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Opioids are narcotic pain relievers, prescribed for short-term treatment of moderate to severe pain, as after a surgery.  Examples include hydrocodone (such as Vicodin), oxycodone (such as Percocet), and codeine (used in some medications to treat cough).

Opioids are not harmless. According to Beacon Health Options, opioid overdose is now the No. 1 cause of accidental death in America.  Every day, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for using or misusing prescription opioids. Anyone who takes opioids, even for a short amount of time, is at risk for addiction and death.

Explore the chart below for information on everything from questions to ask your provider if you are prescribed an opioid, all the way to how to get help for addiction.

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Alternative pain management

Opioids should not be considered a first line or routine therapy for chronic pain; non-opioid therapies are preferred for chronic pain. In most cases, the risks of opioid use outweigh the benefits. Some examples of alternative, effective pain management therapies include:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen
  • Non-drug treatments, like exercise, physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture
  • Injections, such as steroids
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy or practicing mindfulness


Ask your provider which pain management alternatives to opioids may be right for you. Visit MedlinePlus.gov for the latest in pain management.