Although the dangers of opioid painkillers are well-known and documented, there are few alternative options that provide effective relief from chronic or severe pain. For those who are in recovery from substance use disorder, managing pain without opioid drugs may sometimes be difficult. Meloxicam is one drug that has been considered as a possible alternative to opioids and it shows promise. However, meloxicam and other NSAIDs also come with their own set of risks.
What is Meloxicam?
Meloxicam is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is used to treat pain and inflammation.1 It works to reduce pain by decreasing the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that contribute to inflammation, especially within the joints of the body.
Other drugs that are also NSAIDs include:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin)
- Indomethacin (Indocin)
- Nabumetone (Relafen)
Meloxicam is sold under the brand name Mobic, which is used to treat arthritis. It is recommended that the lowest possible effective dose is used for patients taking meloxicam, as higher doses can cause significant health problems. The average dose is 7.5 mg daily and Mobic is administered in tablet, liquid, or capsule form.
Side Effects of Meloxicam
Although meloxicam is effective in relieving pain, swelling, and tenderness caused by arthritis conditions, it does have some side effects that users should be aware of. Common side effects of meloxicam include:
- Blurred vision
- Increased blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid retention/swelling
- Liver damage/liver disease2
Some people are also highly allergic to NSAIDs, which can lead to serious reactions. Additionally, people who are at risk of heart disease may also face an increased risk of stroke or deadly heart attacks and people with kidney problems are at risk for kidney failure and should avoid taking meloxicam.3
Meloxicam vs. Opioids: Which is Safer?
According to the CDC, more than 191 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed to American patients in 2017 and between July 2016 and September 2017, emergency department visits for opioid overdoses rose 30 percent in all parts of the U.S.4,5 More than 130 people die every day from opioid-related overdoses and in 2017 alone, 2 million people misused prescription opioid drugs for the first time.6
Due to the clear dangers and risks of prescription opioid painkillers, medical experts and scientists are searching for alternatives that are just as effective for pain relief, without the risk for dependence and addiction. Unfortunately, this process isn’t as easy as it sounds. Every person has a different threshold for pain so certain drugs may work well for some, but not others. Additionally, some alternative drugs work to relieve pain, but they cause serious side effects.
Although opioid drugs like hydrocodone, morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone and others are touted as the most potent prescription painkillers available, one 2018 study published in JAMA found that they were no more effective than non-opioid drugs in treating moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis over a 12-month span.7
Since some scientific studies have shown meloxicam to be just as effective for certain types of pain relief, there is a possibility that it may be a better treatment method than opioid medication. Although a person could still abuse meloxicam and become psychologically dependent, the risk of dependence is less severe than that of opioids.
Will Meloxicam Get You High?
While it is possible to abuse meloxicam by taking larger doses or taking it without a medical need for it, it will not produce a euphoric high as prescription opioids do. There is, however, a risk for overdose if a person takes too much meloxicam or takes it too quickly.
Is Meloxicam Addictive?
Meloxicam is not considered physically addictive, although a person may become psychologically addicted to the pain relief it provides. Regardless, the FDA discourages doctors from prescribing meloxicam to people with a history of substance use disorder or to those who have previously abused prescription opioid painkillers.3
Despite the fact that meloxicam will not produce a euphoric high, some people still abuse it in the hopes of achieving a high that is similar to that of opioid painkillers. This is due to the common misconception that meloxicam is a narcotic when it is really an NSAID.
Unfortunately, if a person is not experiencing physical pain and they take meloxicam, they may suffer damage to the liver and kidneys. The medication may also cause their blood to thin. The risk of overdose is also much higher if a person abuses meloxicam with other NSAIDs like ibuprofen.8
The combination of meloxicam and alcohol is also highly dangerous and may result in jaundice, internal bleeding of the stomach, or liver failure.8 As a result, there is no benefit to abusing meloxicam recreationally.
Meloxicam comes with its own set of risks and side effects, but it may be a safer alternative to opioid painkillers without as much potential for abuse and addiction.
Treatment for Meloxicam Abuse
Abusing meloxicam recreationally might be a sign of a deeper problem, as the drug does not provide any euphoric side effects. A drug rehab program can provide life skills, peer support, and behavioral therapy to address co-occurring disorders and the root causes of your addiction, so you can learn how to live sober without relying on drugs to cope with life circumstances.
If you or a loved one is struggling with meloxicam abuse or is addicted to prescription medication, Nova Recovery Center can help. Call today to speak with a Nova admissions representative. We have immediate openings and accept several different health insurance providers.