Why Opiates Cause Constipation

Have you ever wondered why opiates cause constipation? Opiate-induced constipation is one of the most common symptoms people experience when they take opiates, whether they take them because they’re prescribed to them for the treatment of pain, or they use illicit opiates like heroin. The tremendous surge in opiate use and accompanying problems with constipation have become such an issue that new medications are cropping up specifically for the treatment of this problem.

Opiates include heroin as well as morphine and a variety of prescription pain medicines, and there are tens of millions of people estimated to abuse opioids around the world. The result of the opioid epidemic in the U.S. has wreaked havoc on communities and led to a tremendous spike in overdose deaths.

It’s not just the deaths that are of note, however. The opioid epidemic is leading to diminishing health for the people who suffer from these disorders.

So many parts of the body are impacted by the use and abuse of opiates. It starts with the brain, and some of the adverse side effects of using these substances can include everything from hallucinations to digestive issues including constipation.

So why do opiates cause constipation?

Why Opiates Cause Constipation
In general, before looking at why opiates cause constipation, it can be helpful to understand what’s meant by this term. Constipation is what happens when someone has infrequent bowel movements, or they are hard to pass.

Some of the complications that can arise from constipation include hemorrhoids, anal fissure, and fecal impaction.

Normal bowel movements for adults usually range from three per day to three per week.

Constipation isn’t just a side effect of opiates, but several other types of medicines that are used to treat pain and illnesses, but undoubtedly opiate-induced constipation is one of the biggest culprits for a lot of people.

Some of the signs of constipation from opioids include stools that are hard and dry, a lack of urges to go to the bathroom and the need to push hard when you go.

Constipation, whether it’s from opiates or not, can be uncomfortable and it can lead to serious complications.

When assessing why opiates cause constipation, one of the biggest factors to consider is the fact that how bad it is can depend on how much of the drug a person is taking. For example, if you’re not taking a large dose of opioids your constipation may be minimal, but if you’re a chronic or long-term abuser of opioids, you may have very serious problems.

Also relevant to the discussion of why opiates cause constipation is the fact that unlike many of the other side effects of these drugs such as nausea, constipation doesn’t go away over time with continued use of the medicine or drug. One of the reasons this is believed to be the case is because your gastrointestinal system doesn’t seem to be able to get used to the presence of opioids the way other parts of the body does.

As a result, the longer you take the drugs, the more likely you are to become constipated from opioids.

So what are the specific reasons why opiates cause constipation?

First, there are muscles that surround your intestines, and these muscles are responsible for pushing stools through your body. This movement has a name: peristalsis. When you take opioids, the squeezing movements of these muscles slows or even stops because of how messages are sent to the nerves in your intestines and your spine. The messages tend to get confused to the extent both ends of the stools are being squeezed, and it becomes trapped.

When you take opioids, it can also paralyze the stomach partially, which is a condition called gastroparesis. When this happens, food lingers in the digestive track for longer.

Often the GI tract is called the second brain because of the nervous network it includes, and the neurons found here can be heavily impacted by the use of opioids.

Also, when the action of your gut slows as a result of opiates, it makes it easier for intestines to absorb too much water, contributing to hard, dry stools.

What’s different about why opiates cause constipation, and any other kind of constipation is the fact that it has to do with the opioid receptors throughout your body, as well as the functionality of your brain, so taking fiber or a supplement isn’t going to remedy the problem. For someone who is wondering why opiates cause constipation and possibly experiencing these issues themselves, the only thing to do is speak with their doctor about possible options.

 

Why Opiates Cause Constipation
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