Meloxicam is the generic name for a high-dose, prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) . It is most often prescribed under the brand name Mobic, and it is related to other NSAIDs like ibuprofen. It is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative prescription to treat moderate to severe pain in place of opioid painkillers, which have a high risk of dependency, abuse, and addiction.
This is a popular medication in the treatment of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic conditions that cause pain due to swelling in the joints. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved meloxicam for prescription use in the US in 2000.
How Does Meloxicam Work?
NSAIDs in general work by reducing the body’s inflammation response, which is part of what causes pain from injury or illness. By reducing inflammation, pain, fever, and other symptoms are reduced enough for the person to function at a normal level.
Meloxicam blocks the enzymes that create prostaglandins, which are lipids involved in the body’s response to perceived injury, leading to inflammation and blood clotting around the wound site. Problems with prostaglandin production can lead to chronic pain issues like arthritis.
Meloxicam comes in capsule, tablet, and liquid suspensions. The average dose begins around 5-7.5 mg once per day, and it can be adjusted as needed, including to alleviate side effects.
Meloxicam Side Effects
Since meloxicam is a high-dose NSAID, there are side effects associated with taking this medication, including:
- Stomach pain
- Sore throat
Some side effects can be serious, especially symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as trouble breathing, itchy or painful rash, fever, and swelling. The medication can also cause gastric ulcers, which can be painful and may lead to internal bleeding if left untreated.
People who take this medication for a long time or at high doses are at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. Additionally, people with liver or kidney disease or damage may have trouble processing meloxicam, which could lead to further damage of the organs.
People who take medications to treat certain conditions may have interactions between those prescriptions and meloxicam. Interactions include:
- Drugs to lower potassium levels
- Other NSAIDs
- Other medications to treat arthritis
- Blood thinners
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Medications for heart conditions
- Lithium, used to treat bipolar disorder
It is also possible to overdose on meloxicam. Symptoms of an overdose include:
- Reduced energy or lethargy
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
- Vomiting and stomach pain
- Bloody stool
- Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Trouble breathing
Symptoms that feel like asthma or involve nausea and vomiting are indications that a person may have overdosed on meloxicam and needs emergency medical attention.
Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Meloxicam
Although meloxicam has some potentially dangerous side effects, like other NSAIDs, it is not able to cause euphoria, or a high, that could potentially lead to addiction or substance abuse. The drug is more likely to cause extensive damage to the stomach and intestines, leading to bleeding problems, or to cause to overdose before causing any addictive euphoric or psychotropic symptoms.
However, some people do reportedly abuse meloxicam because it is a prescription painkiller, which some people assume means that it contains an opioid. Individuals who have struggled with opioid addiction or abuse may take meloxicam if they believe it is a narcotic painkiller. The Department of Justice notes, in a report on drug diversion in New England, that meloxicam has been sold illicitly and seized.
Some people who become addicted to prescription opioid painkillers have legitimate pain issues. These people may find some relief from their pain by taking meloxicam, but if they do experience euphoria, it is a placebo effect.
The FDA recommends that doctors do not prescribe Mobic or other versions of meloxicam to patients with a history of substance abuse problems.
Additionally, meloxicam may be used in a pattern of polydrug abuse. It could be used as a painkiller when other drugs are metabolized out of the body; for example, people who suffer hangovers from binge drinking alcohol frequently may take large doses of meloxicam to relieve their hangover symptoms quickly. They are then more likely to continue drinking. The combination of alcohol and NSAIDs is very dangerous, as it can lead to serious liver damage.
People who smoke should also not take meloxicam even if they have a serious injury. Smoking increases the risk of blood clots, as does taking meloxicam.
However, tobacco use is common among people who abuse other substances, including alcohol and opioid drugs, because it is both a stimulant and relaxant. People who abuse multiple drugs at the same time put themselves at high risk of serious and dangerous side effects.
Get Help for Polydrug or Prescription Drug Abuse
People who struggle with addiction or drug abuse are more likely to struggle with multiple substances over their lives. Meloxicam is a prescription painkiller, and although it is an NSAID and cannot cause a high, some people may abuse the substance anyway due to the nature of addiction. In large doses, meloxicam can be very dangerous, especially to the gastrointestinal system. It is important to get help from a rehabilitation program as soon as possible to overcome addiction and substance abuse, especially polydrug abuse or issues with co-occurring disorders.