Opioid Side Effects & Warnings

Opioid prescription drugs are prescribed to those who suffer from severe or chronic pain. Unfortunately, the drug has a high potential for abuse which creates a range of side effects, including a risk of overdose, dependence, and addiction.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid medications are used as a form of pain management for those suffering from severe pain.

Additionally, opioids may be prescribed for those experiencing severe back pain, acute pain, and types of chronic pain such as chronic non-cancer pain.

Opioid prescription pain medicines are powerful, Schedule II controlled substances according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Prescription opioids can be habit-forming which may lead to psychological or physical dependence.

Opioid Side Effects & Warnings

The use of opioids can create a wide-range of side effects. Additionally, there are strong warnings associated with taking this type of medication.

Side Effects Of Opioids

Opioids provide pain relief by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, depressing the central nervous system (CNS). This creates feelings of calmness and sedation as well as the potential for common and severe side effects.

Common Side Effects

Some of the common side effects associated with opioid use include:

  • sleepiness
  • constipation
  • drowsiness
  • feelings of euphoria
  • sedation
  • dry mouth

Severe Side Effects

More serious side effects can occur in those who abuse opioids, including:

  • issues with the menstrual cycle in women
  • erectile dysfunction in men
  • decreased sexual desire
  • hallucinations
  • withdrawal symptoms
  • opioid overdose

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

If a person abruptly stops opioid use, they may suffer from a variety of withdrawal symptoms.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • severe cravings for the drug
  • mental health problems such as anxiety
  • vomiting
  • sweating
  • tremors
  • sleeping problems
  • muscle aches
  • irritability
  • constipation

Opioid Warnings

Speak with your prescribing healthcare provider before taking opioids, as those with certain health conditions should avoid the medication.

For instance, women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should avoid opioids as the drug can pass from mother to child through breast milk. In addition to this, serious drug interactions can take place when certain drugs are combined with opioids.

Drug Interactions

Combining other substances with your opioid medication can lead to life-threatening health problems.

Drugs and substances to avoid while taking an opioid prescription drug include:

  • certain antidepressants such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • supplements or vitamins
  • over-the-counter pain medications
  • alcohol
  • benzodiazepines
  • illicit drugs

Even combining non-opioid substances with opioids may result in a dangerous drug interaction.

If you are already taking an opioid medication, do not combine it with other opioids such as:

  • fentanyl
  • codeine
  • hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • methadone
  • oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
  • oxymorphone (Opana)
  • hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • tramadol (Ultram)

If you combine any of these substances, you are engaging in a form of drug abuse which can lead to breathing problems, especially if multiple CNS depressants are taken together. Respiratory distress and other life-threatening issues may arise such as an opioid overdose.

Opioid Overdose

As stated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), opioid drugs are a public health crisis and those who take higher doses of the drug may suffer a life-threatening opioid overdose.

Symptoms of an opioid overdose may include:

  • extreme weakness
  • seizures
  • slowed heartbeat
  • blue lips or fingertips
  • respiratory depression
  • cold or clammy skin
  • loss of consciousness
  • death

If you suspect someone has experienced an overdose, contact 911 immediately and seek urgent medical attention. Healthcare professionals may administer naloxone (Narcan), a medication used to help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Opioid Addiction

Long-term opioid use increases the risk of addiction. Opioid addiction is defined by tolerance, which means you’ll need more of the drug to achieve the desired effects, as well as dependence, which means you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop use.

Opioid addiction can lead to devastating results, but treatment is available.

If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid use disorder, find treatment today at Bedrock Recovery Center. At our treatment facility, we provide a wide-range of specialized treatment plans for you to consider.

To learn more about our inpatient mental health and substance use disorder treatment options, please contact us today.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — CDC Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Pain — United States, 2022 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/rr/rr7103a1.htm
  2. Food and Drug Administration - Opioid Medications https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/opioid-medications
  3. Hawaii Medical Journal - Understanding Endorphins and Their Importance in Pain Management https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3104618/
  4. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opiate and opioid withdrawal https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm
  5. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opioid addiction https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/opioid-addiction/
  6. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opioid Misuse and Addiction https://medlineplus.gov/opioidmisuseandaddiction.html

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: August 23, 2023

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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