The Effects of Opioids on Your Body

April 25, 2018 11:31 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

With an increasingly ubiquitous opioid crisis plaguing communities across the nation, local law enforcement and public health agencies are taking more steps to make sure people know the brutal effects opioids can have on the body.

Many times people associate opioids with illegal drugs like heroin. But in fact, these potent and dangerous drugs are quite often used for legal medical purposes—you may even have some of them in your medicine cabinet at home.

In 2012 alone, there were 259 million prescriptions written in the United States for opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Opana. Addiction numbers for heroin alone hovered around 470,000 that year, while more than two million were estimated to abuse prescription opioid painkillers. That number is believed to have steadily risen since then.

Abuse of these drugs, whether they are legal or illegal, can have an extremely serious long-term impact on your overall health, with the potential for permanent damage:

  • Effects on the brain: Opiates have side effects such as extreme drowsiness, which could require the use of extra stimulants to fight against. People with heroin problems frequently report experiencing symptoms such as slipping in and out of consciousness extremely easily. In addition, long-term painkiller use has been linked to heightened risk of major depression—people who use these drugs for at least six months have a 50 percent greater risk of experiencing a depressive episode, according to studies.
  • Effects on the digestive system: Opiates can cause constipation, as they slow down the digestive tract and impede the digestive muscles. With the digestive process being slower, people are at greater risk of bowel obstructions and perforations, with potential peritonitis developing as a result. People who overuse opioids also often experience major nausea, uncontrollable vomiting and other similar symptoms.
  • Effects on the respiratory system: Overusing heroin or opioid painkillers can cause respiratory depression, which involves slowing in breathing. Over time this could become fatal depending on the seriousness of the condition, or at least debilitate the lungs and respiratory system.
  • Effects on the nervous system: Overuse of opioid painkillers can result in a condition caused hyperalgesia, which is characterized by increased pain sensitivity. It can also cause impairment of coordination and movements.
  • Effects on the liver: Most opioid painkillers contain high amounts of acetaminophen. Therefore, an overuse of these drugs can cause major liver damage, as acetaminophen is toxic to the liver in large quantities. Considering many opiate abusers also regularly abuse alcohol, the effects on the liver can be compounded and made potentially life-threatening.
  • Effects of opiate injection: Beyond the effects of the actual drug, one must also consider the effects of the methods with which it is used. There are many side effects associated with injections. Repeated injections can cause vein damage, leading the veins to collapse. Sharing needles can result in the transmission of blood-borne diseases from person to person, such as HIV or AIDS.

For more information about the effects of opioids on the body, contact our halfway house in Phoenix, AZ.

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