We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are the Different Opioid Side Effects?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Opioid side effects can include gastrointestinal problems, central nervous system depression, and unpleasant sensory experiences like itching and tingling. Over time, patients can also develop tolerance and dependence. These create concerns for patients and medical providers who want to use opioids for pain management. While the medications can be highly effective, the risks need to be carefully considered and controlled during treatment. As side effects develop, they should be addressed to ensure the patient receives adequate pain management.

One of the most notorious opioid side effects is constipation, which can become so severe that patients may discontinue the medication. Using stool softeners and making dietary adjustments can help to manage this problem. Patients can also develop nausea and vomiting, which may be mitigated by antiemetic medications, changing the timing of doses, or eliminating some foods from the diet.

These drugs act on the central nervous system, creating a sedating effect. Patients may feel sluggish on opioids, and can find it difficult to complete daily tasks, let alone operate heavy or complex machinery. It is also possible to develop a risk of respiratory depression, where the patient breathes too slowly and shallowly to get enough oxygen. Care providers need to watch carefully to monitor patients for signs that the sedation is too deep.

Pruritis, consistent and irritating itching, can also be among the opioid side effects. Some patients experience tingling, rashes, or other problems. These can be exacerbated by bed sores or hot spots created by the pressure of lying in bed. Patients on high doses of opioids can be more likely to spend substantial lengths of time in bed because of their ill health, and require regular rotation and skin checks to make sure their skin remains healthy and unbroken.

In the long term, opioid side effects include dependence. As the patient takes the medication, the body adapts, and the patient needs more and more for control. It may be necessary to switch to a more powerful drug to achieve the same level of control. Eventually, patients can reach the point of needing dangerously high doses for pain management. This can increase the risk of an overdose.

Dependence is another concern with opioid side effects. Patients using these medications for pain management can be at risk of developing withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking them abruptly or experience a long delay between doses. The benefits of improved pain control and comfort may be considered worth the risk, but patients should always consult a doctor before stopping opioid therapy for pain in case they are at risk of complications.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.