain relievers. The starting dose of morphine is generally determined based on the dosages of prior narcotic pain relievers the patient had been receiving. A typical starting dose is 5-30 mg every four hours.

A typical adult dosage for nalbuphine is 10 mg injected into a muscle or vein every three to six hours as necessary.

A typical adult dosage for oxycodone is 5 mg taken orally every three to six hours, or 10-40 mg taken as a suppository three to four times per day as necessary.

A typical adult dosage for oxymorphone is 1-1.5 mg injected into a muscle every three to six hours, or 5 mg taken as a suppository every four to six hours as necessary.

A typical adult dosage for pentazocine is 50 mg taken orally, or 30 mg injected into a muscle or vein every three to four hours as necessary.

Propoxyphene comes in two salt forms: propoxyphene hydrochloride and propoxyphene napsylate. The typical adult dosage for propoxyphene hydrochloride is 65 mg taken orally every four hours with a maximum daily dosage of 390 mg. The typical adult dosage for propoxyphene napsylate is 100 mg taken orally every four hours with a maximum daily dosage of 600 mg.

Precautions

Opioids magnify the effects of alcohol and other central nervous system depressants, such as antihistamines, cold medicines, sedatives, tranquilizers, other prescription and over-the-counter pain medications, barbiturates, seizure medications, muscle relaxants, and certain anesthetics including some dental anesthetics. Alcohol and other central nervous system depressants should not be taken or consumed while opioids are being taken.

Opioids are powerful narcotics. These drugs can cause some people to feel drowsy, dizzy, or lightheaded. People taking opioids should not drive a car or operate machinery.

Opioids can be habit-forming. Patients who have been taking these types of medication for a period of several weeks should not stop taking this type of medication all at once. The dosage should be slowly tapered off to avoid potential withdrawal side effects.

Intentional or accidental overdose of any of the opioids can lead to unconsciousness, coma, or death. The signs of opioid overdose include confusion, difficulty speaking, seizures, severe nervousness or restlessness, severe dizziness, severe drowsiness, and/or slow or troubled breathing. These symptoms are increased by alcohol or other central nervous system depressants. Anyone who feels that he or she, or someone else, may have overdosed on opioids, or a combination of opioids and other central nervous system depressants, should seek emergency medical attention for that person at once.

Opioids can interfere with or exacerbate certain medical conditions. For these reasons, it is important that the prescribing physician is aware of any current case, or history of:

  • alcohol abuse
  • brain disease or head injury
  • colitis
  • drug dependency, particularly of narcotics
  • emotional problems;
  • emphysema, asthma, or other chronic lung disease
  • enlarged prostate
  • gallstones or gallbladder disease
  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • problems with urination
  • seizures
  • underactive thyroid

Side effects

The most common side effects of opioids include:

  • constipation
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • itching
  • nausea
  • urine retention
  • vomiting

Less common side effects of opioids include:

  • abnormally fast or slow heartbeat
  • blurred or double vision
  • cold, clammy skin
  • depression or other mood changes
  • dry mouth
  • fainting
  • hallucinations
  • hives
  • loss of appetite (anorexia )
  • nightmares or unusual dreams
  • pinpoint pupils of the eyes
  • redness or flushing of the face
  • restlessness
  • rigid muscles
  • ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • seizure
  • severe drowsiness
  • skin reaction at the site of injection
  • stomach cramps or pain
  • sweating
  • trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes

Interactions

Opioids should not be taken in combination with any prescription drug, over-the-counter drug, or herbal remedy without prior consultation with a physician. It is particularly important that the prescribing physician be aware of the use of any of the following drugs:

  • carbamazepine (Tegretol; antiepileptic)
  • central nervous system depressants
  • monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors (a class of anti-depressants) such as furazolidone, isocarboxazid, pargyline, phenelzine, procarbazine , or tranylcypromine
  • Naltrexone (opioid antagonist)
  • Rifampin (antituberculosis drug)
  • tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline , amoxapine, clomipramine, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, nortiptyline, protriptyline, or trimipramine
  • Zidovudine (antiviral against aids virus)
  • any radiation therapy or chemotherapy medicines

Paul A. Johnson, Ed.M.

KEY TERMS

Central nervous system depressant

Any drug that tends to reduce the activity of the central nervous system. The major drug categories included in this classification are alcohol, anesthetics, antianxiety medications, antihistamines, antipsychotics, hypnotics, narcotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers.

Narcotic

Any drug that produces insensibility or stupor and/or generally causes effects similar to those caused by morphine.

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"Opioids." Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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