How is tolerance defined in opioid abuse?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: David W Dixon, DO; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Tolerance is the need for increasing doses of medication to achieve the initial effect of the drug. Tolerance to the analgesic and euphoriant effects and unwanted adverse effects, such as respiratory depression, sedation, and nausea, may develop. However, little tolerance develops to constipation and meiosis. Opioid tolerance usually does not develop in patients with cancer who are being treated for pain; the need for increasing doses in those patients typically is due to an increasing level of pain. No consistent relationship between intrinsic efficacy and tolerance exists.

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