A Pain Medicine News report indicates that a review of studies has documented high rates of sleep-disordered breathing in patients using chronic opioids.

Frances Chung, MBBS, and her co-authors found that the overall prevalence of central sleep apnea (CSA) was 24% among people using opioids chronically. The overall rate of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) was as high as 85%, and morphine-equivalent daily doses of 200 mg per day or higher were associated with a 92% rate of ataxic periodic breathing.

“Pain physicians and family doctors need to be more aware of the potential for serious adverse respiratory effects of opioid therapy for chronic pain, specifically during sleep,” Dr. Chung, president of the Society of Anesthesia and Sleep Medicine, and professor, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital and the University Health Network, told Pain Medicine News. “When opioids are prescribed in large doses for chronic pain, it may precipitate central apnea, obstructive apnea or ataxic periodic breathing.”

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