Do Opiates Cause Drowsiness?
Opiates are highly addictive narcotic medications that work in the brain to help relieve pain. These substances bind to the opioid receptors in the brain to depress the central nervous system. Opiates tell your body that you are not really in pain. When taken, they produce a sense of calm, relaxation, and euphoria.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says:
Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some prescription opioids are made from the plant directly, and others are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure. Opioids are often used as medicines because they contain chemicals that relax the body and can relieve pain. Prescription opioids are used mostly to treat moderate to severe pain, though some opioids can be used to treat coughing and diarrhea. Opioids can also make people feel very relaxed and “high” – which is why they are sometimes used for non-medical reasons. This can be dangerous because opioids can be highly addictive, and overdoses and death are common. Heroin is one of the world’s most dangerous opioids, and is never used as a medicine in the United States. (NIH)
Most prescription opiates are considered Schedule II Controlled Substances by the DEA. This means they have been approved for medical use in the United States, but have strict limitations, there is a high likelihood of abuse, and there is a risk of developing a severe physiological addiction to the substance. Some of the Schedule II opiates are codeine, Fentanyl, hydrocodone (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Roxicet, Roxicodone), morphine (MS Contin), methadone (Dolophine), meperidine (Demerol), and hydromorphone (Dilaudid).
Heroin, which is an illegal opioid, is considered a Schedule I drug by the DEA. Schedule I drugs aren’t approved for medical use in the United States and have a high likelihood of abuse.
There are also some Schedule III, IV, and V opioids. Schedule III, IV, and V opioids are approved for medical treatment in the United States and have a lower risk for abuse and psychological or physical dependence. Buprenorphine, which is used for opiate dependency, is a Schedule III opiate. Codeine with aspirin or Tylenol is also a Schedule III opiate. Cough medication that includes codeine is considered a Schedule V drug, and Tramadol is a Schedule IV drug.
The Side-Effects of Opiate Use Include Drowsiness
Opiates do cause drowsiness. They also have several other side-effects. Some of the most common include sedation, dizziness, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and respiratory depression. When a person gets a prescription for any opiate medication, they will notice a warning label that is attached cautioning them against operating any heavy machinery until they know how the medication is going to affect them. This is due to the sedating effect that opiates have on the brain and body.
High Dose Opioid Use Creates Fatigue
One of the most dangerous side-effects of opiates is the risk of physical dependence. Often a person will be prescribed an opiate for an illness or injury, and then due to an untreated mental illness, they will continue taking the medication as a means of self-medicating. Opiates reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and can produce euphoria, especially at high doses. Once you reach high doses of regular opiate use, side effects like drowsiness and fatigue begin to become more common.
Treatment for Mental Illness
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Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
Cayla Clark, BA
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.