What to Know: Opioid-Induced Constipation

Opioid-induced constipation is a serious health condition that affects at least 40% of opioid drug users. How does it work? Many patients with chronic illnesses take opioids to reduce pain. Opioid medication acts by attaching to things called mu-receptors in the brain, blocking the sensation of pain. But when opioids bind to mu-receptors in the bowel, it can result in bloating, abdominal pain, straining, and infrequent bowel movements.

There are medications available to treat these symptoms. These drugs are considered peripherally acting mu-opioid receptor antagonists. They work by keeping opioids from binding to these mu-receptors in the bowel, thereby preventing constipation. They’re a great alternative to laxatives and other medications used to alleviate constipation.

But there’s a problem. Many people across the United States don’t have access to these drugs. And that’s where you come in.

 

What to Say: Opioid-Induced Constipation

  • I am a patient living with a chronic disease that has brought many challenges to my life – professionally and personally.
  • This disease has had an impact on my relationships, productivity, and contributions to society.
  • Fortunately, under the guidance of my physician, I have found relief through the safe and appropriate use of opioid medications. These drugs have allowed me to participate in life again.
  • However, they don’t come without side effects, the primary of which being opioid-induced constipation. It’s a topic that everyone is uncomfortable talking about, but I can tell you that from experience, it’s a very real and serious health concern. It’s the cause of extreme discomfort, acute pain, and can lead to severe complications.
  • Thankfully, there is a therapy to quell the severity of these negative side effects caused by opioids. They are called gastrointestinal (GI) motility drugs. While these therapies are fairly new, my hope is that collectively, we can seek to expand access to an incredibly important and innovative medication.
  • I ask that you please support coverage of GI motility drugs by pharmaceutical and therapeutic committees nationwide.