Respiratory emergency can happen to anyone taking opioids, but some patients are more vulnerable than others. Patients with these risk factors may be more likely to experience OIRD1-3:
First-time opioid use
If you are taking opioids for the first time, or haven't taken opioids recently.
Existing respiratory conditions
If you have a respiratory condition that impacts your ability to breathe naturally, such as sleep apnea, COPD, or asthma.
Combining opioids with other sedatives
If you combine opioids with alcohol or other sedating drugs, including sleep or anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines and gabapentinoids. Even over-the-counter antihistamines and antinausea medications can increase your risk of respiratory depression.
Chronic health conditions
If you have a medical condition that affects your organs, such as lung, liver, or heart disease, obesity, or HIV.
High opioid doses
If you take higher doses of opioids there is a higher risk of respiratory depression.4
History of substance use disorder
If you have a history of substance abuse, illicit drugs, or a reduced tolerance of opioids following a detox.
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Dunn, KM et al. Opioid prescriptions for chronic pain and overdose: a cohort study. Annals of internal medicine vol. 152,2 (2010): 85-92. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-152-2-201001190-00006.
Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2020. Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018 Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes — United States. Surveillance Special Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Published August 31, 2018.