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The Dangers of Painkillers and COPD

19 Feb 2016
| Under COPD, Lung Disease, Medical, Related Conditions | Posted by | 16 Comments
The Dangers of Painkillers and COPD

Painkillers have their place in society, but at what cost?

Simply put, opioids are painkillers. And throughout the early 2000’s they were prescribed heavily for the treatment of chronic pain. For those suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), opioids are used to alleviate chronic muscle pain, insomnia, and reduce refractory shortness of breath and cough. Despite the positives opioids present, they come with a variety of negative side effects that can directly challenge the benefits, particularly in their susceptibility for addiction and overdose.

With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to keep you informed on the issues that matter most to those battling chronic lung disease.

Opioid Use in Older Adults

The Dangers of Painkillers and COPD

In a recent study by the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers analyzed the records of more than 120,000 adults age 66 and older with COPD and found the use of opioids was remarkably high. This is especially dangerous considering that older adults have a higher sensitivity to narcotic side effects.

Between 2003 and 2012, 70 percent of those living in their home and 55 percent of those living in long-term care homes were given a new opioid prescription. Another dangerous conclusion that was discovered was that older adults with COPD– particularly those living in long-term care homes– had a greater potential for abuse, meaning they were given early refills and prescriptions lasting more than 30 days.

During this time, the majority of opioid medications were prescribed by family physicians, with about 88 percent of new prescriptions being a mixture of opioids and non-opioids. Opioid users were also over four times more likely to suffer a fracture than users of traditional, anti-inflammatory drugs, and deaths from any cause were 87 percent greater among opioid users.

Commonly Prescribed Opioids

The Dangers of Painkillers and COPD

  • 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

On lung health, opioids have the capacity to reduce breathing rates and volume, which can lead to decreased blood oxygen and higher carbon dioxide levels, specifically in those who have chronically compromised lungs.

Safe Practices

The Dangers of Painkillers and COPD

Although opioids may help with shortness of breath, their complications and negative side-effects can come at a high cost. In using pain-relieving medication, opioids should only be used after being prescribed by a primary physician and only for the treatment of chronic pain. Before requesting a prescription for some of the more commonly prescribed opioids, use the lowest form of over-the-counter pain-relievers available such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen as directed.

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.

As the scientific community continues to put their best minds to the task of solving the problems and complications of the human body, the Lung Institute will continue to bring these advancements to the public with the hope of bettering quality of life for those who need it most.

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.

Are you currently using opioids for COPD? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts and comments on The Dangers of Opioids and COPD below.


  1. Lung Institute

    5 days ago


    Thank you for your comments and we are very sorry to hear about your condition. It was odd to hear about the lottery pool, but if you started it, it apparently is OK. We are glad you also realized vapor cigarettes are not the answer as well. Any smoke inhalation is not good.

    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

  2. mark Prager

    1 week ago

    I have not found anything to help with pain or help with breathing. I have chronic copd , popcorn lung in my upper lobs and IPF covering 90% of my lower lungs. My doctors of which I have four are amazed i’m still around after being diagnosed over three years ago. CT scans show every 6 mo that my DISEASES are not progressing. My lung doctor has a lottery pool in the office to see how much longer I will be able to hang on. DON’T be alarmed by the DISRESPECT I started the pool and my wife has the winning ticket. I cant walk 20 feet without becoming out of breath. I cant shower with out becoming out of breath. 24 hr oxygen does not help with my being able to breath, it just helps replace the oxygen my cells are not RECEIVING threw my lungs. I’m 57 and I DON’T know if I could handle a double lung transplant but I am willing to try. I had a heart attack five years ago and decided to stop smoking by using a vapor cig. Worst choice I have ever made. There is a chemical called Diacetyl and Im sure it caused all my lung problems. DONT EVER USE E – CIGS.

  3. Pingback: Hooked on Hydrocodone: How I found my way past painkiller addiction

  4. Lung Institute

    2 months ago


    First off, we are very sorry to hear about your condition. Life expectancy is not something that can be easily determined. Each person is unique.

