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Opioid Drug Use and Myoclonus

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Myoclonus is involuntary twitching in a muscle or group of muscles. It is not a disease, but it can be a symptom of a nervous system disorder or other physical health issue.

Some health concerns that can involve myoclonus include the following:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Low Blood Pressure

Myoclonus that isn’t a symptom of a preexisting disease or disorder may result from a reaction to a medication or to drug poisoning. The January 2011 issue of Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders points out that chronic alcohol abuse and alcohol withdrawal can cause myoclonus. Benzodiazepines, antidepressants, opioids and more may also cause myoclonus.1 Prescription medicines and painkillers can cause muscle twitching that may or may not be myoclonus. Any involuntary muscle movement should be discussed with a doctor. Addiction is a possible cause, but you don’t have to misuse opioids to experience related myoclonus.

Opioids and Myoclonus

Myoclonus is involuntary twitching in a muscle or group of muscles. It is not a disease itself, but may be a symptom of a nervous system disorder.The more of a drug you use and the longer you use it, the more likely side effects become. However, opioids can contribute to myoclonus even after brief or relatively small doses. The British Journal of Pain explains, “Myoclonus and hyperalgesia have both been reported to occur following a variety of doses, durations of treatment and routes of administration of various opioids.”2

Myoclonus isn’t an uncommon or unexpected side effect of opioid use or abuse. Treating this opioid-related form of myoclonus begins, and can often end, with ceasing opioid drug use.

When a person is using opioids to manage a chronic pain issue or pain related to cancer, he or she will have to explore alternative pain management options. If a person is struggling with opioid addiction, he or she will have to pursue an addiction treatment program. Addiction treatment and pain management can overlap, as many comprehensive programs include integrated physical, mental and addiction health care.

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Opioid Addiction Recovery

If you are using opioids despite experiencing negative side effects like myoclonus, reach out to Michael’s House. We can help you put an end to opioid abuse or addiction. We can help you put an end to the effects these drugs have on your health and your life. Our admissions coordinators are available any time of day to help you find your best options for recovery.

Our integrated treatment programs offer integrated care for all co-occurring physical and mental health concerns. All calls are free and confidential, so now is the time to learn more and take action. Call 760.548.4032 now.


1 Kojovic, Maja, et al. “Myoclonic Disorders: A Practical Approach for Diagnosis and Treatment.Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders. Jan. 2011.

2 Woodward, Owen, et al. “Opioid-Induced Myoclonus and Hyperalgesia Following a Short Course of Low-Dose Oral Morphine.British Journal of Pain. Feb. 2017.

Opioid Drug Use and Myoclonus

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Opioid use can lead to a variety of health problems. For example, if an individual experiences chronic twitching and muscle contractions in his legs or other body parts, he may have experienced a condition called myoclonus.

In some cases, myoclonus and opioid drugs can trigger one another.

What Is Myoclonus?

Shaky hand

Myoclonus is commonly defined as the twitching of a single muscle or a group of muscles. Myoclonus is also a clear indicator that an individual’s nervous system isn’t working properly. Something is making his nerve cells misfire and send the wrong signal to muscles in the body.

Examples of myoclonic jerks include the following:

  • Hiccups – The jerking occurs in the diaphragm.
  • Stimulus-sensitive movement – These include a twitch or spasm caused by an external factor, such as a surprise, loud or unexpected noises, or a sudden change of light.
  • Hypnic jerk – This is experienced in the first phases of sleep as an involuntary body spasm.

Some cases of myoclonus may be a sign of a neurological or nervous system disorder. Conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord lesions are examples of these disorders.

The abnormal movements of myoclonus rarely need medical attention. However, a severe pathology of myoclonus might affect the normal performance of a person, including his or her ability to eat, walk, talk, or sleep. Treatments to reduce the symptoms consist of tranquilizer drugs, such as clonazepam, and medicines used for epilepsy.

The Myoclonus and Opioid Connection

Some researchers believe that abnormalities or deficiencies in neurotransmitter receptors may contribute to some forms of myoclonus.1

As a result, opioid-induced myoclonus is not rare and includes many forms of muscle twitching, such as leg twitching.

Opioids in the form of morphine or heroin — when abused or used without the supervision of a physician — can easily lead to dependence and other drug problems. People who experience chronic pain because of widespread and persistent episodes of myoclonic jerks need to seek immediate attention with trained medical professionals.

Your Next Step

If you think you may be experiencing myoclonus related to a drug problem, please know you can contact us at Michael’s House at 760.548.4032. Our caring staff is ready to answer your questions and help you get healthy again. In some cases, myoclonus is treated with medication under the careful watch of medical professionals.

Michael’s House is more than a drug treatment facility; we treat your drug problem as well as the reason you turned to drugs in the first place. If you have insurance, please have that information available and we can tell you what specific forms of treatment are covered by your policy.

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1Myoclonus Fact Sheet.” National Institutes of Health, Accessed May 11, 2018.