Opioids are powerful pain relievers that are Schedule II Controlled Substances. That means that these drugs have a high likelihood of being abused and causing dependence or addiction. Opioid painkillers are primarily used to treat both acute and chronic pain. Acute pain is like that following a surgical procedure while chronic pain is considered to be pain that is ongoing. There are many dangers that opioid users may experience with prolonged use of drugs. Of course, addiction and overdose are two of the biggest concerns, but there are also a variety of health issues that can occur.
Opioid medications are effective pain relievers, but they can cause adverse effects in the body and the brain of users. These issues can be detrimental to body organs within a short period of time. Let’s look at some of the risks opioid users face that are related to the brain, body, organs, and overall well-being.
How Do Opioid Drugs Affect the Brain?
Opioid drugs, known as opioid agonists, work with the opioid receptors of the brain, digestive tract, and spinal cord. They attach to these receptors which block the brain from receiving pain messages. Additionally, the brain’s cough and respiratory centers are often affected, which may lead to respiratory depression or arrest – and that may be life-threatening.
Taking opioid medications causes the user’s brain to release increased amounts of dopamine for longer periods of time than the body does naturally. This creates a euphoric feeling and sense of well-being that can quickly lead to abuse and addiction to the drugs as users try to retain that feeling.
How Do Opioid Drugs Affect the Body?
While the reason that opioids are prescribed is to treat pain, they are frequently abused to reach the euphoric high they create. However, they can also cause uncomfortable effects on the body, including:
- Drowsiness or insomnia
- Severe headaches
- Stomach problems
- Chronic constipation
Opioid users commonly build up a tolerance to the drugs when they are taken over time. Tolerance occurs when it begins to take more and more of the drugs to achieve the same effects. This is not only one of the biggest indicators of physical dependence, but it’s also one of the biggest causes of addiction.
How Do Opioid Drugs Affect the Nervous System?
The nervous system is affected significantly by opioids. There are various disorders that can occur to the nervous system that are directly linked to the use of opioids, even when they are taken exactly as prescribed. When opioids are abused, of course, the incidence and seriousness of these conditions increase. Some of the most common effects of opioids on the nervous system are:
- Memory problems
- Trouble walking or unsteadiness
- Hyperkinesia – the inability to concentrate and hyperactivity
- Hypertonia – more muscular tension
- Hypoesthesia – reduces the physical sensation
- Severe headache or migraines
- Paresthesia – a tingling sensation
- Headaches and migraine
- Shaking or tremors
- Difficulty speaking
How Do Opioid Drugs Affect Vital Organs?
The heart, liver, and lungs can be negatively affected by opioid use in some significant ways.
Heart – During withdrawal from opioids, the heart rate increases. That’s why they shouldn’t be stopped abruptly. Another problem that may occur is endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. This can happen when users take more opioids than prescribed.
Liver – Any dose of opioids can be potentially harmful to the liver – even for users who previously had no problems with their liver.
Lungs – Opioid painkillers shouldn’t be taken by people who have existing respiratory problems such as asthma or COPD. It may cause shortness of breath and respiratory depression, which can become severe enough to be life-threatening.
How Do Opioid Drugs Affect Behavior and Personality?
When an individual becomes dependent on or addicted to opioids, he or she will typically demonstrate some common behaviors that are characterized by uncontrollable drug use. These behaviors include:
- Isolating behaviors
- Depression and anxiety
- Being more secretive
- Frequent mood swings
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Being confused or disoriented
- Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
What to Do When You Think You’re Addicted to Opioids
People who want to stop using opioid painkillers, even those who have not been abusing them, should seek medical help to detox from the drugs. Symptoms of withdrawal from opioids can be very uncomfortable, and in some cases dangerous. Medical care during detox ensures that users will be made as comfortable as possible while their bodies rid themselves of the drugs.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to opioid painkillers, My Time Recovery can help you detox from them and get you on the road to recovery. Contact us today for help getting started.