What are the side effects of opioid medication for short-term pain?

Travis M. Hendry, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Opioid medication (strong medications that affect the way your brain handles pain signals) for short-term pain can cause various side effects. Your health care provider can give you details. Particularly, watch for these side effects:
  • The most common side effect is constipation. Most patients need to drink extra water and take fiber, laxatives, or stool softeners.
  • The most serious side effect is decreased breathing (also called respiratory depression), which can be deadly. Alcohol and some other medications can combine with opioids to make this problem worse. Ask those you live with to watch for decreased breathing or the inability to wake up. If this happens, they should call 911.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.