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Opioid-Induced Itch (Pruritus)

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Opioid-Induced Itch (Pruritus)

Opioid Use and Pruritus

We’ve often discussed the multitude of negative side effects resulting from opiate use. While side effects can range from nausea, drowsiness, and more severe complications like gastrointestinal damage and central nervous system depression, another common side effect – especially among heroin users – is pruritus or itching. Although it is not life-threatening, pruritus can significantly impact patients’ comfort and quality of life.
Pruritus can affect patients taking any opiate drug; however, it commonly occurs with intravenous opioid injections (a popular way to administer heroin) and transpires in approximately 90 percent of patients receiving intraspinal injections. Prescription painkillers, including Vicodin, morphine, and codeine, are also well known to cause itching. Users experiencing opioid-induced itch often complain of having a sensation of itching “under the skin” that can affect the entire body.
It is a common misconception that the itching users experience when taking opiate medications is due to an allergic reaction to the drug. Pruritus often feels like an allergic reaction to the user because opiates release histamine from mast cells. Histamine triggers the body’s inflammatory response to foreign pathogens, so the physiological response to opiate drugs mimics similar environmental allergic reactions that occur.
Many patients will experience opioid-induced itch when first starting an opiate medication. It is important to let your doctor know about any side effects when taking these drugs. If you have questions about symptoms you are having while taking an opiate medication, we encourage you to contact your health provider. For more information on choosing a drug detox program for yourself or a loved one, please feel free to contact our office directly.

Waismann Method® Medically Assisted Opioid Detox Treatment

Waismann Method® is a safe and proven treatment for opiate dependency that utilizes the most advanced medical techniques. The rapid opiate detoxification procedure is carried out in a full-service hospital in Southern California by board-certified anesthesiologists. At the same time, patients remain under deep sedation, so they experience minimal conscious withdrawal or suffering.

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