Pain medications like ibuprofen and Advil have become so common around the house that not seeing a bottle of one in the medicine cabinet is a rarity.
These drugs are often thought of to be especially safe and helpful in treating everyday pain.
One would think, then, that prescription drugs in the same category (like meloxicam) are just as risk-free.
But like so many other seemingly harmless prescription drugs, meloxicam can be dangerous and even deadly when it becomes a substance of abuse.
This guide to meloxicam abuse, addiction, and treatment takes a much closer look at this medication and the potential harm that it can and does cause.
Meloxicam is a prescription medication that helps reduce inflammation. It’s used to treat three conditions in particular:
When taken properly, it can reduce some pretty uncomfortable effects that can occur with these diseases including inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and joint pain.
It usually comes in a capsule/tablet or may also be prescribed as an oral suspension (liquid). Doses are usually around 5-7.5 mg a day.
It’s marketed under the brand names Mobic and Vivlodex (less common).
Meloxicam is what’s known as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID. A few other drugs that fall under this category include over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, Celebrex, and Aleve.
NSAIDs work like this…
When the body experiences some sort of damage, it uses special enzymes called cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes to create special chemicals. These chemicals (called prostaglandins) cause inflammation around the damaged area. This inflammation leads to increased blood flow, dilated blood vessels, and a flood of white blood cells in the damaged area.
Have a look at the video below for an even better idea of how the body responds to damage.
With more blood flow and more white blood cells (part of the body’s immune response), the body can begin healing the damage without it getting infected or festering.
However, not all inflammation is helpful. And sometimes, low-grade inflammation can occur all over the body for weeks, months, or years at a time without an underlying cause. Effectively, the body’s immune system gets confused and ends up attacking itself.
This type of inflammation can cause diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
What NSAIDs do is they help reduce inflammation by actually blocking the COX enzymes from creating prostaglandins. And without this special chemical, the body is unable to create as much inflammation and pain.
Like most prescription drugs, meloxicam can often come with a host of side effects. These side effects may be uncomfortable on their own. And when the drug is abused, they may become even more severe.
Below are some of the most common side effects of using or abusing meloxicam.
Other side effects may actually be an indication that there’s a problem which might be serious. If you experience any of the side effects below, be sure to call a doctor or medical professional immediately.
By itself, no.
Meloxicam is an inflammation reducer. And unlike other drugs used to treat pain like morphine or Percocet, it doesn’t interact in the same way with the dopamine system – the area of the brain that creates pleasure, euphoria, and the “high” that many drug users are seeking.
That being said, it is a medical-grade pain reliever. And patients using and/or abusing it will likely feel relief from pain as a result. This, of course, can end up being a source of pleasure.
On top of that, some people abusing this drug may be under the impression that it is similar to prescription opioids simply because it is also a painkiller. This false impression may lead to a placebo effect where a high is simply imagined.
Prescription drugs can have a variety of side effects when combined with other drugs, foods, or diseases. And meloxicam is no different.
Some interactions with this drug can only have mild effects like a slightly higher risk of NSAID toxicity. Other effects are more deadly, like severe hemorrhaging (bleeding), kidney failure, ulcers, and even death.
That’s why it’s so important to be as honest and accurate as possible with the information you’re providing your doctor. On top of that, it’s also important not to abuse meloxicam because without the guidance of a medical professional, doing so can very easily lead to experiencing these dangerous interactions.
Below are just a few drug interactions possible with meloxicam as listed by WebMD. This is not a comprehensive list. Always check with a medical professional before mixing drugs of any kind.
Certain diseases and other pre-existing conditions can cause problems when combined with meloxicam, especially when the drug is abused. Below are some of the most notable ones to watch out for.
*Not a comprehensive list
Meloxicam may also cause problems when combined with two other conditions in particular.
The first is alcohol. The ethanol in alcoholic drinks can increase the risk of stomach bleeding, sometimes to a serious degree. The combination of these chemicals can lead to physical damage to the gastrointestinal tract which can cause blood loss. And on top of that, they may also inhibit a specific type of compound called prostaglandins – a change that can make the lining of the GI tract weaker.
