Did you know that 115 people in the United States alone die from abusing opioids every day? While, when taken as they should be, painkillers can be beneficial for those who suffer from chronic pain, opioids can be abused and become a problem.
Those who have a painkiller addiction may not think they have a problem, but over time, the long-term effects of painkillers can be detrimental to one’s health. If you don’t know much about the long-term side effects of painkillers, you’ve clicked on the right article to find all the answers you need.
Here, we’ll explore what opioids are and how they can affect the mind and body when used for a long period of time.
First, let’s start off by taking a closer look at what opioids are exactly.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids have a longer history than you might expect. They come from the poppy plant which people in the Middle East have grown for thousands of years. In ancient times, the opium harvest from the pods of poppy flowers aimed to treat pain in ways that nothing else could compare to at the time, making it beneficial for those who suffered from wounds or diseases.
Today, doctors prescribe opioids, usually in the form of pills, for those who suffer from severe and debilitating pain. For example, opioids can treat the pain associated with advanced cancer, AIDS, inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and others. Addiction becomes a problem when some choose to take opioids improperly.
For example, since opioids come in the form of pills, you would need to take them by mouth. As the stomach breaks down the pills with acid, only small amounts of the painkiller release into the body over a long period of time. The amount released into the body is enough to treat the pain but not produce an addictive high.
Addicts, on the other hand, abuse these pills in various ways. A common way that addicts abuse opioids is by crushing them into a fine powder and then snorting them. Yet another way is melting the crushed pills into a liquid and injecting the liquid into their bloodstream.
Both of these methods are very dangerous because instead of the body receiving only small portions of the drug, the drug is released all at once. This causes a very powerful but short-lived high that can be very addictive. As you can imagine, repeatedly overloading the body with any drug can cause serious effects on one’s health.
The Long-Term Effects of Painkillers
The long-term side effects of opioids are no joke. Many people who abuse opioids may not realize how they are harming their bodies because they are only aware of the pleasurable high they experience when abusing painkillers. However, the longer a person abuses opioids, the more their brain becomes used to the drug being present in the bloodstream.
This can cause a whole cascade of health problems, especially if the addict decides to stop taking opioids. This is because of how opioids affect the brain when abused for too long. Opioids affect the pleasure centers in the brain by binding to certain receptors.
These receptors are responsible for pain in the body. This is how opioids can dampen or eliminate pain when taken regularly. However, when an addict abuses opioids, the receptors in the brain become reliant on the presence of opioids.
When this happens, if an addict were to stop taking opioids all of a sudden, they would find that their body is much more sensitive to pain than it was before. Their body would be more sensitive to any kind of physical stimulation in general because the opioids have been dampening their sensory receptors for so long.
The brains of opioid addicts will also stop producing dopamine on their own. Dopamine is known as the feel-good hormone of the brain. If the brain can’t produce this hormone on its own, you can imagine how it can be detrimental to one’s mental health.
More Side Effects of Long-Term Opioid Abuse
It is important to remember that the side effects of opioid abuse are not only physical but mental as well. However, the physical effects can be observed much more clearly. For example, those who are addicted to opioids may have hands that shake, clumsy movements, and trouble speaking or forming complete sentences.
The mental side effects can be just as bad as the physical side effects, if not worse. The mental side effects can include memory problems, ADHD, depression, and difficulty thinking logically. Memory loss is also a problem that long-term addicts may face.
Long-term opioid abuse can also damage the frontal lobe of the brain. The frontal lobe is important for higher cognitive skills such as thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving. This can lead to drastic changes in behavior in a person who is addicted to opioids.
For example, an addict may start stealing from their friends and family in order to buy more drugs. The addict might not even think of the consequences of their actions because they are so focused on obtaining more opioids.
Luckily, detox centers can help addicts slowly ween off of opioids so they can regain control of their life and prevent opioids from destroying their minds and bodies.
Everything You Need to Know About Opioid and Painkiller Addiction
By the end of this article, you should know all about the long-term effects of painkillers. Opioid abuse can be detrimental to one’s mental and physical health, but luckily there are treatment options available. Options can include our opioid detox and drug interventions, among others.Don’t hesitate to contact us here and learn more about how we can help.