High cholesterol is an exceedingly common condition in the United States, affecting around 2 in 5 adults. Some people dealing with high cholesterol also have opioid use disorder (OUD), which can complicate matters. Since there are no signs or symptoms of high cholesterol, some patients with OUD might not even realize they have both health issues.
Any health concern on top of opioid use disorder can affect a patient’s treatment regimen, so their medical providers must consider both conditions and possible interactions between the medicines they use to treat them. Here’s how cholesterol can fit into the bigger picture of your health and OUD treatment.
How does opioid use disorder affect cholesterol levels?
Abuse of opioid drugs is associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular conditions, such as cardiac arrest and arrhythmia. Likewise, high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease.
While opioid use disorder doesn’t directly impact a person’s cholesterol levels, it can still indirectly affect them. Common symptoms of OUD include neglecting personal maintenance and declining hygiene. When a person’s hygiene and maintenance suffer, their eating habits typically do as well. The worsening diet is part of a larger pattern of personal care issues.
A diet consisting of red meat, full-fat dairy products, fried foods, and processed meats, such as cold cuts and sausage, will raise a person’s cholesterol levels. If a person with OUD starts eating more processed and high-fat foods, they risk developing or exacerbating cholesterol problems.
What are statins?
Statins are medicines that reduce a person’s “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) and can increase a person’s “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL). More than 40 million adults in the U.S. take statins, making them the country's most common prescription drug class. Some examples of statins include:
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor®)
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor®)
- Lovastatin (AltoprevTM)
Doctors prescribe statins to patients with high blood pressure to keep their blood pressure healthy. The statins work by inhibiting an enzyme necessary in the cholesterol production process in the liver, limiting the body’s ability to produce excess cholesterol. They also raise the number of LDL receptors in the liver so the body is able to break down LDL cholesterol more efficiently.
Suboxone® and high cholesterol medication
Patients who take statins as blood pressure medication and want to pursue medications for addiction treatment (MAT) to address OUD may wonder whether they can take both drugs simultaneously.
Suboxone®, an FDA-approved prescription medication for treating OUD, generally has minimal negative interactions with other medications. However, it can interact negatively with statins since low blood pressure is a potential side effect of Suboxone (important safety information).
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to safely take both medications, though. Before starting Suboxone or any buprenorphine-naloxone treatment, talk to your care provider about any other prescriptions you’re taking, including statins. They’ll be able to devise a plan to manage both the high blood pressure and opioid use disorder.
Suboxone itself may have a positive effect on HDL levels. Research found that buprenorphine produces better HDL levels compared to methadone, another medication for treating OUD. More research is necessary, but these early results are promising. Buprenorphine also does not raise blood pressure, which should alleviate concerns for those worried about other possible negative interactions.
A personalized approach to OUD care
It’s not enough to simply treat OUD with medications for addiction treatment. Care teams must consider every condition affecting the patient and the medications they take and then develop a suitable treatment plan.
Ophelia’s team makes accessing personalized, quality OUD treatment possible. Thanks to our telehealth model, you can pursue treatment from the comfort and privacy of your home and be certain that the program is tailored to your needs. Your care team will factor in any pre-existing conditions, such as high cholesterol, to ensure your treatment is safe and effective.