There are many different pain medications. You will find that certain medications may work better for your pain. You should know these basic facts about different pain medications:
Acetaminophen (trade name Tylenol)
You can buy it over the counter (OTC). It can reduce fever. An adult should never take more than 4000 mg of acetaminophen (eight 500 mg pills) in a 24 hour period because too much acetaminophen can cause serious liver problems. Some medications (Tylenol#3, Percocet, Vicodin) combine acetaminophen with another drug. Make sure you read how much acetaminophen your medications contain to ensure that you are not taking too much.
Ibuprofen (trade names Motrin, Advil)
You can buy it over the counter (OTC). It is a type of medicine called a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It can reduce fever. Side effects: can cause stomach upset and ulcers; can increase bleeding. Do not take if you have ulcer, bleeding or kidney problems. Another NSAID, Ketorolac (trade name Toradol) is often given via IV when someone with sickle cell disease has crisis.
Opiate medicine (also called narcotics)
There are many different opiate medications including codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and dilaudid. You need a prescription for these drugs. Side effects: constipation, itching, nausea, drowsiness/impaired thinking. When you start taking an opiate for new pain, you should also take a medicine to prevent constipation (like Miralax). If you take opiates on a regular basis, you will develop tolerance.
What is tolerance?
Tolerance is a term used to describe a process that occurs when the body becomes less responsive to a drug after repeated exposure. For example, a person who has never received morphine will likely obtain good relief of pain with 2 mg of morphine. However, a person who has previously received morphine many times may need 8 mg of morphine to obtain the same pain relief. The body becomes used to opiates if they are given over time and higher amounts of the drug are needed to achieve the same effect. The body can even become physically dependent on opiates.
What is the difference between physical dependence and addiction?
Physical dependence occurs when the body becomes so used to receiving narcotics over time that if a person stops taking narcotics, he or she will become sick – have withdrawal symptoms. A person who is physically dependent on a narcotic is not necessarily addicted to narcotics.
Addiction refers to a compulsive desire to use a drug despite negative consequences. A person addicted to opiates might lie or steal to obtain opiates and continues to use opiates at the expense of family, friends and their health. A person who is taking opiates to treat pain is not an addict. While many people with sickle cell disease develop some tolerance to opiates, most people with sickle cell disease do not become addicted to opiates.