Opioid-Induced Constipation (OIC)

What is opioid-induced constipation (OIC)?

  • Constipation may be defined as having one or more of the following symptoms:
    • Hard, dry stools
    • Stools become less frequent
    • Excessive straining when evacuating bowels
    • Sense of incomplete bowel evacuation
    • Excessive time spent on toilet
    • Abdominal pain/bloating
    • Rectal bleeding due to anal fissures and/or hemorrhoids
  • Depending on cause, constipation may be classified as primary or secondary:
    • Primary constipation: results from colorectal defects 
    • Secondary constipation: caused by disease or intestinal obstruction. Can also be caused by medications such as opioids
  • Opioids are a major class of pain-relieving medications. One of the most common side effects of opioids is constipation, with incidence ranging from 40-80%
    • Opioids relieve pain by binding to mu-opioid receptors in the central nervous system
    • These medications also bind to mu-receptors in other parts of the body such as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
      • This can prevent the muscles in your intestines from pushing stools through the gut
      • Since waste takes longer to pass through, the intestines may absorb too much water from your stools- making them hard and dry
  • There are many effective self-care techniques to alleviate opioid-induced constipation. These may include exercise, drinking plenty of water, making dietary changes, and using a laxative
  • Patients may also talk to their doctor about reducing opioid dosage or trying a prescription medication to treat their constipation
abdominal xray

  •  Nelson, Alfred D., and Michael Camilleri. "Opioid-induced Constipation: Advances and Clinical Guidance." Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease. SAGE Publications, Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.
  • "Opioids and Constipation." Pharmacy Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.
  • "Treatment for Opioid-Induced Constipation (OIC)." Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.
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