Narcotic analgesics

Narcotic migraine medicines, also referred to as opioid analgesics, are synthetically made or occur naturally in opium poppies. These substances are known as narcotics, opiates and opioid. These short-acting narcotics may 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 leads to tolerance, meaning more drugs are needed but don’t work as well and overuse may also cause an increase in headaches.

Different narcotic analgesics

  • Codeine, which is often combined with acetaminophen in Tylenol
  • 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 Tartrate, under the brand name Stadol a nasal spray (very addictive)
  • Hydromorphone, under the brand name Actiq, medication on a stick like a lollipop
  • Tramadol – Ultram for migraines

How Narcotics work to treat migraines

Narcotics work to relieve pain by preventing the release of the neurotransmitter Substance P in the nerves. This helps reduce the way migraine sufferers perceive pain in the brain. It is also sedating and cuts down how emotionally upset the migraine sufferer feels as a result of the pain.


Side effects of Narcotics

Serious side effects of Narcotics

If itching is accompanied by rash, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat this is a sign of a serious allergic reaction. Seek immediate medical attention.

Who should not take Narcotics

Because Narcotics cause drowsiness, it shouldn’t be taken with alcohol or any other drug that is sedating. Also don’t take narcotics if you will be doing any potentially dangerous activity such as driving, operating heavy machinery or working at heights.

Also, do not use Narcotics if you have

  • Respiratory depression
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Chronic liver or kidney disease
  • BPH, benign prostatic hyperplasia or benign prostatic hypertrophy
  • Increased intracranial pressure
  • Hypersensitivity reactions


As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These medication descriptions are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication regimen without first checking with your physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.

Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
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