Have you been diagnosed with chronic pain? If so, you’re probably looking for ways to manage your condition. You’re not alone either. Millions of Canadians are looking for effective therapies and treatments for their pain conditions.
As the number of patients living with chronic pain, arthritis, nerve damage, fibromyalgia, and other conditions continues to climb, more people are looking for better treatments.
To date, opioids have been the go-to option for many doctors and pharmacists. When a patient presents with a pain condition, these medications are often the first line of defense. The number of opioid prescriptions has been climbing for the past two decades.
Even in the face of the opioid crisis, doctors have continued prescribing opioids apace. Many patients, however, have their concerns. You might be one of them. If you’ve been prescribed opioids or you have questions about them, you’ll want to know all about these dangerous potential side effects.
Opioids Can Cause Unpleasant Side Effects
Like almost any medication, opioids come with a list of potential side effects. Not everyone experiences side effects, and you may not experience all of them.
Many of the side effects of opioids, however, are unpleasant. These include dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and drowsiness. You may fall asleep or feel confused while taking opioids. Some patients experience itching or constipation. Some patients might experience involuntary muscle twitches, while others could experience delirium.
Many people experience these relatively mild, if unpleasant, side effects. Unfortunately, they can prevent you from living your life as you want to live it. Many patients who use prescription opioids find it difficult to do anything except sleep.
Opioids Are Highly Addictive
The list of side effects above may not seem too concerning, but that’s only a short list of mild side effects. Opioids have other potential side effects. Addiction may not be a “side effect” per se, but it is a very serious potential outcome of the use of opioid medications.
Opioids are known to be highly addictive, and many people who are prescribed them become addicted. This is especially common in cases of long-term opioid use, such as when chronic pain is considered.
Overdose Is a Common Problem
Over time, the body develops a tolerance to opioid medications. In turn, the patient must take a higher dose to achieve their desired relief. Alternately, they may begin taking two or more opioid medications in an attempt to find relief.
This increases the potential for overdose. Patients may take too much, may mix medications incorrectly, or may obtain opioids from illegal sources, in which case purity can’t be guaranteed.
Overdose is the leading cause of accidental death among opioid users. In 2017, the opioid crisis nearly claimed 4,000 lives, almost all of which were a result of accidental overdose.
Most deaths are a result of respiratory depression, another of the side effects of opioid medications. Opioids slow down breathing, and, in large doses, can even stop respiration.
How to Manage Side Effects
There are a few ways to manage the potential side effects of opioid medications. The best way to prevent them is to not use opioid medications, particularly in the treatment of long-term conditions such as chronic pain.
Patients using opioid medications should use them only as directed. If pain persists, patients should report to their doctors. Medications should not be mixed, except on the advice of a physician.
Finally, patients should be monitored when they use opioid medications, and all medications should be obtained from a reputable source.
Using opioid medications can be dangerous, even deadly. By using them wisely or not at all, you can better manage your health, your condition, and your life.