What to use for opioid-induced constipation?

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Laxative medications such as Senna, Colace, and Miralax, can all be useful to combat opioid-induced constipation. Eating small meals and drinking lots of water can be helpful as well. Diets that are rich in fiber can also help to increase stool bulk and improve constipation symptoms. 

What is opioid-induced constipation?

Opioid-induced constipation can be a frustrating, chronic problem for patients on opioids and sometimes for patients on Suboxone, but to a lesser extent. Opioid medications bind to receptors all over the body, not just the brain. This means they also bind to opioid receptors in the stomach and small intestines. When they bind to receptors in our gastrointestinal tract, they can cause less motility/movement of the smooth muscle that normally transports food through our gastrointestinal tract, leading to constipation. 

Suboxone is a partial opioid and so it too can cause constipation, although often to a lesser extent than a full opioid.

Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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