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Effects of Opioids
12.30.2020

Long-Term Effects of Opioids

Opioids, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and heroin, are some of the most addictive substances in the entire world. Unfortunately, here in the United States, they are abused at rates so high that we have been in the midst of an opioid epidemic since 2011. And as we make our way into a new decade, instances of opioid abuse are yet again rising as more people face unemployment, hunger, lack of healthcare, and emotional distress.

 

While it might seem like an easy escape in the moment, abusing opioids for any reason is extremely dangerous. Opioids are so potent that just a few days of back-to-back abuse can create dependence. Many people who are in full-swing with their opioid addiction can relate to the agony that is dependence, as they absolutely have to keep using opioids in order to keep from developing painful withdrawal symptoms. While it might seem like an easy solution for opioid addicts to admit themselves into a detox center, it is far from it. When dependence is occurring, it is likely that psychological dependence is also happening or about to. The thought of no longer using opioids can produce severe anxiety and panic, as it is common for addicts to feel like they cannot function without opioids. This is a cycle that countless opioid addicts fall in to and continue on in for long periods of time. 

 

Abusing opioids for a long time can create several issues that not only threaten a person’s wellbeing, but can also determine the future quality of their life. 

Long-Term Effects of Opioids 

The type of long-term effects that someone who is or who was addicted to opioids will vary based on a number of different factors, such as:

  • How long opioids were or are being abused for
  • At what quantity opioids were or are being abused
  • What type of opioid was or is primarily being abused 
  • If the user had or has one or more mental illnesses or physical problems

The more severe the opioid use is or was often leads to the most severe of effects, which is why those who abuse opioids for long periods of time tend to see some of the most devastating effects. Some of those effects include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Increased risk for overdose — When opioids are abused for a long time, they create what is known tolerance and dependence. Being tolerant to opioids means that a person has abused a certain dosage of opioids enough to no longer experience the effects it normally produces. As a result, greater amounts of opioids need to be consumed in order to get the desired effects. As this pattern continues, the body grows dependent on opioids and cannot function without it or else serious withdrawal symptoms develop. Once a person’s tolerance is increasing regularly and they are dependent on opioids, they get to a place where they are more likely to suffer an overdose because of the sheer amount of opioids that are consuming. And while many people are able to be saved from their opioids overdose, thousands more are not.
  • Impacts dopamine production — Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps people experience contentment, happiness, and pleasure. When opioids are abused, they interact with dopamine in the brain in ways that make the brain slowly stop producing dopamine on its own. So, when opioid abuse stops, the brain may not be able to get back up to producing the same level of dopamine as it did before. Low levels of dopamine are associated with depression, schizophrenia, and even addiction, making it much more difficult for a person to stop using or remain in recovery because of how down they feel.
  • Increases risk of bloodborne disease — Opioids of all kinds can be abused intravenously, just like several other dangerous drugs. When someone takes a hit via a needle, though, the opioid goes directly into the bloodstream and produces the fastest, strongest effects. While this might seem ideal for someone wanting to get an opioid high, it can be risky for many reasons including the risk for contracting bloodborne diseases. It is not uncommon for intravenous opioid users to share needles both intentionally and unintentionally, as well as make poor decisions such as not practicing safe sex. This makes the potential for contracting a disease like HIV or hepatitis much more likely. Unfortunately, these and other diseases do not just go away when the opioid abuse stops, rather they remain for a lifetime.
  • Creates organ damage — Anytime anything gets put into the body, it travels through the system prior to wearing off, being absorbed, or exiting. When opioids are consumed, they make their way into the bloodstream and circulate through the many different organs in the body. Organs such as the heart and liver can suffer significant damage, as opioids can break down their proper function or impede it by creating a problem. 

It is easy to point out the different long-term effects that opioids can have on one’s physiological health, but the damage it can cause interpersonally can be the most devastating. The longer that opioids are abused for, the more likely it becomes for an addict to isolate, ignore, and even attack the people they used to love and care for. Their own personal world can become very small to the point where the loneliness and anger they feel becomes too much to bear, causing them to keep using. As previously mentioned, long-term opioid abuse is very dangerous and can be deadly.

Addiction Treatment in Lake Worth, Florida

If you are struggling with opioid addiction, know that you are not alone. No matter how low you may be feeling, know that with our support, you can turn your life around for the better. 

So, do not wait any longer. Start making the changes in your life that you need by calling us today. At Genesis House in Florida, we can help you get on and stay on the road of recovery for good. Call today.

Listen to Podcasts
Season 3, Episode 31: 29 Years of Recovery w/ Andy V.