Drug Class Series: Analgesics and NSAIDs Medications

Opioid - analgesics-medications
Andrea Hartley, CPhT
Pharmacy Technician/Central Supply Manager
The GRAND of Dublin

This month I’ll begin a series of articles focusing on some of the common classes of medications. I chose analgesics for this article.  Analgesics are one of, if not the most common class of medications around the world.  This class includes both prescription and over-the-counter medications, and opioids.  Some references list NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) as a separate class, but for our purposes NSAIDs will be included with analgesics.

Please note that some medications are in multiple drug classes because they have multiple/different uses.

Analgesics are medications that relieve pain, also called pain killers. They are distinctly different from anesthetics, which temporarily affect, and in some instances completely eliminate, sensation.  Below are the medications in the analgesic class along with the most noteworthy facts about them.

Acetaminophen (aka Tylenol; APAP) is sold over-the counter both alone and in formulations such as Nyquil.  It is also sold as a prescription with codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone. Over dosing on this medication can cause serious liver disease.  Acetaminophen works by changing the way the body senses pain.  Adults with healthy livers should take no more than 4gm (4,000mg) from all sources in a 24-hour period.  People with liver problems should take even less.

Aspirin (aka Ecotrin; Bayer) is sold over-the counter.  Some also consider it to be in the NSAID class.  Upset stomach is common when taking aspirin.  Children shouldn’t take aspirin or any related medications (pink bismuth, loperamide etc.) because it is thought to play a role in causing a serious condition known as Reye’s syndrome.

Opioids (narcotics), such as Avinza, Kadian, or MS Contin (morphine),  Ultram (tramadol), Oxycontin (oxycodone), Dolophine or Methadose (methadone), Dilaudid (hydromorphone), codeine, Demerol (meperidine), Duragesic or Actiq (fentanyl), Lortab or Norco (hydrocodone),  and others. Opioids reduce the pain signals sent by the nervous system and the brain’s reaction to those pain signals.  If you take an opioid for a long time, you could develop dependence as your body gets used to the drug. Some people also become addicted to opioids. Talk to your doctor if this is a concern.  One of the most common side effects when taking a narcotic is constipation.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil or Motrin (Ibuprofen), Aleve or Naprosyn (naproxen), Cataflam or Voltaren (diclofenac), Celebrex (celecoib) and others. NSAIDs are available as OTC and prescriptions, oral and topical. 

At The Grand we will make sure you have all of your medications available to you as quickly as we can; especially pain medications.  It’s important to use them wisely to maximize your recovery time here!

About the Author