If you suffer from any kind of chronic pain, most likely you’re taking specific a type of painkiller.
But a new study reveals these specific painkillers can lead to sleeplessness and even sleep apnea. Which then again worsens your pain so you need more of these painkillers.
One of the standard treatments for chronic pain is an opioid prescription. These drugs include codeine (the weakest one), morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl.
In addition to the myriad digestive consequences opioids cause, another terrible condition resulting from chronic opioid use is obstructive sleep apnea.
If this weren’t enough, it’s frequently accompanied by poor sleep and daytime fatigue.
From previous studies on healthy people, it seems as if poor sleep causes an increase in pain sensitivity. Luckily for them, their pain threshold can be returned to normal by restoring their good quality sleep.
If poor sleep quality causes people in chronic pain to be more sensitive to pain too, this places them on a downward spiral:
1. They are in pain, for which they use opioids.
2. The opioids lead them to develop sleep apnea and thereby destroy their ability to get good quality sleep.
3. The worse they sleep, the more pain they experience and the more opioids they use.
4. The more opioids they use, the worse their sleep apnea and sleep quality become.
5. The worse their sleep quality gets, the more pain they feel and the more opioids they want to use, and so on.
Researchers recently published an article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that identified American military veterans as a group especially at risk because of the chronic pain from which they suffer.
They analyzed data collected of veterans who presented at the Western New York Healthcare System sleep clinic between 2012 and 2014 with chronic pain, opioid prescriptions, and sleep apnea.
They then compared the pain score each of these patients received before a course of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) with the scores they received afterwards.
In addition, they checked whether any of these veterans reduced or dropped their opioid consumption after the CPAP.
Regrettably, the CPAP reduced neither the pain nor the opioid use, even though the veterans were sleeping better.
This means that, while improving sleep, CPAP cannot improve the pain threshold of people with chronic pain who are taking opioids.
Another alarming finding was the discovery that opioid-dependent veterans did not comply with the CPAP as well as the non-opioid takers did, explaining why they benefited from it much less.
These conclusions suggest that it is a bad idea to take chronic opioids, as they may cause sleep apnea.