The second condition is hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure. When someone has hypertension and takes NSAIDs like meloxicam, it can lead to a high risk of fluid retention and edema (a.k.a. swelling). This is caused by leaking of fluids from the small blood vessels into nearby tissues. Complications that can occur as a result include poor circulation, scarring, and increased risk of infection.
It’s also been shown that this drug can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. So patients with heart problems or who smoke may not want to use this drug in particular.
Just like any other drug on the market, meloxicam can in fact be abused.
And in addition to putting users at risk of a future meloxicam addiction, abusing this prescription drug can also lead to a potentially fatal overdose.
One of the most serious side effects of abusing meloxicam is the risk of overdose.
Just like most other prescription drugs, the body can only handle so much of meloxicam at once. And when it’s taken in especially high doses or more often than a doctor advises, it can cause very real health problems – some of which can be fatal.
Some of the most common signs of a meloxicam overdose include:
If you notice these signs of a meloxicam overdose, it’s vital to get help immediately in one of two ways.
The specialists on the other end of the line will be able to advise you on what to do next. They may even send an ambulance to your location if needed.
In order to ensure the absolute best outcome, it’s important to provide these specialists with the most accurate information possible. Do not lie about how much was taken, whether it was used alongside other drugs or alcohol, or if the victim didn’t have a legitimate prescription.
Withholding this (or any) information can have fatal consequences.
One of the most common ways that meloxicam is abused is by using it alongside other drugs. This is what’s known as polydrug abuse. And it adds a whole new level of harm to substance abuse.
The biggest polydrug abuse issue with drugs like Mobic also involves alcohol. For some, meloxicam is a particularly effective hangover treatment. It may not be prescribed for this specifically (for obvious reasons), but the inflammation-reducing properties of it can help eliminate headaches and muscle pains that may frequently accompany the morning after a long night drinking.
There are a few significant risks associated with abusing meloxicam in this way. First, doing so can pave the way towards a serious alcohol use disorder. Hangovers are actually natural deterrents for drinking regularly. And by making them less uncomfortable, individuals may be more likely to pick up the bottle again even sooner.
And second, mixing alcohol with nearly any drug can lead to serious complications. And with meloxicam, it's no different. Drinking with Mobic in your system can make severe bleeding and ulcers far more likely.
Plus, adding alcohol into any situation boosts the chances of using even more types of drugs, all of which can carry their own dangerous interactions with meloxicam.
Prescription opioids have been in the public spotlight for quite some time because of the ever-worsening opioid epidemic.
In the early 1990s, physicians began prescribing these drugs at an alarming rate since their addictive potential wasn’t fully understood yet. Once legislators and medical experts saw the explosive rate of addiction behind these drugs, prescribing guidelines tightened.
But by then, millions of people were already hooked. And in order to feed their cravings, many quickly turned to a more readily available alternative kind of opioid – heroin. And once illicitly-manufactured fentanyl started being mixed into this street drug, the death rates spiraled out of control.
Today, around 130 Americans die every single day from an opioid overdose.
But how does meloxicam factor in?
Well, due to the notoriety of and near-constant media attention on opioids, these drugs have become synonymous with “prescription painkillers.” However, opioids are not the only type of prescription painkiller available. Meloxicam is just one example of a non-opioid prescription painkiller.
And some people may abuse it thinking they’ve gotten their hands on a euphoria-inducing opioid when in reality they haven’t. This, of course, can cause serious problems regarding drug interactions since mixing NSAIDs like Mobic with other medications can in fact be deadly.
Opioids have long been held as some of the best possible drugs for treating pain. That’s because opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin actually change the way the brain receives pain signals on a cellular level.
Have a look below for more info on how these drugs work.
But a surprising amount of new evidence has come out recently showing that NSAIDs like meloxicam may actually be just as effective at treating certain kinds of pain than opioids.
A recent study from 2018, for example, looked at more than 460 different published studies involving the two drugs and dental pain. And researchers found that a combination of 400 mg of ibuprofen and 1,000 mg of acetaminophen actually outperformed any opioid medications.
