Physiological Response to Opioids

Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Mar;62(1):11-21. doi: 10.1097/GRF.0000000000000421.


The clinical setting in which women's health physicians practice, whether as generalist, obstetricians and gynecologists, or subspecialists, dictates our frequent clinical interaction with "pain." Opioid-containing medications are frequently prescribed within our specialty as a means of immediate pain relief. Opioid-containing medication causes a deep physiological alteration of several systems resulting in potential harm to acute and chronic opioid users. This article includes a thorough system-based review of opioid-containing medications on physiological systems. Women's health providers should have an in-depth understanding of such reverberations on patients' wellbeing to maintain the safest level of care. A solid grasp of physiological repercussions of opioid use would encourage physicians to seek alternative treatment options. Such practice is essential in curbing the opioid epidemic our patients are facing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / poisoning
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects
  • Endocrine System / drug effects
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Opioid Peptides / physiology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Pain / classification*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Receptors, Opioid / agonists*
  • Respiratory System / drug effects
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Women's Health


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Opioid Peptides
  • Receptors, Opioid