Effects of Opioids on Diabetes

//Effects of Opioids on Diabetes

Effects of Opioids on Diabetes

Watch This Report On The Relationship Between Opioids And Diabetes

People with diabetes are often plagued by acute and chronic pain.

According to an article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, four out of ten adults with Type 2 diabetes suffer from pain. Whether because of diabetic neuropathy, osteoarthritis, or from the effects of obesity, patients often turn to opioids for pain relief.

While opioid medications may provide some measure of relief, they’re also associated with significant health risks, including weight gain and glycemic dysregulation. 

When it comes to behavioral problems, the use of opioids can have an immediate effect on your ability to monitor and control your diabetes. The altered perceptions of pain that make opioid medications work can also affect the monitoring of your own diabetes conditions. In an altered state, it can become difficult to recognize hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia, or diabetic ketoacidosis.

These altered perceptions themselves can also impact a normal health routine. When not in the right mind, it increases the risk of missing insulin injections that can then lead to hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia, or diabetic ketoacidosis. In addition, these altered perceptions from opioid use can influence your own healthy eating habits, making it more difficult to control your blood glucose levels and the ability to manage your diabetes.

In a study published in the Journal of Opioid Management, researchers found that certain types of opioids may even induce a taste preference for sweet foods. This preference and acting upon it can, of course, lead to issues with diabetes control and management. It can also lead to weight gain and tooth decay.

If you are on opioids for pain, discuss alternative forms of treatment with your doctor. While opioids provide pain relief, they normally don’t treat the underlying condition causing the pain. 

For those who need to be on opioids, there are steps you can take to reduce the risks of their use as a diabetes patient. When taking them, always be aware of their effect on your memory and perception. Make it a priority to keep up with your normal routine, taking your insulin and testing your blood glucose levels regularly. Even though you may not feel like it when on opioids, follow your same eating habits and avoid sugary foods.

If you have diabetes and are taking opioids, try to be with people who know that you have diabetes and, further, can recognize the symptoms of hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia, or diabetic ketoacidosis. They can act and provide help if you fail to recognize oncoming symptoms.

Do you suffer from diabetes? Do you take prescription opioid medications?

Image by kev-shine via Flickr


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By | 2016-11-17T11:02:14-07:00 October 30th, 2013|Tags: , , , , |9 Comments

About the Author:

Pain Doctor
Pain Doctor was created with one mission in mind: help and educate people about their pain conditions, treatment options and find a doctor who can help end their pain issues.


  1. Avatar
    Gorobei March 26, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    As someone who has taken moderate opioids (fentanyl patch [50ug/hr] plus as-needed oxycodone [15mg every 4-6 hrs as needed]) since about 2003 (for about 12 years) for chronic post-operative chest pain since 2002 when I had a partial pancreatectomy and total splenectomy to deal with a pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma, my question has always been, at what point do I trade off some of the functionality granted by the opioids for the reduction in bad side effects probably caused by or at least related to the opioids, of which there are many bad effects, including sleep problems resulting in overall sleep deprivation, below-normal testosterone resulting in decreased strength and muscle mass, fatigue, the onset and/or worsening of Type II diabetes, and some cognitive declines and premature anatomical cerebral aging. I’ve tried many drugs for pain relief along with other techniques such as EMDR, acupuncture, and hypnosis, but the drugs didn’t work and the other techniques generally don’t work either. I know I am slowly poisoning myself, but without the opioids, I couldn’t get much living done, and I don’t think I would enjoy day-to-day life either. I periodically try to see what life would be like without the opioids, but eventually the pain makes me go back to them, although I’m currently thinking about getting off of them again to see if anything has changed. I have not had to increase the dosages of opioids for many years, but getting off of them would mean having to live with the persistent pain, though I can get some relief from severe pain by resting/ sleeping in a supine position, which is what I do when I want to limit my opioid intake. Any new ideas would be welcome!

    • Avatar
      Pain Doctor April 2, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Hi Gorobei — Thank you for leaving a comment here and sharing your story. Living with a chronic pain condition is difficult, especially so when you have to decide between quality-of-life and opioid reduction. Too often there’s not a clear cut answer. We’re sorry you have to go through it.

      As for new ideas, we encourage you to keep reading the blog — we share lifestyle interventions, new research, and information about different therapies three times a week. Hopefully you’ll find some of these strategies helpful in your search for less pain. You can also review our “health” specific posts by using the tag: https://paindoctor.com/tag/health/.

