According to at least one study, sleep disordered breathing, including sleep apnea, was common among users of opioid pain medications for chronic pain. The study, published in the journal Pain Medicine, showed that up to three-quarters of users of opioid pain medications suffered from sleep apnea, nearly 10 times the rate in the general population.
Although many of the sufferers had obstructive sleep apnea, up to a third of them suffered from central sleep apnea. In addition, the researchers found that there was a dose-dependent effect of certain opioid pain medications on the severity of central sleep apnea. Methadone and benzodiazepines had dose-dependent relationships with the severity of central sleep apnea.
Unfortunately, pain medication and sleep apnea have a vicious cyclical relationship. Sleep apnea sufferers often see less effect from pain relievers, which may trigger them to move on to stronger opioid medication for chronic pain, which then will increase the severity of their sleep apnea. As sleep apnea worsens, people suffer an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other potentially deadly health consequences.
If you are taking chronic pain medication or if you have chronic pain that you are considering medication for, you should be evaluated for sleep apnea so that you can receive appropriate treatment to reduce the risks associated with this vicious cycle.
To learn more about sleep apnea and sleep apnea treatments, please contact a local sleep dentist today.