Narcotic migraine medicines, also referred to as opioid analgesics, are naturally occurring or synthetically made derivatives of compounds in opium poppies. These substances are known as narcotics, opiates, and opioids. Narcotics are prescription medicines that can be powerful pain killers.
Opioid medications, especially codeine, are sometimes used to treat migraine pain for people who can't take or don’t get relief from other medications.1
Narcotics or opioids are habit-forming and should be taken with caution. They commonly cause physical dependence or psychological addiction. For this reason, these drugs are only meant to be used intermittently (off and on) or for the short term. Long-term use can lead to tolerance, meaning that patients need a higher dose to get the same effect. Overuse can also lead to rebound headaches and opioid addiction.2
What are some common narcotic analgesics?
- Codeine, which is often combined with acetaminophen in Tylenol-Codeine #3 and #4
- Hydrocodone, often combined with acetaminophen in Lortab® and Vicodin®
- Meperdine, under the brand name Demerol®
- Oxycodone with acetaminophen in Percocet®
- Hydromorphone under the brand name Dilaudid®
- Butorphanol, under the brand name Stadol® a nasal spray (very addictive)
- Tramadol, under the brand names ConZip® and Ultram®3
How do narcotics work to treat migraine?
Narcotics work to relieve pain by binding to naturally occurring receptors on nerve cells in the brain. The most common variety for opioid pain killers are known as mu receptors. These stimulate pleasure centers in the brain, reduce the sensation of pain, and cause calm and sedation. The sensation of calm can also reduce the emotional upset a migraine sufferer can feel because of the pain.