Topical Compounds vs. Narcotic Pain Relief

When experiencing pain, the first thing people do is take an oral pain reliever, whether a prescription medication or an over-the-counter remedy without taking into consideration the relative merits and drawbacks of various pain relieving drug types. Narcotic pain relief has several positives when trying to manage chronic pain, but compared to topical compounds they don’t hold a flame in terms of treatment.

Narcotics can be an excellent means of pain control, but they do not represent the sole method of pain control. Many issues with pain and inflammation can also be treated effectively with topical pain relievers. Using a topical medicine over narcotics is more beneficial especially for those who use pain medications more regularly such as chronic pain sufferers.

Learn more about the pitfalls of narcotic pain relief by reading our article Why You Shouldn’t Try An Opioid For Pain Relief.

Narcotic pain relief is expensive and has many drawbacks

Narcotic pain relief has many drawbacks for patients that take them longterm

Topical Compounds Vs. Narcotic Pain Relief

Listed below are several benefits of topical compounds vs. narcotic pain relievers.

  • Localized Treatment

One of the main benefits of using topical pain management methods is that treatment remains localized or confined to the affected area which means that there can’t be a systemic side effect which could be fatal. Narcotic pain relievers are transported via the bloodstream, affecting the entire body along with the area of pain.

Topical pain medications enable users to introduce the medication directly to the affected area of pain, concentrating the effects of the medication where it’s needed. Though applied locally, research shows that the topical application of pain medications results in more levels of medicine in the tissue compared to narcotics.

  • Speed of Effect

Another advantage of using a topical pain medication over narcotic pain reliever is the time it takes for the drug to begin to work. The main ingredients in a topical pain relief cream do not need to travel through the GI tract and bloodstream like a narcotic pain reliever to get to the painful area. Instead, the active ingredients are absorbed quickly and directly into the affected area, speeding up how fast pain relief is felt. Advancements in topical administration channels, such as creams, have largely increased the onset of action.

  • Systemic Side Effects

One of the greatest disadvantages of using any pain medication is the possibility of systemic side effects that come with it. Potential side effects of narcotics include respiratory depression, sedation, edema of the feet, hives & itching, slurred speech, organ damage, impaired thinking and function depending on the medication, frequency of use and the dosage. Since topical medications are applied directly to the affected area, the spread of the active ingredients into the bloodstream and to other areas of the body is minimal, resulting in fewer risks for systemic side effects.

Narcotic pain relief as a chronic pain treatment

Narcotic pain relief can be expensive and addictive for patients

  • Addiction

One of the greatest disadvantages of narcotic pain relief is that they are very addictive and cause many health problems if used incorrectly. Narcotics have a very strong potential for addiction and substance abuse which could occur in a short period, as short as a few days.

Withdrawal symptoms, after sudden cessation of high dose narcotics, can result in severe anxiety, abdominal cramping, accelerated heart rate, high blood pressure, nausea, etc. Hence, it is wise to strictly use narcotics as prescribed.


  • Strength of Action

Narcotic pain relief is usually prescribed for use just before or during an operation to help the anesthetic work better. They are also used to alleviate pain in cancer and other chronic illnesses because they have very strong effect in relieving pain when used. They exceed topical pain relievers in this case. It should be noted also that topical pain relievers cannot be used for systemic diseases. Excess use of narcotics can, however, lead to tolerance to pain medication, resulting in a condition where it will become tough or even impossible to provide pain relief.

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