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What Is Meloxicam And Is It Addictive?

Dr. Alan Weiner MD

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Alan Weiner, MD

February 18, 2019

Meloxicam is an anti-inflammatory drug that has a low risk for addiction but may be misused. People who abuse meloxicam may need to seek treatment to address their substance abuse and stop the use of the drug.

Meloxicam is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic pain. The drug was first approved for prescription use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000, and can only be accessed through a prescription from a doctor.

All prescription drugs have some risk of being misused, and meloxicam is no exception. Meloxicam is generally considered non-addictive, but misuse of the drug still remains as a concern among certain populations — particularly people with a previous history of drug or alcohol abuse.

What Is Meloxicam Used For?

Meloxicam is approved by the FDA to treat pain caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic pain conditions. The anti-inflammatory drug works by easing symptoms of swelling, tenderness, and stiffness that may be caused by these conditions.

The drug is only available by prescription from a doctor and may come in the form in a tablet or liquid.

Meloxicam may also be prescribed under its brand names. These include:

  • Mobic
  • Vivlodex
  • Comfort Pac-Meloxicam

Side Effects Of Meloxicam

Meloxicam, and other NSAIDs, can cause certain side effects in those who take them. Some potential side effects — including gas, constipation, and diarrhea — may be mild or go away once your body has adjusted to the drug.

However, some side effects that can occur may be cause for concern. If you experience any of the following symptoms after taking meloxicam, you should tell your doctor as soon as possible.

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Moderate to severe side effects of meloxicam include:

  • hives
  • fever
  • itching
  • excessive fatigue
  • flu-like symptoms
  • heartburn
  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the legs, ankles, or abdomen

It may also be unsafe for people with certain health conditions to take meloxicam, as it can worsen certain symptoms. People with hypertension (high blood pressure), for instance, may experience high blood pressure, swelling, or fluid retention (edema) when taking meloxicam.

Meloxicam may also increase risk of heart attack, strokes, and damage to the kidneys or liver. To determine whether or not it may be safe for you to take meloxicam, be sure to discuss your full medical history with your doctor before use.

Can You Overdose On Meloxicam?

It is possible to overdose on meloxicam when it is taken in greater quantity or frequency than prescribed.

Symptoms of overdose include:

  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • lack of energy
  • having difficulty breathing
  • bloody or black stool
  • seizures
  • coma

Some symptoms of meloxicam overdose can be serious and cause long-term damage to your health. If someone you know is experiencing symptoms of meloxicam overdose, seek emergency medical attention right away.

Is Meloxicam Safer Than Opioids?

Prescription drug abuse is a significant problem that in recent years has largely been discussed within the context of opioid use. Opioids, which are used to treat pain, are considered highly-addictive drugs and commonly lead to substance abuse and addiction.

One of the most concerning aspects of opioids is their effects on the brain. Opioids can interact with certain brain chemicals that can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Opioids can also cause those who take it to experience a sort of ‘high’, which can be addicting and comforting for those seeking to numb physical pain.

Meloxicam does not cause any sort of drug high. Although meloxicam is not risk-free in its potential for drug misuse, it lacks the most addictive properties of opioids that make it a concern among prescribers.

How Addictive Is Meloxicam?

Meloxicam is considered by most to be non-addictive, especially when compared to other prescription drug classes.

Many people may mistake meloxicam as an opioid, or assume it has the same effects due to its function as a pain-reliever. However, the chemical makeup of opioids and meloxicam differ, and this has an impact on their potential for addiction. Unlike other commonly abused prescription drugs, meloxicam is not known to interact with brain chemicals that have been linked to substance addiction.

Meloxicam is also unlikely to cause withdrawal symptoms after stopped use, unlike alcohol and some other prescription drugs. People who take it for chronic pain may experience a resurgence of their pain after stopped use, but no serious concerns have been reported in direct relation to stopped use of meloxicam.

How Meloxicam Can Be Misused

Despite the low risk for addiction, meloxicam may be misused by those who take a higher dosage than prescribed or take it for reasons other than prescribed. Although the drug doesn’t affect the brain in the same way that opioids do, some who take the drug may continue to use it even after pain and other symptoms have stopped.

People may also misuse meloxicam by combining it with use of other substances. For instance, someone may take meloxicam to relieve symptoms of a hangover after drinking large amounts of alcohol. This is dangerous not only due to its misuse, but also because of the serious interaction meloxicam can have with alcohol. Meloxicam can enhance the effects of alcohol, causing increased drowsiness, blurred vision, and dizziness.

Despite its low risk for addiction and misuse, certain groups have been recognized as being at greater risk for misusing the drug. The FDA has recommended that doctors not prescribe meloxicam for people who have previous history of drug or alcohol abuse, for instance. People who smoke should also not take meloxicam, as it can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Signs Of Meloxicam Abuse

Those who abuse meloxicam may show signs similar to those seen in the misuse of other prescription drugs.

Signs of meloxicam abuse can include:

  • running out of the drug more quickly than expected
  • taking the drug for reasons other than prescribed
  • stealing pills from prescriptions of family members or friends
  • lack of energy

Meloxicam abuse is also dangerous because of its likelihood to only be identified when someone has overdosed.

Taking excessive amounts of meloxicam can lead to several severe consequences, including:

  • difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
  • heart attack
  • seizures
  • ulcers
  • stomach bleeding

Identifying some of the behavioral signs that indicate meloxicam abuse may help you seek treatment for the drug abuse before severe consequences can occur.

Get Help For Your Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem, and you don’t have to face it alone. If you are misusing meloxicam, you may need treatment to address your problem. By seeking help from a medical specialist, you can determine a treatment plan that is bested suited to meet the needs of you or a loved one is struggling.

If you or a loved one are struggling with meloxicam abuse, contact one of our treatment specialists today for more information on treatment options.

National Institutes of Health: MedlinePlus - Meloxicam

Food and Drug Administration - Meloxicam Clinical BPCA (PDF)

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