Slowed or stopped breathing can happen to anyone taking prescription opioids.
Anyone who takes opioids experiences some level of slowed or stopped breathing—even when taking them as prescribed.1,2 That’s because opioids have a sedative effect that suppresses your body’s natural instinct to breathe. This side effect is more severe for some people, and it's hard to predict who may be at greater risk.
Know the factors that increase your risk of slowed or stopped breathing.
Anyone taking opioid painkillers is vulnerable to side effects. What's more, the risk increases if:6-8
- You are taking opioids for the first time
- You have a respiratory condition such as sleep apnea, COPD, asthma, or some chronic conditions
- You combine opioids with alcohol or other sedating drugs, such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medicine
- You take high opiod doses (>50 MME)
- You have a history of addiction
30% of surveyed patients who are prescribed opioids don’t know it.5
Opioids go by many names, and they aren’t always labeled as an opioid on the pharmacy bottle. It’s possible that you or a loved one could be taking them without even knowing.
Did you know?
Each of these medications is categorized as an opioid:
“I had no idea. You can die when you’re taking these.”
Parker Stewart, Yvonne’s son, was a healthy 21- year old who underwent a routine tonsillectomy, and stopped breathing after taking only half his prescribed dose of opioid painkillers. He died in his sleep while his wife slept beside him.SHARE YOUR STORY
It’s important to remember…
- 1 Peterson C et al. Am J Prev Med. 2019;56(6):875-81.
- 2 Williams AR et al. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2019;45(1):1-10.
- 3 Prescription Opioid Data | Drug Overdose | CDC Injury Center. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Mar 2020. www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html.
- 4 Odds of Dying - Data Details. National Safety Council; Injury Facts, 4 Mar. 2021, injuryfacts.nsc.org/all-injuries/preventable-death-overview/odds-of-dying/data-details.
- 5 National Safety Council. Prescription opioid pain killer public opinion poll. October 2017.
- 6 Opioid Overdose.” World Health Organization, 28 Aug. 2020, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/opioid-overdose.
- 7 Gupta K et al. Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2018;31(1):110-119.
- 8 Dunn KM et al. Annals of internal medicine. 2019;152(2):85-92.
- 9 Public Health Ontario. Opioid Mortality Surveillance. ODPRN. June 2019. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/O/2019/opioid-mortality-surveillance-report.pdf.
- 10 Bolden N et al. Anesth Analg. 2020;131(4):1032-1041.