What Is Exalgo?

Exalgo is a long-acting Opioid that primarily contains Hydromorphone. It is meant for people who are dealing with moderate to severe ongoing pain, such as people who are going through cancer treatments. Exalgo should not be taken for mild pain that isn’t constant.

Due to the potency of Exalgo, it is only prescribed to people who have become “Opioid-tolerant.” This means that they’ve already been taking another, less-potent Opioid pain reliever and are no longer able to experience relief from it. If someone begins using Exalgo to treat their pain as a first treatment, they are at a greater danger for abuse, misuse, and certain symptoms like respiratory depression. In patients who experience respiratory depression, their lungs won’t receive enough air and can’t absorb the oxygen required to maintain the human body. Prolonged lack of oxygen can lead to permanent organ damage. Symptoms that someone isn’t getting enough oxygen  are:

  • Changes in skin color
  • Confusion
  • Coughing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Wheezing

Effects of Exalgo

Exalgo is a potent, long-acting pain reliever. This means that, like all Opioids, it will change the way that the human body perceives pain. It does this by causing your opioid receptors to release endorphins. When someone abuses an Opioid, this flood of endorphins is what causes the “high” feeling, or euphoria, that people enjoy. All drugs, whether illicit or prescription, carry side effects based of the category of drug and effects unique to that substance. Effects of Exalgo include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness

While some of these effects may lessen after someone has used the medication regularly, this may be a sign of a growing tolerance. If you, or someone you love, are taking this medication and notice that a tolerance has developed, you should contact the prescribing doctor immediately. Other, greater side effects of Exalgo use include:

  • Addiction
  • Respiratory depression
  • Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Severe hypotension
  • Adverse gastrointestinal reactions
  • Seizures
  • Symptoms of withdrawal

Exalgo Addiction

Like all Opioids, Exalgo works by changing how your brain responds to the sensation of pain. Extended release medications, like Exalgo, work by doing this over a slower period of time. While this makes it possible to manage pain with less pills, it also increases the potential for abuse. As someone could inadvertently take a higher dose that builds over time if they aren’t paying enough attention to their dosage, many people won’t realize that they’ve developed a physical dependence or addiction until they experience the symptoms of withdrawal.

Signs of Exalgo addiction include:

  • The user takes more Exalgo or takes Exalgo over a longer period than intended.
  • The user has a persistent desire for or has made unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use of Exalgo.
  • The user spends a great deal of time obtaining, using, or recovering from Exalgo.
  • The user experiences cravings for Exalgo.
  • The user fails to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home due to Exalgo use.
  • Exalgo use continues despite persistent social or interpersonal problems caused by the drug.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up due to Exalgo use.
  • Exalgo use occurs in situations in which it is physically dangerous.
  • Exalgo use continues despite knowledge of problems caused by the drug.
  • The user has developed a tolerance for Exalgo.
  • The user experiences withdrawal symptoms if the stop taking Exalgo or lower their dose.

Exalgo Withdrawal

Withdrawal is the body’s response to an absence of any substance it has grown dependent on. In many cases, this is a prescription drug that someone needed to help manage their pain. In some cases, when symptoms of withdrawal surface, it can seem that the individual’s pain has returned. This is temporary in most cases and is referred to as “rebound symptoms.” It is the body growing accustomed to it no longer receiving the medication or receiving a reduced dose of the medication. Other symptoms that could arise include:

  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Other Flu-like symptoms
  • Tearful eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Body aches
  • Muscle pain and tension
  • Insomnia

While these can cause someone anywhere from mild discomfort to pain, depending on the severity of the addiction, they are all treatable. A doctor can discuss and help manage these symptoms. They are totally normal for someone coming off a prescription and should not be associated with any shame. It is highly recommended that individuals experiencing Exalgo withdrawal seek medically-supervised detox to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.

Seeking Help for Exalgo Addiction

In cases of prescription Opioids, open communication with the prescribing physician can help avoid a budding addiction entirely. However, many people do not realize how dependent they’ve become on a prescription until they’ve run out and are out of the doctor’s care. If this happened to you, please, do not be afraid to come forward. It is possible to find recovery.

Author: Cooper Smith – Last Edited: June 17, 2021

Clinically Reviewed by: Theresa Parisi – Last Reviewed: September 26, 2019

Our Clinical Reviewers are certified addiction professionals who verify the information on Opioid Help to make sure we provide the most accurate, correct, and updated information to our readers.

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U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Medication Guide EXALGO. Retrieved on February 11th, 2019, from https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/UCM204267.pdf

RxList. (2017). EXALGO. Retrieved on February 11th, 2019, from https://www.rxlist.com/exalgo-drug.htm#description

WebMD. (2018). Exalgo. Retrieved on February 11th, 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-153887/exalgo-er-oral/details