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Study: People Who Take Prescription Opioids At Risk For Pneumonia


A recent study reveals that individuals who are on prescription opioids could have increased chances for developing pneumonia, especially if they have HIV. These results add to some past concerns that these prescription painkillers actual cause harm to the immune system. According to the researchers, physicians that prescribe these pills should advise patients that a pneumonia shot could reduce their risk of catching this deadly illness, in addition to quitting smoking.

A study team hailing from Yale University reviewed data from United States patients that were living without and with HIV, treated from 2000 to 2012 at the Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

The findings revealed that participants who were prescribed either high or medium doses of opioids ended up having an enhanced risk of contracting pneumonia, versus those that did take any of the prescribed painkillers. Those highest at risk were participants who were given opioids that fell into the “immunosuppressive” category, like fentanyl, morphine, and codeine.

The study also revealed that HIV patients were likelier to contract pneumonia, even if they were consuming lower doses of their opioid prescriptions, especially if they had been prescribed the immunosuppressive-type of opioid.

In addition, Consumer Healthday recently reported the team chimed in on the study, stating their finding revealed that prescribed opioids were independently linked with pneumonia cases that were in need of hospitalization.

The study team noted that opioids were generally prescribed by doctors for patients who are dealing with pain, very prevalent for those who are living with HIV. The researchers believe that this may be the first study of its kind, where the focus is on how prescribed opioids affect chances around pneumonia in those dealing with HIV.

According to the researchers, prescribed opioids can cause a person’s immune system to weaken, decreasing its ability to fight illness like pneumonia, in a variety of ways, including: mucus and respiration secretion, as well as cough suppression. The research is said to support evidence around the idea that prescribed opioids can have negative effects on the immune system. According to the team, to decrease this risk around pneumonia (and these pills), doctors should think about prescribing lower opioid doses or types of the painkiller that may not suppress a person’s immune system. The team also believes that physicians should encourage the pneumonia vaccination for those they are treating, specifically individuals with HIV.

Just another study on the harmful effects of opioid painkillers. Not only have they been found to be highly addictive, but as it seems, they may also have negative impacts on the immune system. While they are great for those individuals who suffer from extreme pain, and can help with injury recovery, it seems the negative effects might be outweighing the positives ones when it comes to this medical prescription and treatment option.