Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant and can be chemically created in laboratories or are directly derived from the organic plant. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) explains that “opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.” Also referred to as narcotics, prescription opioid medications are used to treat persistent or severe pain. The American Society of Anesthesiologists explain that opioids are used by “people with chronic headaches and backaches, by patients recovering from surgery or experiencing severe pain associated with cancer, and by adults and children who have gotten hurt playing sports or who have been seriously injured in falls, auto accidents, or other incidents.” Opioids work in one’s body by affecting certain neurotransmitters. The drug attaches to the opioid receptors located in one’s brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in one’s body, which regulate one’s breathing as well as the perception of pleasure and pain.
Opioid medications are rarely recommended for people with heart disease. According to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences taking opioid medications can exacerbate heart disease and may:
- Increase the risk of having atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots in the heart.
- Bradycardia, which is a slow heart rate that can lead to diminished exercise tolerance.
- Low blood pressure (hypotension) and vasodilation (dilation of the blood vessels) can lead to orthostatic hypotension, which is a condition that can cause severe lightheadedness.
- Depressed function of the heart muscle that could cause heart failure.
- Increase the risk of heart disease by raising cholesterol and triglyceride levels (blood fats) which over time can lead to stroke and heart attack.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016 reported that among people receiving prescription opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, there was a notable increase in cardiovascular deaths. Individuals with heart disease should avoid opioids and when treating persistent or severe pain are likely to be prescribed other non-opioid pain medications.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long-lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment-related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcome to contact anytime us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.