If you are among the estimated 50 million Americans suffering from chronic pain (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)), you undoubtedly yearn for an effective way to be pain-free. Among the many choices for pain relief treatment, meloxicam is a prescription-only medication that provides clinically proven relief from chronic arthritis pain and inflammation. It may be a treatment for you and your doctor to consider in managing these painful and continuing symptoms of your medical condition.
What is Meloxicam?
Meloxicam is the generic name for a long-acting, prescription, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). “Mobic,” approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2000 for the treatment of inflammation and pain stemming from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in adults, is the meloxicam brand name. Meloxicam is also FDA-approved to treat children over the age of two who are diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. The drug is marketed by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc..
What Is Meloxicam Used For?
Meloxicam is prescribed for the treatment of inflammation and pain from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in adults, and in treating juvenile arthritis (but not for children under the age of two). The drug is also effective in treating gout pain and inflammation and, according to MedlinePlus, may be used to treat “ankylosing spondylitis” (or arthritis affecting the spine). While meloxicam may be used “off-label” for other conditions, it’s best prescribed for indications that have clinically proved effectiveness with the NSAID drug.
The pain medication should not be used by anyone who’s allergic to the drug, or has had a previous attack of asthma or severe allergic reaction from aspirin or another NSAID. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not take meloxicam during the final three months of pregnancy, since the drug may be harmful to the unborn infant.
How Does Meloxicam Work?
Meloxicam helps reduce hormones in the body that cause pain and inflammation. Available in oral tablets, capsules and suspension forms, meloxicam is usually given as a smaller initial dose, with a higher maintenance dose for those requiring greater analgesic relief. Adult oral dosage strengths include: 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg and 15 mg tablets and in 7.5 mg/5 mL suspension. Pediatric oral suspension doses are significantly lower per day, usually 0.125 mg once daily, with a maximum of 7.5 mg once-per-day. Meloxicam should be taken at the same time daily and may be taken with or without food, although taking it with food reduces potential gastrointestinal upset.
What are the Side Effects of Meloxicam?
Side effects of meloxicam include anemia, abdominal pain, edema and insomnia. If you experience the following less common side effects, you should contact your doctor immediately:
- Allergic reaction symptoms, including hives or welts; itching, skin discoloration or redness; swelling of the eyelids, face, throat, tongue, lips, hands, legs or feet
- Bloating and gas
- Heartburn, indigestion
- High or increased blood pressure
Other side effects, considered rare, include:
- Body heat loss
- Cough: persistent or hoarse
- Fever: with or without accompanying chills
- Foul breath
- Lightheadedness, fast or weak pulse, tightness in chest
- Pain: in the muscles or joints, or severe stomach pain
- Skin problems: clammy or cold skin; rash in an area; skin that blisters, loosens or peels; cracked, scaly skin; skin lesions (including a purple center); swollen skin that is also red
- Stools that are clay-colored, or appear black, tarry or bloody
- Swallowing difficulty
- Tiredness or weakness that’s unusual
- Urination difficulties: significantly decreased frequency of urination and/or amount of urine
- Vomiting: ongoing; containing blood or material the consistency of coffee grounds
In addition, there are a host of side effects that are uncommon or rare, such as: abnormal dreams, nervousness and anxiety, changes in vision, tinnitus, feelings of discouragement or loss of interest or pleasure in doing things once enjoyable, thinning hair, sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, and more.
Severe risks associated with taking meloxicam include FDA-boxed warnings for the following:
- Meloxicam use poses an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, heart failure, blood clots and stroke, any of which may prove fatal. Notably, these risks, which may occur early during treatment, may also increase with ongoing use. Therefore, if you are prescribed meloxicam, your doctor will need to monitor your blood pressure throughout your treatment regimen.
- Use of NSAIDs, such as meloxicam, may increase risk of gastrointestinal (GI) events and disturbances, including stomach or intestinal perforation, gastric bleeding and stomach ulcers, which may result in death. Such adverse events may occur without warning, and at anytime during meloxicam treatment. Adults, especially older adults, with prior incidents of gastrointestinal disease or peptic ulcers are at greater risk for gastrointestinal events. As a result of this severe risk, your doctor will need to actively monitor you for any signs of GI bleeding.
How Long Does Meloxicam Stay In Your System?
According to the FDA’s label for Mobic, meloxicam has a half-life of between 15 and 20 hours. At this rate, it will take about 80 hours for the drug to be completely removed from your system, mostly excreted in the form of metabolites in equal amounts through urine and feces. Meloxicam can be detected in your blood up to five days.
Is Meloxicam Addictive?
Since meloxicam is an NSAID and not a narcotic medication, and it has no addictive properties, you cannot become addicted to the chemicals within meloxicam. This does not mean, however, that there aren’t potential short-and-long-term dangers if you abuse this drug. Furthermore, any drug including ibuprofen, another NSAID, can be abused as an element of a process addiction behavior.
Signs that indicate short-term abuse, meaning you’re taking the drug more often than prescribed, and/or combining meloxicam with alcohol, other prescription drugs or other NSAIDs include:
- Taking more of the drug in an effort to achieve maximum pain relief. Those who do so may believe (in error) that because meloxicam reduces inflammation and pain, taking more of the drug can achieve relief quicker and last longer. Signs include running out of prescriptions earlier than expected, doctor shopping to secure new prescriptions, stealing someone else’s pills, engaging in secretive behavior using the medication.
- Drug interactions, which may be mild, moderate, or serious, and can result from taking meloxicam with more than 300 different medications. Major drug interactions may occur with warfarin or other blood thinners, while moderate drug interactions may occur when taking meloxicam and Cymbalta, Lexapro, metropolol, prednisone, and Zoloft, to name a few.
- Using meloxicam as a recreational drug, in a vain attempt to achieve a high. This is illogical, since meloxicam is an NSAID and has no addictive properties.
- Combining meloxicam with alcohol and other drugs. This can happen accidentally or in an effort to achieve a euphoric effect (a sign of drug abuse in the latter case).
Signs of long-term meloxicam abuse include:
- Overdose, with symptoms that include coma, difficulty breathing, extreme drowsiness, bloody vomiting, bloody stools, and seizure
- New or worsening liver or kidney problems
- Co-occurring alcohol addiction and/or addiction to other prescription or illicit drugs
- Sudden heart attack
What are Treatment Options for Meloxicam?
While you don’t need medical detox to come off meloxicam, (since the chemicals in the drug do not create dependence), you may need to transition from this NSAID drug to one that is less strong or available as an over-the-counter treatment for pain and inflammation. Psychiatric counseling may also make your transition from meloxicam to another drug or alternative treatment method easier and address any long-term damage you’ve experienced as a result of lengthy meloxicam use.
While you transition from meloxicam use, you may experience a few unpleasant, yet not dangerous symptoms. These are not like withdrawal symptoms that occur when discontinuing a narcotic medication, although they may be a bit disconcerting at first. Be aware that you could encounter:
- Some jitteriness
- Anxiety over pain coming back
If your pain and inflammation do come back, you should ask your doctor for another effective prescription medication for your osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis that is non-addictive and safe to change over to. It’s possible that Celebrex, a selective COX-2 inhibitor, an NSAID medication that is similar to meloxicam but with less gastrointestinal side effects, may be a viable alternative.
You don’t have to suffer while trying to cope with the pain and inflammation caused by your medical condition. Help is available to address any concerns you may have over behavioral dependence on NSAIDs like meloxicam and a co-occurring alcohol or other drug use.