If you decide to take opioids or know someone taking opioid medications, you may wonder what’s the big deal? But be on the lookout for potentially risky side effects such as:

Side effects of opioids

  • Slowed or arrested breathing.
  • Sexual problems. Lowered hormone levels that can cause lower sex drive in men and women. Low hormone levels can also cause weight gain and decreased energy and strength.
  • Sedation. Usually an issue when starting opioids and when doses are increased. Tiredness may improve within days to weeks. Other related risks include dizziness, lightheaded, severe tiredness or failure to respond quickly.
    • You should avoid driving while taking opioids. If you choose to drive, you could put yourself and others at risk. Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII), which includes driving while taking opioids, is a severe crime in Oregon that may result in suspension of your driver’s license, fines, and jail time.
  • Addiction. You seek to get the drug despite the harm it may cause you or others.
  • Tolerance. You might need to take more pills for the same pain relief.
  • Physical need. You have signs of withdrawal when you stop taking opioids.
  • Depression, lack of energy to do things that used to be important.
  • Itching and sweating.
  • Constipation, nausea, bloating, the feeling of being full, and stomach pain. Even when the body is used to opioids in other ways, constipation will continue. Here are some ways to help relieve constipation:
    • Prevention: the ideal way to help.
    • Exercise, increase fluid intake, add more fiber to the diet.
    • Over-the-counter laxatives: Due to the loss in gut motility, it is important to use stimulant laxatives (Senna, bisacodyl) to help increase gut motility.
  • Urinating issues. Taking opioids may make it harder to urinate. This is very concerning in people who may already have bladder issues. This can become worse by taking other pills (like Benadryl, muscle relaxers, and antidepressants) that can also make it harder to urinate.
  • Vomiting and dry mouth.
  • Risk of falling. People taking opioids are at higher risk for falls. People age 60 and older have 7 times higher risk of falling when taking opioids.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Increased pain. When taking opioids, you may start to feel more pain or become more sensitive to pain. You may even have pain from something that usually doesn’t cause pain.