Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2017

Thesis Advisor(s)

Deborah D. McDonald

Honors Major

Allied Health Sciences


Geriatric Nursing | Medicine and Health Sciences | Nursing


Background: Many older adults suffer from chronic pain, a disease treated with opioids. Older adults are also highly susceptible to opioid ADEs. Research addressing older adults’ self-management of opioid ADEs is lacking.

Objectives: This study compared the opioid ADE profile found by the present research to those previously reported in the literature for older adults. It also described how older adults respond to opioid ADEs and the resulting outcomes.

Method: The study utilized a secondary analysis design to examine 15 opioid ADE cases from a pilot study that described older adults’ responses to analgesic ADEs.

Results: Neurological ADEs, including dizziness (34%) and headache (20%), and gastrointestinal ADEs, such as constipation (27%), upset stomach (27%), and nausea (20%), were common. Older adults identified opioid ADEs by failing to recognize the ADE (20%), another person identifying the ADE (20%), and recognizing the ADE within a few days of its occurrence (20%). Responses included contacting a physician (40%), stopping opioid use immediately (34%), taking another medication to treat constipation (20%), and continuing use despite the ADE (20%). Outcomes associated with responses included ADE resolution (54%), administration of another analgesic (20%), and ADE persistence (20%).

Conclusions: The opioid ADE profile in older adults is similar to that of adults, but certain ADEs may be more common in older adults, including dizziness, upset stomach, and fatigue. Older adults may struggle to appropriately react to ADEs, resulting in poor chronic pain management. Future research should develop interventions to ensure older adults’ safety in long-term opioid therapy.