Side effects of opioids
Today, the opioid epidemic remains a crisis. The the leading cause of death from unintentional injury in the U.S. involves an opioid drug, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Overdose deaths from prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999. In all, over the last 20 years, more than 183,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition to the risks of addiction, abuse and overdose, the side effects of opioids can be serious, even when the drugs are taken as prescribed:
- Increased sensitivity to pain: The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes the drugs can cause a worsening of pain or increased sensitivity to pain in some people, a phenomenon known as hyperalgesia.
- Tolerance: People taking an opioid for pain often need more and more of the drug for the same relief.
- Physical dependence: You can have symptoms of opioid withdrawal when trying to stop taking them.
- Gastrointestinal complaints: Constipation, nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth may occur.
- Sleepiness and dizziness
- Itching and sweating
- Low levels of testosterone: Hormone drops can result in a lowered sex drive, less energy and strength.
- Slowed or difficult breathing, potentially leading to death: The Food and Drug Administration warns taking opioids with benzodiazepine drugs (which include Xanax and Klonopin) depresses the central nervous system, affects breathing, and can lead to death.
April 02, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA