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Effects of Long Term Opioid Use
Understanding the Effects of Long Term Opioid Use
The opioid crisis has wreaked havoc in the lives of millions of people in the United States. Unfortunately, a significant portion of opioid addiction results from the use, misuse, and abuse of prescription pain medications. The effects of long term opioid use can range in severity from mild to life-threatening.
The High Prevalence of Prescription Pain Killers
If you’ve ever been prescribed an opioid medication to relieve pain, you are not alone. It is estimated that up to 8 million Americans take prescription pain relievers containing addictive opioids. About 2 million of those will develop a substance use disorder. This class of drugs is the No. 1 source of drug abuse and subsequent addiction in the country.
In the recent past, physicians were very free about dispensing prescriptions for opiates if their patients complained of pain. However, in light of today’s opioid epidemic, this practice is changing for the sake of patient safety.
Significant Side Effects of Opioid Use
If you’ve been given a prescription opioid, you will probably experience some side effects of the drug, as 80% of people do. Side effects can range in severity from minor to more serious in nature. Some of the more immediate side effects associated with opioid use include:
- Dry mouth
- Slowed respiration
- Nausea, vomiting
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory lapses
- Sleep problems
- Excessive sweating
- Dry skin
- Sexual dysfunction
Besides these symptoms, you might also find that opioid drugs can weaken your body’s ability to fight infection. This is because opioids can cause the immune system to be compromised. There’s also a chance that opioid medications will cause significant stress, depression, or anxiety. For people who already struggle with these mental health issues, they can be exacerbated.
Of course one of the most serious side effects of opioid use is the potential for addiction. It is important to remember that addiction can result from even short term use of prescription opioid medications. Opioid addiction involves physical dependence. This means that the body adapts to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms will occur if use is reduced or stops. Opioid addiction, and the long term use that is often associated with it, add further negative potential consequences. These include a significant risk of overdose and even death. When using opioids over a long time, your risk of addiction and serious side effects increases exponentially.
How Opioid Addiction Develops
Sometimes an addiction occurs accidentally. Other times, the user may enjoy some of the short-term side effects that produce feelings of well-being and contentment, referred to as a “high.”
You might have been prescribed a specific dose of an opioid to be taken at certain intervals, or as needed. The problem begins to worsen if you find you need a higher dose to curb your pain or achieve the high you’ve been experiencing.
If this sounds familiar, you may have developed a tolerance for a drug and need to speak to your doctor. Abusing opioid medications can lead you down a dangerous path to addiction before you’ve realized what’s happened.
Medical Risks and Effects of Long Term Opioid Use
Unfortunately, it is not difficult to become addicted to opioids. The following effects of long term opioid use demonstrate just how dangerous this class of prescription drugs can become. Some of the risks include:
Your breathing can become shallow and slowed if you take too high doses of opioids. You might not even notice that your respiration has slowed, yet this side effect needs medical treatment and can also be a cause of death.
Because opioids cause drowsiness and confusion, your risk of falling or being involved in a car crash increase substantially.
This side effect of long term opioid use affects up to 40% of people using these types of drugs. At its most serious, constipation can cause an intestinal blockage that requires hospitalization.
Opioids can affect your sexual function, causing hypogonadism, impotence, and infertility.
The sedating effects of opioids can interfere with driving a motor vehicle and cause confusing thoughts.
Your sleep patterns may change, causing you to lose sleep or sleep too many hours.
Opioids can be a direct cause of depression and anxiety, worsening your symptoms.
Up to 30% of people using opioid painkillers will become addicted to the drug.
This common side effect may seem mild, but over time can cause more serious tooth decay.
Pain and pain management are complex medical issues that require a thoughtful and individualized treatment plan. When opioids are involved it is of the utmost importance to use them sparingly and for as short a time as possible. If you feel your use of opioids has become problematic, call JC’s Recovery Center in South Florida today. Whether you have been experiencing the negative impact of opioids for a short or long time, we can help. Call 844-524-6873 to learn how our faith-based recovery helps people to overcome opioid addiction for good.