Skip to content

    What Are the Side Effects?

    Opioids can slow your breathing, and lower your heart rate and blood pressure, so talk to your doctor and make sure these medications are safe for you, especially if you’re taking other medications.

    There are other side effects. You can ease most of them by adjusting the dose. Or talk to your doctor about trying other medications. Taking up healthy habits, like exercise and eating better, can help, too.

    Be aware that some can affect your ability to drive.

    Common side effects include:

    What About Dependence and Tolerance?

    It’s common to develop a dependence on certain medications if you use them for a long time. If you physically depend on a medication, you’ll have withdrawal symptoms if you stop using it.

    Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

    • Restlessness
    • Muscle and bone pain
    • Insomnia
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
    • Chills with goose bumps
    • Involuntary leg movements

    Dependence often goes hand-in-hand with tolerance, which is the need to take higher doses of a medication to get the same effect. But higher doses often lead to more or dangerous side effects. Your doctor can change the opioid you take or add another kind of pain reliever to combat problems of tolerance. They can also add other methods to cut pain.

    Do I Need to Worry About Addiction?

    Don’t confuse tolerance and physical dependence with addiction, which is a brain disease marked by compulsive behavior. If you are addicted, you:

    • Can’t stop taking the drug
    • Feel anxious, moody, depressed, or uninterested in things
    • Spend all your money on drugs
    • Lie, hide, or steal because of drugs
    • Slur your speech or feel agitated
    • Neglect work, family, and your appearance

    Dependence and tolerance are common among people who take opioids, but a person taking opioids can become physically dependent without being addicted.  Learn more about the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction.

    Between 8% and 12% of people who take opioids develop an opioid use disorder.

    Opioids can give you much-needed relief, but there are risks and side effects. If you’re prescribed an opioid, make sure you stay in touch with your doctor while you take it so that you use it safely.

    WebMD Medical Reference