    For many of our patients, treatment has helped them feel better and breathe more easily. To hear more from our patients, check out our testimonials page. We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cell treatment, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with one of our patient coordinators. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  5. Lynn. R. Cox

    2 months ago

    I had been smoking for my stay in the army (8 years) I quit a long time ago but worked in an underground coal mine for 25 years….I was diagnosed with stage 4 COPD. My primary care Dr who I know very good gave me 15 months. What does the lung Institute say about my life expectancy? ?

  6. Lung Institute

    5 months ago


    Thank you for your message. Please contact one of our patient coordinators this week. We have a reduced price for stem cell therapy but it is only available this week and treatment needs to take place in September.

    Treatment cost varies depending on treatment type. In order to best answer your question, we need to gather more private medical information from you over our secure phone line. Our team has a wealth of knowledge about stem cells, treatment, candidacy, and cost. We’re happy to answer your questions. Feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with our dedicated medical team. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  7. Ken motley

    5 months ago

    Addiction is not a concern for me. I have been on codeine for 8 years running. The last 2 years using the reserves I had from taking my rx so sparingly. My new doctor finally gave me a contract. My concern which I had not considered was opiodes relax your breathing which is already under stress. That idea i just recently thought about. All the more reason to take as little as you can get by with. For me, if my rx says one pill at night. I seldom do that. Usually i take half. This practice also builds a reserve over time so like in my case, 2 years with no new pain mangement. I was on my reserves. Not only did I make them last using very careful self management, when i finally talked my doctor into a new contract. I still had 2 bottles left. About 4 months worth at current rate of administration. If you take intelligently. Addiction is not an issue. The slowed respiratory issue I self realised gave me a whole new level of respect for these drugs. All the more reason to really be careful.
    The stem cell thing is for all intents and purposes is a cure for copd or as close as one can get. It can fully cure some depending on level of lung tissue damage. Basically if tge blood vesels in lungs are damages and cut off, stem cells cant get their to repair damage. The problem with stem cells is tge $8000-12000. While the procedure in scientific medical concept does work. Few can afford that price tag. I haye to judge but I do wonder if that price is not that high on purpose to tap the money machine and “sell hope” much like radiation and chemo does. I would like to know why it is so expensive. Extract cells by one of 2 methods, seperate, then readminister via blood.
    How much can it possible cost to stick a needle in extract, then administer. Yes I know there are details, but $12,000 worth? The fda will never approve a cure as cures put them and the medical world out of business. They need you to keep getting or stay sick to make money on you. Its the truth. Id go for ot but im on disability, the one thats $700 a month. I cant afford it.
    In fact i know many with copd like me, none of us can shell out that kind of money. Although. To insyrance companies i would say that $12,000 in proportion to the cost of copd is insignificant. I think insurance companie should pick a handful of poor people, preferrable ones with families. And pay for the treatment. We know it cant kill a person so its either gonna do nothing which is not gonna happen, or it gonna cure, or partilly cure. One would have to have dead lung tissue removed to use cells as a full cure. I dont bother returning the calls from the lung institute, my need still exists but ill never have $12000 grand, nor the cheaper $8 grand.

    I did argue with my doctors, pcp, cardiilogist and pulmonologist on this who finally agreed the stem cell in basically a cure for copd. There are mitigating factors but it is a cure.
    Ive never had it done but i understand the science behind it. I hope one day this can be affordable. Whats needed is a fund drive, to raise money so that those who cant afford it can get it.

  8. Phoebe

    8 months ago

    Dear Kent,

    First and foremost, we’re sorry to hear about the challenges you are facing with COPD. Like you, many people have problems breathing with COPD and often are prescribed inhalers. If you’re noticing a change in your breathing, symptoms or overall health, it’s very important to call your doctor and make an appointment. Your doctor may recommend you see a breathing and lungs specialist called a pulmonologist to help assess your condition and to help develop a treatment plan. Seeing your doctor to talk about the changes you are having in your breathing is your best option at this point. Because your doctor knows you and your health situation well, he or she will be able to best guide you. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  9. Kent Nall

    8 months ago

    IJust was diagnosed with COPD, my cardiologist found out that I was suffering with this condition and prescribed rescue inhaler, and my primary care dr. ThEnjoy prescribed my 250/50 Disks to manage my COPD, ghe only problem is I have major spinal condition that cause me to take opiates, but I’ve noticed my breathing seems like it’s getting worse, what’s the best option, need relief, having problems breathing, not a very good feeling.
    Thank you.

