5 Most Common Opiate Side Effects

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Opiates are powerful painkillers, and as a family these drugs are derived from opium. However, in addition to sharing the same genetic makeup, these drugs also tend to come with very similar sets of side effects for people that use them. While the drug affects different users in different ways, there are some side effects that are more common than others. For instance:


Perhaps the most common of opiate side effects, nausea affects a large number of people who use opiates as painkillers. It’s been suggested by studies conducted at the Stanford School of Medicine that nausea, like many other opiate side effects, is an inherited quality. The genetic predisposition actually affects the severity of these symptoms in many ways, according to scientists.

Tolerance and Addiction

Side effects of opiate

Opiate side effects can be uncomfortable.

One of the most dangerous side effects of opiate use, a patient’s tolerance and addiction to the substance can start very quickly depending on predisposition. Because opiates are so addictive, with even prescribed use often leading to uncomfortable or painful withdrawal symptoms, doctors are very, very careful when giving these drugs to patients. In fact, many doctors will sit down and go over the telltale signs of addiction with patients when discussing opiate side effects just to prepare them for what might be coming.


Dehydration is not one of the direct opiate side effects, but a decreased desire to drink water is. It’s for this reason that patients who are given morphine or other types of opiates may be carefully monitored for dehydration, or put onto an IV drip. This last option may be especially attractive for patients who are also suffering from nausea, which can make drinking fluids seem like a particularly unattractive thing to do.

Loss of Sexual Interest

While a decreased libido may not be the worst of opiate side effects, it is a very significant and noticeable one. This is true of all opiates, legal and illegal, that use tends to decrease desire, and in cases even render the act of sex much more difficult for those who do try to participate.


Perhaps the worst, and in many cases dangerous, of opiate side effects is withdrawal. Technically a series of effects that come when patients stop using these drugs, withdrawal is almost always an issue because patients are going to stop drug use sooner or later. In many cases withdrawal has to be managed to be safe.

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