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Opioid Use and COPD: The Risks of Prescription Pain-Killers

21 Nov 2017
| Under COPD, Medical | Posted by | 6 Comments

Opioid use may come with more effects than pain relief.

We’ll start here:

High rates of pain medication use linked to COPD patients.

When it comes to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), finding relief can be the main concern. Typical symptoms are fatigue, breathlessness, and possibly fits of coughing. Often however, relief comes in the form of prescription or over-the-counter painkillers.

While these painkillers are effective and needed to manage pain, the use of opioids (painkillers) can present a dangerous opportunity for abuse for those in need of constant relief.

Opioids treat a variety of conditions related to COPD, such as chronic muscle pain (chest), insomnia (lack of sleep due to breathing), and shortness of breath, the problem for COPD sufferers is their potential for abuse, addiction, and overdose.

With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to explore Opioid Use and COPD: Understanding the Risks of Prescription Pain-Killers.

How We Got Here

As we mentioned, opioids are painkillers. In the early 2000’s they were used to treat chronic pain but during this decade was often over-prescribed, causing many to abuse them and fall into addiction.

A few years back the British Journal of Pharmacology released a study analyzing the records of more than 120,000 adults 66 and older. They discovered that opioid use was astoundingly high. And this finding is particularly worrying considering the side effects of narcotic use (slowed breathing) is much higher than younger populations.

They also discovered that those living in long-term care facilities were more susceptible to abuse than any other group because of increased access to medications and a lack of direct oversight.

The Effects

One of the biggest problems with opioid use in older adults with COPD is that they aren’t healthier. Though opioids can relieve chest pain, they also can reduce breathing rates and volume. This can stop your blood from circulating properly ultimately leading to higher carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream. For those with compromised lungs, this combination of adverse symptoms can inflame existing issues. And in fact, opioid users are four times more likely to suffer a fracture than non-opioid users, and opioid users overall were 87% more likely to die than non-opioid users.

Other negative effects include:

  • Risk of Death
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Depression
  • Memory Impairment
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Respiratory issues
  • Gastrointestinal impairment
  • Falls and Fractures
  • Confusion

What to Avoid

The most commonly prescribed opioids are as follows:

  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Percocet
  • Endocet
  • Lenoltec

These may be too strong, so consider a few over-the-counter painkillers (Aleve, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc.) that are weaker in strength, but non-habit forming and better for the relief of minor chest pains.

Aside from traditional over-the-counters, there are a few natural remedies for reducing chest pain

  • Practice breathing exercises (meditation, yoga)
  • Drink peppermint tea
  • Get more sleep
  • Avoid sleeping in
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid COPD triggers (smoke, chemicals, dust)

So, What Can I Do About My Symptoms?

Opioid use to relief symptoms of lung disease may sound reasonable, but the risks are simply too high. When lifestyle changes don’t improve your quality of life to your expectations, it may be time to consider stem cell therapy. Rather than addressing the symptoms of lung disease, stem cell therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve quality of life.

For more information on stem cell therapy and what it could mean for your life moving forward, contact us today or call us at (800) 729-3065. Our patient coordinators will walk you through our available treatment options, talk through your current health and medical history and determine a qualifying treatment plan that works best for you.

Interested in our article on Opioid Use and COPD: Understanding the Risks of Prescription Pain-Killers? Share your thoughts and comments below.


  1. Lung Institute

    2 months ago


    We are sorry to hear about your condition. It has been a difficult winter so far for bugs and flu. People with COPD are even more susceptible to these infections. We do recommend getting a flu shot each year, though it sounds like it may be too late for this.

    Please contact your doctor regarding advice and treatment for your current condition. At the Lung Institute, we provide an alternative treatment option for people with lung disease such as COPD or Pulmonary Fibrosis. If you are interested to learn more about our options, please contact one of our patient coordinators at (855) 313-1149 for more information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  2. Mikie

    2 months ago

    What if you are on all of the progressed copd meds, inhalers, etc. and catCh the winter bug, bacterial? VirIal? I Have been Very careful and it has been 2 years since ive been sick, it started a very dry cough 4-5 days ago didnt sleep well last night for coughing, soAr throut and headache this morning. Had scheduled dr appt yesterday and was prescribed, predisone and a form of Keflex for a week. Whats your thoughts.

  3. Lung Institute

    3 months ago


    Thank you for your question. With any kind of anxiety medication, it is recommended that caution is used in taking pills. Lorazepam should be used with caution in patients with compromised respiratory function. We would suggest speaking with your doctor to see if you should continue using it at that dosage.

    We have a dedicated medical team who have a wealth of knowledge about stem cells, treatment options, candidacy, cost and more. So, feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  4. Sandra amacfadyen

    3 months ago

    Does lorazepam o.5 mg pose a thrat to brething ith copd

  5. Lung Institute

    3 months ago


    Thank you for your comment and question. We would suggest you discuss this with your primary doctor or specialist. It is recommended to be careful with potent painkillers if you have a lung disease.

    We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cells, treatment options, candidacy and cost. So, feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  6. Madol

    3 months ago

    What effect will Tramadol have on my breathing.50mg

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