  10. Phoebe

    10 months ago

    Dear Rose,

    Thanks for your comment and question. Like your husband, many people living with emphysema and chronic bronchitis have repeated lung function tests to monitor how their lungs are working and the severity of their pulmonary conditions. Even though emphysema and chronic bronchitis don’t have a cure, there are a variety of treatment options available. Like your husband, many people take breathing treatments and use inhalers. Sometimes, doctors prescribe or recommend other treatments to help manage symptoms, such as anti-inflammatories, oral corticosteroids, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation and others. Some people with emphysema and chronic bronchitis have tried alternative therapies such as stem cell therapy to help them as well. We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cell therapy for emphysema and chronic bronchitis, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak with our knowledgeable medical staff. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  11. rose

    10 months ago

    My husband has emphysema and chronic bronchitis for years. A lung function test 2 weeks ago showed it had progressed to 20% lung capacity. he takes breathing treatments 4 x’s a day, symbicort 2 x’s a day and combivent up to 4 times a day. is there anything else that can be done for him?

  12. PB

    1 year ago

    Dear Susan,

    Thanks for your comment and for sharing some of your story with us. We’re sorry to hear about the pain and trouble you have experienced because of COPD. Like you, many people with COPD experience very challenging symptoms such as extreme fatigue, constant coughing and lots of pain. We recommend continuing to see your doctors regularly and working with them on your treatment plan. In addition to taking all of your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor, some people find pain relief from relaxation techniques such as listening to calming music, meditating and writing in a journal. You can also join a support group for people with COPD and other chronic lung diseases. There are even online support groups. Support groups are a good way to both learn from and be around people going through something similar to what you are going through. To learn more about support groups, click here. We hope this information is helpful, and we wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  13. Susan

    1 year ago

    I am 44 soon to be 45 in 4 months I’ve had cops for years my body stays in a lot of chronic pain when I’m in the chronic state of pain I cannot breathe good when I take my pain medication 45 minutes later I can breathe a lot easier I pray for an answer why patients with cops like me have chronic pain activity causes more pain I don’t know what to do because I need activity I can’t stand long my back hurts so bad my legs also my vision is worse and hearing Drs some Drs that is don’t know how bad the pain can be I had a pulmonary function test yrs ago and was in the red zone I know people abuse medicine but if a person is taking their medicine the way it’s supposed to be taken I know they can become dependant and addicted too but please we are suffering so much I take my pain medication as prescribed I fear my pain more than anything else I pray Drs get the knowledge they need on copd it is a very painful disease and yes emotionally too your life is not at all what it use to be simple tasks are extremely difficult .

  14. PB

    1 year ago

    Dear Roger,

    We’re sorry to hear about the trouble COPD and chronic arachnoiditis pain have been giving your wife. Because your wife’s doctor knows her, her health situation and her current treatment plan, it’s important to discuss these questions and concerns with her doctors and specialists. Her doctor will be able to best guide you and answer your questions.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  15. Roger Cavanagh

    1 year ago

    My wife was on 300 mg of ms Contin per day. This has now stopped and she is on 15 mg of methadone per day for Chronic arachnoiditis pain. She has been diagnosed with COPD and has been admitted twice to Hospital with breathing problems. The last time was very serious and she was taken of the M>S>Contin. Is there an article you can send me or professional opinion, as her Specialist in his report said she will recover in time. She was a mild smoker of 10 to 15 cigarettes a day she gave up three years ago. She is 66 years of age.
    Can you help

  16. Pingback: Lung Institute | The Dangers of Painkillers and COPD | COPD - MY JOURNEY & YOUR INFO HUB

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* All treatments performed at Lung Institute utilize autologous stem cells, meaning those derived from a patient's own body. No fetal or embryonic stem cells are utilized in Lung Institute's procedures. Lung Institute aims to improve patients' quality of life and help them breathe easier through the use of autologous stem cell therapy. To learn more about how stem cells work for lung disease, click here.

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