Why Do Opiates Make You Itchy? - Garden State Treatment Center

Opiate narcotic pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine can be extremely useful for treating moderate or severe pain. However, there are many downsides to utilizing such potent medications – even though they are generally effective. The most widely recognized downside is the habit-forming nature of these medications. Even when taken exactly as prescribed, medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone can result in physical and psychological dependence in a relatively short period.

Opiate Addiction and The Side Effects

Aside from the risk of addiction, it is estimated that close to 80 percent of all individuals who are using an opiate narcotic medication experience at least one side effect during their treatment course. Some additional physical side effects include:

  • Dry mouth and dehydration
  • Profuse sweating
  • Weight gain
  • A loss of appetite can lead to weight loss
  • Excessively dry skin
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessively itchy skin

These are not the side effects associated with opiate abuse – these are side effects that any individual prescribed an opiate painkiller is liable to experience. In addition to these physical side effects, many behavioral and psychological side effects can occur. However, the physical side effects are generally more prevalent when a medical professional takes the medication as prescribed. Out of all physical side effects, one of the most disruptive is excessively itchy skin.

Why Do Opiates Make You Itchy?

Why Do Opiates Make You Itch?

What is in opiates that makes the skin itch severely, and what can be done to prevent this side effect? New data published in the Natural Chemical Biology journal suggests that some opioids can trigger an immune system response that affects one of the significant receptor proteins on mast cell surfaces. Mast cells are an essential part of the immune system, and they respond to specific inflammatory agents – like histamine – causing what appears to be an allergic reaction.

While it is still not well understood why some opiate narcotics lead to intense itching, it is known that some people have a more intense physical reaction than others. If you have been prescribed an opiate painkiller like codeine or morphine and you experience severe itching after taking the medication, it is a good idea to contact your healthcare provider immediately. There are many safe alternatives for the effective treatment of moderate or severe pain.

How do I stop the itching from opiates?

Researchers at Washington University report that nalfurafine hydrochloride, branded as Remitch, can provide relief from the intense itching that can be a side effect of opioid therapy.

What are alternatives to opioids?

  • Therapies: Acupuncture. Cold and heat. Exercise and movement. Massages. Occupational Therapy. Physical Therapy. …
  • Medications: Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) Anesthetics. Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (e.g., Aspirin, Ibuprofen)

Symptoms of Opiate Abuse Include Itching

In some cases, an individual will continue to take an opiate medication despite uncomfortable physical side effects like itchy skin. If this is the case, it might be because an opioid abuse disorder is present. If you believe that you or someone you love has been struggling with an opiate abuse disorder, there are several telltale symptoms to keep an eye out for, including:

  • Intense psychological cravings
  • Continued use of opiate medications despite personal consequences about relationships, finances, or legal issues
  • The building of a physical tolerance
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when opiate use is stopped suddenly
  • Physical symptoms like restricted pupils, excessive sweating, shallow breathing, and slurred speech
  • Nausea, vomiting, and chronic constipation
  • A lack of interest in hobbies and activities that were previously enjoyed
  • More time spent isolated from friends and family members

If you believe that you or someone you love has struggled with an opiate abuse disorder, reaching out for professional help is always necessary. Opiate addiction is a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease, and it cannot be effectively overcome without help.

Garden State Treatment Center and Opiate Abuse Recovery 

At Garden State Treatment Center, we provide men and women of all ages throughout New Jersey and all surrounding areas with a comprehensive program of opiate addiction recovery. Please feel free to reach out to us today for more information on a recovery program.


  • Why do Opiates make you itch?
  • Are Opiates safe to take if it makes you itch?
  • What is nalfurafine?
  • What are some safe medications that will relieve my pain without the discomfort of itching?

Published on: 2021-01-16
Updated on: 2024-05-24