Side effect of opioids

Side effects of opioids on the respiratory system

Opioids such as morphine or fentanyl are powerful substances used to relieve pain in medical settings. However, if taken in large doses they can suppress breathing - in other words, they can lead to slow, shallow breathing that cannot support life. In the United States, where drug abuse has increased in recent decades, about 130 people die every day from an opioid overdose. Directly identifying areas of the brain and the neurons in which opioids work to breathe under stress can help create safe pain pills without this fatal effect.

How are they bad for our respiratory system?

Opioids such as morphine or fentanyl are powerful substances used to relieve pain in medical settings. However, if taken in large doses they can suppress breathing - in other words, they can lead to slow, shallow breathing that cannot support life. In the United States, where drug abuse has increased in recent decades, about 130 people die every day from an opioid overdose. Directly identifying areas of the brain and the neurons in which opioids work to breathe under stress can help create safe pain pills without this fatal effect.

What are the Common Causes?

Many types of lung injuries can occur from medication. It is usually impossible to predict who will develop lung disease in a tree.

Types of lung problems or diseases that may be caused by medicines include:

  • Damage to lung tissue (interstitial fibrosis).

  • Inflammation of the lung air sacs (pneumonitis or infiltration)

  • Lung vasculitis (inflammation of lung blood vessels).

  • The buildup of fluid between the layers of tissue that line the lungs and chest cavity (pleural effusion).

  • Drugs that cause the immune system to mistakenly attack and destroy healthy body tissue, such as drug-induced lupus erythematosus.

  • Abnormal buildup of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema)

  • Allergic reactions -- asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or eosinophilic pneumonia.

  • Granulomatous lung disease -- a type of inflammation in the lungs

  • Swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the chest area between the lungs (mediastinitis).

  • Lymph node swelling.

  • Abnormal pressure of the arteries that bring blood to the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).

  • Bleeding into the lung air sacs, called alveoli (alveolar hemorrhage).

  • Swelling and inflamed tissue in the main passages that carry air to the lungs (bronchitis).

Many medicines and substances are known to cause lung disease in some people. These include:

  • Antibiotics, such as nitrofurantoin and sulfa drugs

  • Heart medicines, such as amiodarone

  • Chemotherapy drugs such as bleomycin, cyclophosphamide, and methotrexate

  • Street drugs.

What are the Symptoms of this condition?

Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Bloody sputum

  • Chest pain

  • Cough

  • Fever

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

 

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and listen to your chest and lungs with a stethoscope. Abnormal breath sounds may be heard.

Tests that may be done include:

 
  • Bronchoscopy

  • Complete blood count with blood differential

  • Chest CT scan

  • Arterial blood gasses

  • Blood test to check for an autoimmune disorder

  • Lung biopsy (in rare cases)

  • Blood chemistry

  • Chest x-ray

  • Lung function tests

  • Thoracentesis (if pleural effusion is present)

How can we get rid of it?

The first step is to stop the drug that is causing the problem. Some treatments depend on your specific symptoms. For example, you may need oxygen until drug-induced pneumonia gets better. Anti-inflammatory drugs called corticosteroids are often used to relieve inflammation of the lungs quickly.