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The Dangers of Painkillers and COPD

19 Feb 2016
| Under COPD, Lung Disease, Medical, Related Conditions | Posted by | 9 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. Phoebe

    3 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

  2. Kent Nall

    3 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.

  3. Phoebe

    5 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

  4. rose

    5 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?

  5. PB

    8 months 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

  6. Susan

    8 months 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 .

  7. 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

  8. 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

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

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