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Opiates and Sleep Apnea

Opiates and Sleep Apnea

Opiates and Sleep Apnea

Around the world, opiate use and abuse is a widespread problem, and the same is true of cities like Des Moines, Iowa. According to the 2010 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), opiates were the third most common drug of abuse in Iowa for those people seeking drug treatment, just after marijuana and stimulants. Furthermore, this number does not account for opiate addicts who did not seek treatment or those who use opiates for medical purposes.

Unfortunately, many of those that use opiates are unfamiliar with associated side effects of opiate medications. This is especially true of those who take these drugs illicitly, as they likely have not received information on the drugs from their healthcare provider or pharmacist. In addition, those taking opiates medically with a written prescription may still be unaware of the side effects if their healthcare team did not discuss them at all or rushed through the conversation. Those who are unfamiliar with opiate side effects may begin to notice that they feel less well rested upon waking up or may feel tired throughout the day. These effects may be due to something called sleep apnea, which frequently occurs with opiate use.

When people think of sleep apnea, they usually think of obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a collapsed airway while sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs most often in those who are overweight or have a large neck. This excess weight presses down on the airway, causing a lapse in breathing that disrupts sleep. The use of opiates, however, causes a different type of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea. In central sleep apnea, there is a disturbance in the signals of the brain that induce respirations. The brain may not trigger respirations for periods of time, causing that individual to briefly wake up from their sleep.

Opiate-related sleep apnea can have many effects on daily living. For example, central sleep apnea may present with any or all of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Changes to the voice

This drained energy from a lack of sleep can diminish a person’s motivation to stop using opiates, especially when he or she does not realize that the opiates are actually causing the problem. Morning headache can also be a concern, as an opiate user may self-medicate that pain by taking yet another dose of the drug. This can lead to a cycle of progressively increased opiate use and abuse.

Those with obstructive sleep apnea may use a continuous positive airway pressure device, called a CPAP, to hold the airway open and reduce apnea occurrences. However, devices like these are not necessarily useful to those with central sleep apnea caused by opiates. Managing central sleep apnea can be much more difficult, as it involves altering the processes of the brain. Fortunately, if central sleep apnea is opiate-caused, treatment may involve simply reducing the dosage or discontinuing use altogether. Des Moines residents may find this to be easier for those using opiates recreationally, but may be more difficult for those taking them for medical reasons or those who are addicted to opiates.

Get Help for Opiate Addiction

Abuse of opiates can lead to serious health consequences and addiction. Therefore, if you or someone you know in Des Moines has become addicted to opiates, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about opiate addiction treatment.