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Opioid Treatment Might Have Serious Side Effects in Older COPD Patients

By jeremyc | July 18, 2016

Older adults having COPD should think twice before taking opioids for the first time to relieve symptoms of their condition. This is the underlying message of a new study which found that adult COPD patients might carry an increased risk of respiratory problems as well as death if they take a new opioid prescription.

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a respiratory condition in which the lungs have difficulty exhaling completely. It is estimated that approximately 15 million individuals in the US suffer from this disease. COPD and other chronic diseases of the lower respiratory tract are one of the leading causes of death in the US.

COPD is a progressive disease and treatment focuses on improving symptoms, like difficulty breathing, wheezing, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, and frequent infections in the respiratory tract.

Doctors prescribe opioids to patients in whom the disease is in the later stages. However, the recent study shows that there are serious risks associated with the use of opioids.

For this study, researchers perused data of over 130,000 individuals, aged 66 or more, suffering with COPD. The researchers noted that older patients who used opioids for the first time last year showed a higher risk of death due to a respiratory-related problem. These patients also required hospitalization and treatment with antibiotics more frequently than non-opioid users.

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