Another study from 2018 looked at 240 different patients with chronic knee, back, or hip pain and found that patients taking opioids fared no better than those on opioid alternatives like NSAIDs.
These new findings are offering hope for patients suffering from serious pain disorders because it means that they may not actually have to resort to addictive drugs like opioids to live a pain-free life.
However, just because NSAIDs aren’t as addictive as opioids doesn’t mean they don’t have their own unique set of risks.
The answer here is a bit of yes and a bit of no.
On the one hand, NSAIDs like Mobic don’t produce the same high that other addictive drugs do. And theoretically, that means that patients won’t be as likely to abuse it since they won’t be able to achieve the euphoria they’re looking for.
So, in that sense, meloxicam is not addictive.
However, just because it doesn’t create euphoria doesn’t mean that people can’t get hooked on it for other reasons. For example, someone abusing meloxicam may take it to treat conditions that it wasn’t prescribed for, such as hangovers. And if these patterns of abuse become so ingrained in day-to-day life, it’s likely that someone will actually crave the drug in certain situations when it’s been removed entirely.
A better way to think of it might be that meloxicam does not cause physical dependency. However, it may become such an enormous part of someone’s life that it could result in psychological dependency.
And just like any other addiction, that can lead to serious problems.
Treating a meloxicam abuse problem will depend entirely on the individual, the severity of the problem, and the resources they have at hand.
However, in most cases treating this type of substance use disorder is far easier than with other drugs like opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol. But even still, a professional approach to treatment will likely follow three particular phases, each critical to long-term success.
The first stage of any addiction treatment program is detoxification. This phase deals specifically with the initial few days and weeks of quitting. And its main focus is on treating withdrawal symptoms and keeping patients safe.
Since meloxicam doesn’t cause physical dependency, though, these withdrawals will likely be limited. Physical withdrawal symptoms like muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea usually won’t be involved.
That being said, patients may still experience psychological withdrawals. These will probably be highly specific to the patient but may include:
A professional detox program will help keep patients from relapsing when times get tough. And they can also ensure that any dangerous complications that may pop up are preventing or treated appropriately.
The second stage of treatment is rehabilitation. And it is just as important as detoxification. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse points out that without rehab, detox alone has no significant impact on long-term substance abuse at all.
By using one-on-one counseling, group talk, and behavioral therapies, these programs give patients the tools they need to fight off intense cravings, avoid overpowering triggers, and adopt healthy new life strategies in place of substance abuse.
These programs are usually broken down into three different types.
Aftercare is the final step of a well-crafted treatment plan. Its main goal is to reinforce the lessons learned during rehabilitation so that patients will be far less likely to relapse back into old bad habits again.
Aftercare programs can come in a couple of different forms. They might be education classes held at a community center. Or they could be local support groups where recovering addicts can share their experiences and their concerns. Or they could be step-down programs that patients attend after graduating from an inpatient treatment program.
There is never a single type of program that’s right for absolutely everyone. And an aftercare approach might work great for one person but not so much for another. It simply depends.
Working with a professional program is a great way to find out which approach is right for you or your loved one.
Mobic may be non-habit-forming on a chemical level. And physicians may use this drug to treat pain specifically because it doesn’t have the same potential for abuse as other prescription painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin.
But even still, that doesn’t mean that abusing meloxicam is safe.
In fact, doing so can cause a range of problems, from uncomfortable side effects and harmful drug interaction even to a potentially fatal overdose. And on top of that, overcoming a meloxicam abuse problem may still require a professional treatment program just like any other drug.
If you or your loved one is struggling with a meloxicam abuse problem, Northpoint Washington in Edmonds is here to help.
Whether it’s drug detox or rehabilitation you’re looking for, our modern yet comfortable facility offers the highest-quality treatment options in the Pacific Northwest. Programs are individually tailored to meet the needs of each patient, our staff-to-patient ratio is one of the highest in the areas, and we’re even nationally accredited by the Joint Commission.
Meloxicam may seem like a harmless drug. But it can cause serious and life-threatening problems when abused. And at Northpoint Washington, we’d love to help you or your loved one stop using it for good.