The official blog of the Lung Institute.

Painkillers and COPD? Could Be Big Problem

31 Oct 2017
| Under COPD, Lung Disease | Posted by | 2 Comments

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other lung diseases often take medications, like inhalers, steroids and nebulizers to control their breathing. They may also take other drugs to control their pain. These drugs or painkillers are also known as opioids and are prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain.

Watch What You’re Taking for Pain Relief

But, a recent study in the European Respiratory Journal found that older adults with COPD who began taking painkillers were twice as likely to die from a respiratory-related complication compared to someone not using painkillers. When they looked at more potent opioids, the risk of respiratory-related death was five times higher for new users versus non-opioid users.

The researchers studied more than 130,000 Canadians age 65 and older with COPD and found that 75 percent have been prescribed painkillers. This was concerning to the doctors because this age group is often more sensitive to the good and bad effects of narcotics. Opioids, such as codeine, oxycodone and morphine were prescribed frequently to help treat chronic muscle and bone pain, persistent cough and insomnia. They also found these painkillers had been prescribed for shortness of breath in patients who were already using inhalers.

Further research indicated these drugs may offer some relief but may also adversely affect breathing and lung health in people who already have chronically-compromised lungs.

What Should Doctors Do?

Doctors then checked whether prescribing less potent or lower dosage opioids would lower the risks, but found there was still a significantly increased risk of respiratory-related complications or even death among new opioid users.

Primary care physicians will often prescribe opioids to patients in need of a quick fix for chronic pain and breathing issues in hopes of providing some relief. Doctors need to explain to their patients there is a trade-off between alleviating symptoms and the potential detrimental cost to their long-term health.

Commonly Prescribed Opioids:

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

Negative Side Effects

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

Is It Worth the Risk?

Despite the potential benefits of using painkillers for COPD, the risks far outweigh the rewards. However for those who suffer from COPD or other lung diseases, there is hope in the form of stem cell therapy and stem cell research which has shown efficacy in addressing the symptoms of lung disease as well its progression.

If you’re looking to take control of your health again, don’t wait. If you or a loved one suffers from COPD, or another lung disease, the Lung Institute may be able to help with a variety of stem cell treatment options. Contact us at (800) 729-3065 today to find out if you qualify for stem cell therapy.


  1. Lung Institute

    5 months ago


    Thank you for the comment. As always, you are doing the best thing by speaking with your doctor about your treatments. Each person is unique and information may not specifically address your own situation.

    We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cell treatment for chronic lung diseases, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with a patient coordinator. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  2. caroline

    5 months ago

    Did not know about painkillers and copd. Thank you. Will talk to my doctor. I have a very low theshold of pain. I am only daughter that is like this. .all the rest of my family have high theshold of pain even my late mother and father r i p.

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