Other Possible Risks Associated with Opioids

Nausea –  is a very common problem with opioids. While this can be a very significant problem for some, it frequently lessens over time and can be treated with anti nausea medications.

Constipation – can be a very significant problem for many patients requiring opioid medications and frequently requires stimulant laxatives. Some patients cannot opioids because of constipation.

Sedation – opioid medications cause drowsiness, which increases the risk of falls, and injury. You should not drive, operate heavy machinery, climb on ladders, make serious health or financial decisions, or be responsible for others such as small children or the elderly, until you know how the medication affects you.

Confusion – opioid medications can cause confusion and sometimes patients forgetting they have already taken their medication, take them again which can lead to overdosing. This is especially problematic in the elderly. Having someone other than the patient dispense the medication can prevent this problem.

Depressed respiration – opioids can cause the breathing rate to be slower and more shallow. Over dosage of opioids can stop breathing leading to death. Using opioids in combination with alcohol, sedatives, sleeping medications and illegal substances can increase the risk of over dosage.

Dependence – prolonged use of opioids can lead to physical dependence, meaning the patient will experience withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly stop taking the medication.

Tolerance – over time, pain medications may become less effective requiring an increase in dosage to get the same effect. As time goes on, increasing the dose of medication may not improve pain relief, but the  increased doses can lead to increased risk of side effects and complications.

Addiction – some patients will become addicted to opioids, meaning there is a constant craving for the medication unrelated to pain relief. This is a serious problem and frequently requires special treatment.

Sleep Disorders – opioids can cause long pauses between breaths during sleep increase called sleep apnea and can cause disruption of normal sleep patterns. This can lead to low oxygen levels which can damage your heart and lungs.. Patients with Sleep Apnea must be watched very closely when given opioids.

Decreased libido (Low Sex Drive) – opioid medications can cause lower hormone levels. In men, this may increase erectile dysfunction and decrease sex drive. In women, opioid use may alter the menstrual periods and decrease sexual desire.

Increased Risk of Fracture – opioids can cause osteoporosis (weak bones) which can lead to an increased risk of bone fractures.

Dry Mouth and Tooth Decay – opioids can cause your mouth to be dry, which can to acid erosion of tooth enamel and gum disease. Patients requiring opioids should be closely followed by their dentist.