Why Opiates Cause Nausea
Opiates are a class of drugs that are among the most prescribed in the U.S., but unfortunately also the most abused. Opiates include prescription painkillers intended for the treatment and management of moderate to severe pain, as well as illicit drugs like heroin.
It’s estimated that tens of millions of people abuse opiates throughout the world, including not just heroin but also morphine, oxycodone, and other prescription medications. It’s estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of people addicted to heroin in the U.S. alone, and the consequences of this epidemic continue to wreak havoc across the nation.
Opiate abuse comes with a broad range of long-term and short-term adverse side effects, including nausea and vomiting. People often wonder why opiates cause nausea, whether they’re taking them for clinically prescribed purposes or recreationally.
Opiates create a sense of pleasure because they affect the brain’s reward centers. As a person continues to take an opiate, they build up a tolerance to the drug’s effects, meaning they no longer have the same response to the drug they once did. This diminished effect can push people to take larger doses and seek out cheaper, more potent opiates, such as heroin.
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When you have opiates in your bloodstream, a region in the brain’s medulla oblongata called the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) detects the presence of these chemicals. When opioid receptors in this area are triggered, nausea and vomiting are induced. Activation of the CTZ is thought to be the main pathway by which opiates cause nausea.
Additionally, opiates may trigger the vestibular system, which can cause nausea in some individuals. These medications can also slow down the entire gastrointestinal system, which may also elicit feelings of nausea.
When pondering why opiates cause nausea, there are some considerations to note. First, if people are taking opiates in a clinical setting such as a hospital, medications like dopamine antagonists, opioid antagonists or antihistamines can often be used to reduce nausea. Other medical options to reduce nausea from opiates can include adjusting doses, switching opiate medications or administering them by a different route.
Different people may experience nausea with opiates in different ways. Some people won’t experience nausea even with high doses, while others may have nausea and vomiting with only low doses of an opiate. Different opiates also have different risks of nausea.
After taking opiates for a short period, nausea may diminish or disappear altogether. However, if someone has developed a physical dependency on these drugs and they try to stop taking them, they may experience nausea and vomiting as part of opiate withdrawal.
Withdrawal can be dangerous, so a medical detox program can help you or a loved work through opiate addiction. The Recovery Village offers a continuum of care, including medical detox and inpatient and outpatient programs for opiate addiction. To learn more about available options, contact The Recovery Village today.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.