      While we try to share as much as we can here, there’s no substitute for working closely with a pain management team who specializes in chronic pain. If you haven’t already found one in your area, you can find a directory of them at https://paindoctor.com/find-your-pain-doctor/. We hope you’ll be able to find less pain with less medication by working closely with one of them! You can also find a community of support and understanding at https://www.facebook.com/groups/11864244228/. We encourage you to find support–whether online or in your local community–for a place to turn for advice, comfort, and support.

  2. Avatar
    Edward True August 22, 2017 at 10:19 am

    I’ve been on opiates for 30 years due to nerve pain from a seriously damaged spine. I have tried other pain control medications but only opiates block my spinal and nerve-radiated (both legs) pain sufficiently to keep me mobile. I just got a confirmation of an A1-c level of 6.5 (stable over 120 days) which puts me at risk of developing diabetes.
    Here’s the problem: I have always had a high A1-c level – as far back as high school, in fact it has always drifted around the 6.0 level. Could my use of opiates for pain management have caused a false “high” reading? I really don’t want to add Diabetes control to all the other medical things I have to do just to function and to be able to walk. Additionally, 30 years (1987-present) of opiate use would be very difficult to discontinue since my body has acclimated to having them in my system.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor August 28, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Hi Edward — Unfortunately, we can’t answer specific medical questions on the blog. We recommend reaching out to a pain specialist near you for help. Thanks!

  3. Avatar
    Marcus Welby MD September 23, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    In reviewing old medical records which are five years old, I found that one elderly obese patient of mine, whom I treated for chronic intractable pain for years with relatively high dose opioids expired. He was on a home health service. Though functional for years, one day he was unable to swallow his pain medications due to nausea and vomiting.which went on for two days, depriving him of his opioids. He was transferred to the ER where diabetic ketoacidosis was diagnosed. He had tachycardia, and was unresponsive. Fluids were administered. The cardiologist reported T wave abnormalities on the inferior leads. He died when the physicians w/drew his Bpap support. No opioids were administered. Did the hospitalists make a mistake by not administering opioids. Did opioid deprivation aggravate the tachycardia? Your thoughts appreciated.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor October 2, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      Hi Marcus — Unfortunately we can’t answer specific health questions online. We recommend reaching out to a local pain specialist or your professional resources for help.

  4. Avatar
    Dawn November 9, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    Well in my opinion they should have given him opiods. I have lupus and now diabetes. If i dont take my pain meds my pulse goes thru the roof. People need to be more understanding about thus meas

  5. Avatar
    David A Kassin December 18, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Was on hydrocodone for 15 years and decided to stop taking it. My pain got so bad at first I almost went back to it. After 6 months the pain simply went away and I can so many more things now. The only drawback is that I developed dementia a couple years before I quit. Now I don’t even like to take acetaminophen when I have a bad day. It seemed like the hydrocodone made me worse until I walked away from it. Not pain free but I have my mind back and am enjoying my life now.

  6. Avatar
    Mike DeSeve March 31, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    I have a bad reaction to opiods . I take opiods for pain (several bad disks in low back an neck). I have had high sugar numbers up to 600 when I was taking oxycontin 30mg 6 a day. <– this was prescribed by doctor at pain clinic. Then I tried oxycodone 30's 6 a day and numbers were high between 250 and 400. I have cut back to 6 oxycodone 20's per day and numbers went back to normal about 130 to 160 every day and my a1c dropped from 10 to 7.5 and lowering. I had seen a blood specialist in Florida and he said my case is to rare for a study and thus there is no name for what I have but he has seen it before and it is about 1 case in 50,000. There is not enough people in 1 location to do a study. I have a lot of trouble with doctors that want to treat me for type 2 and they don't believe this problem I have. Any pill form sugar pill makes me conk out/sleep. I have tried insulin but every time i take it my number is higher day by day like my number could be 250 and take a shot and next day 350 and take a shot according to scale and next day 450 and next 500 or 600 and it keeps going up so insulin is not an answer plus insulin makes my mind wander. I cannot take any artificial sugar control without massive side effects like incoherent. It seems like it is not the oxy that causes my sugar numbers to rise but it seems like it is an additive they use to make the oxy's.

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