Toll Free 1 (888) 371-5722

Opioids and Sleep Apnea

Using opioid pain medication long-term, even at therapeutic doses, leads to an increased risk of sleep apnea

When Tennessee residents abuse opioids, they put themselves at risk for a variety of health problems. While luck and conservative dosing may keep users from inducing fatal overdose, other serious problems can take a serious toll on the body over time. Opioids are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which means they can cause problems that resemble those caused by sleep apnea. Furthermore, opioid abuse can make sleep apnea worse, and it can even cause the sleep problem from the start. Seek help to address both sleep apnea and opioid abuse at the same time.

Sleep and Oxygen: The Keys to Both Problems

Sleep apnea makes patients stop breathing as they sleep. There are two major categories of this problem: central sleep apnea (CSA) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). CSA is caused by the nervous system failing to signal the body to breathe. OSA is caused by the airway getting closed off. Sometimes sleep apnea can be caused by a combination of both problems, but, whatever the cause, sleep apnea disrupts normal sleeping patterns and reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. Symptoms of this issue can include the following issues:

  • Mood problems
  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Headaches, particularly in the morning
  • Mouth dryness

Tennessee residents with this problem should consider getting professional help if they notice these issues.

Opioids and the Risk of Sleep Apnea

As CNS depressants, opioids can cause or exacerbate central sleep apnea. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine concludes that using opioid pain medication long-term, even at therapeutic doses, leads to an increased risk of sleep apnea. The higher the dose of medication used, the more severe the risk of apnea becomes. The amount of oxygen in the blood was also lower for those using opioids during both waking hours and the non-rapid eye movement phase of sleep.

This study (and others like it) reflect the concerns that medical professionals have about people with sleep apnea that also take opioids. The side effects of using much higher doses of opioids, as people do when they abuse the drug, may even be much worse than taking the drug at safe levels. However, those doses are not usually tested, because the risk is too great, so Tennessee residents with this sleep problem take their lives into their own hands every time they abuse opioids.

How Opioids Make Apnea Worse

Sleep apnea exists on a spectrum from mild to severe. A 2010 article in the journal Lung finds that even obstructive sleep apnea, with its physical rather than nervous system causes, harms chronic opioid users. First, the pauses in breathing last longer. Second, the effort used to restart breathing is reduced. This reduced effort can be particularly dangerous, especially if someone overdoses on the drug and needs to vomit, because the threat of asphyxiation may become severe if the user remains asleep.

Apnea Help for Tennessee Opioid Addicts

Opioid addicts can treat their sleep apnea. Call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline to learn more about treatment options for yourself or a Tennessee loved one. With help, you can address both problems at the same time.