Slowed or stopped breathing can happen to anyone taking opioids.

Anyone who takes opioids experiences some level of slowed or stopped breathing—even when taking the dose prescribed by a healthcare provider.1 That’s because opioids have a sedative effect that suppresses your body’s natural instinct to breathe. This effect is more severe for some people, and it’s hard to predict who may be at greater risk.

Anyone taking opioid painkillers is vulnerable to respiratory side effects. What’s more, your risk is increased by certain factors:2-5

  • Respiratory condition(s) such as sleep apnea
  • Combining opioids with alcohol and/or other substances or medicines that suppress respiratory function, such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medication
  • Older age (65+)
  • Taking high prescribed doses (>50 MME)
  • Medical conditions such as HIV, liver or lung diseases, or mental health conditions
  • Opioid use disorder or a history of addiction
  • Taking opioids for nonmedical purposes
  • Taking opioids again after stopping for an extended period of time
  • Taking opioids for the first time
~50% of opioid-related deaths happen when a person is alone.6 Without immediate help, permanent brain damage or death can occur within minutes. 7

Opioids go by many names, and the word “opioid” doesn’t always appear on the label. It’s possible that you or a loved one could be taking them without even knowing.

Did you know?

Each of these medications is categorized as an opioid:


“I had no idea. You can die when you’re taking these.”
—Yvonne Gardner

Parker Stewart, Yvonne’s son, was a healthy 21-year-old who underwent a routine tonsillectomy, and stopped breathing after taking only half his prescribed dose of opioid painkillers. He died in his sleep while his wife slept beside him.

Slowed or stopped breathing can happen to anyone taking prescription opioids.1
Because of your unique physiology, the severity of your experience can be unpredictable.
It can happen in the hospital, or at home, and is most dangerous when you are alone or asleep.

Consult your healthcare provider for more information.



Masimo SafetyNet Alert