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. NSAIDs also can be used to reduce fevers, and low doses of aspirin in particular are sometimes use to reduce the risk of heart attack. However, regular aspirin therapy should not be started without first consulting with a health care professional.
Meloxicam inhibits the enzymes that create prostaglandins, which are groups of 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 for adults begins around 5-7.5 mg once per day, and it can be adjusted as needed.
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Meloxicam Side Effects
Like any medication, meloxicam may cause side effects. Possible side effects of meloxicam include:
- Stomach pain
- Sore throat
Some side effects can be serious and require immediate treatment from a health care professional. Heartburn, stomach pain, bloody vomit, vomit with a coffee-ground appearance, black tarry stools, or bloody stools can be signs of ulcers or bleeding in the stomach or intestines. Allergic reactions can also be dangerous, and may include signs such as trouble breathing, itchy or painful rash, sneezing, runny nose, or swelling.
Taking meloxicam may increase a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, or blood clots, especially for those who take this medication for a long time. Additionally, meloxicam may cause liver or kidney damage.
People who take other medications may have interactions between those medications and meloxicam. Interactions may be possible with many drugs, including some in the below classes:
- Other NSAIDs
- Anticoagulants and antiplatelets (“blood thinners”)
- Diuretics (“water pills”)
- Mood stabilizers, namely lithium
- And others
It is also possible to overdose on meloxicam. Symptoms of an overdose include:
- Reduced energy or lethargy
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
- Stomach pain
- Bloody stool
- Black tarry stool
- Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Bloody vomit
- Trouble breathing
If a person may have overdosed on meloxicam, seek 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.
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 struggle with an opioid use disorder may take meloxicam if they believe it is a opioid painkiller. The U.S. Department of Justice notes, in a 2011 report on drug trafficking in New England, that meloxicam had been seized by law enforcement officials in the area.
Many people who become addicted to prescription opioid painkillers started taking them because of 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 or from simply being in less pain. However, the FDA recommends that meloxicam should not be prescribed to patients who abuse drugs or alcohol. Drug or alcohol abuse may increase the risk of side effects from meloxicam.
Additionally, meloxicam may be used in a pattern of polydrug abuse. For example, people who suffer hangovers from binge drinking alcohol frequently may take large doses of meloxicam to relieve their hangover symptoms quickly. This may then enable them to binge drink more frequently, since there may be fewer immediate consequences. The combination of alcohol and NSAIDs is very dangerous, as it can lead to dangerous ulcers or bleeding in the stomach or intestines.
It is recommended that people who smoke should not take meloxicam. Smoking increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots, as does taking meloxicam.
However, tobacco use is common among people who abuse other substances. In fact, adults with substance use disorders or mental illness smoke cigarettes more than those with none of these disorders.
Get Help for Polydrug or Prescription Drug Abuse
Many people with substance use disorders struggle with multiple substances over the course of their lives. Meloxicam is a prescription painkiller, and although it is an NSAID and cannot cause a high, some people may misuse or abuse the substance anyway due to a misunderstanding of what it is or in an effort to alleviate pain. 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.