PURPOSE OF REVIEW: We are currently in the midst of a global opioid epidemic. Opioids affect many physiological processes, but one side effect that is not often taken into consideration is the opioid-induced alteration in blood glucose levels.
RECENT FINDINGS: This review shows that the vast majority of studies report that opioid stimulation increases blood glucose levels. In addition, plasma levels of the endogenous opioid β-endorphin rise in response to low blood glucose. In contrast, in hyperglycaemic baseline conditions such as in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), opioid stimulation lowers blood glucose levels. Furthermore, obesity itself alters sensitivity to opioids, changes opioid receptor expression and increases plasma β-endorphin levels. Thus, opioid stimulation can have various side effects on glycaemia that should be taken into consideration upon prescribing opioid-based medication, and more research is needed to unravel the interaction between obesity, glycaemia and opioid use.
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