The Cost of Addiction: The Long-Term Effects of Opioids


Did you know that over 120 people die in the United States every day from overdosing on opioids? The drug problem is considered a national crisis and is only growing worse.

Although many of us are aware of the short-term effects of opioid use, these drugs can also cause long-term damage as well. Some of the long-term effects of opioids have only just been discovered by scientists and doctors.

Would you like to know more about what happens to the body when using opioids for an extended period of time? Here are some of the key symptoms to watch out for.

Damage to the Liver

Like any toxic substance, one of the most common long-term effects of opioid use is liver damage. When used alongside other drugs or alcohol, you can accelerate liver damage, which can have lasting effects on your overall wellbeing.

Chronic liver damage can lead to conditions like cirrhosis, where the liver begins to fail. It can also progress to liver cancer. Both of these conditions are usually non-reversible and can cause death.

Problems With Brain Function

The lasting effects of opioid use can contribute to brain damage in the long term. For instance, users or previous users may suffer from memory loss. This can have an impact on short-term memory and recalling long-term memories as well.

Brain problems from opioids can lead to balance and coordination issues, as well as trouble reading or writing. Issues with walking or other movements can have massive effects on everyday functioning.

Opioids mostly affect the frontal lobe of the brain. This portion of the brain controls memory and most of our day-to-day cognitive functioning. Therefore, damage to this area can cause a wide array of problems to users.

Compromised Immune System

A hallmark side effect of opioid use is lower immune system function. This can make the body susceptible to getting sick more often. Fighting off infections can be more difficult too.

A suppressed immune system can also make you more likely to develop cancer down the road.

There are actions you can take to try and strengthen the immune system, like eating a balanced diet, getting enough vitamins, and exercising regularly. However, opioid use may cause irreparable damage that can last a lifetime.

Skin Infections and Scarring

Even if you stop using needles to administer opioids, there is still a risk of developing an infection at the injection sites. When an opioid user shoots up with a dirty or shared needle, it can lead to swelling and even skin abscesses.

One of the other side effects of opioid use is the picking of the skin, which can result in permanent scarring. Users can try to help the scars fade, but they may not ever go away completely without professional intervention.

Tolerance Leading to Increased Addiction

When you use opioids for a longer period of time, you will develop more of an addiction to the substance. Therefore, you will need more to achieve the same high that you got the first time you used the drugs.

As your body becomes used to the opioids, it increases its tolerance. It will cause you to spend more money and time to get high. In addition, when you require more of the substance to achieve your desired effects, you are more at risk of overdosing.

If you stop using opioids for enough time to let your body go through withdrawal, then you may use too much if you want to get high again. Overloading your system with a high concentration of opioids can cause a coma or even death.

Vomiting and Stomach Problems

A symptom not discussed as much is the stomach and intestinal issues that can develop due to opioid use. Opioid-induced bowel dysfunction occurs when you suffer from any number of conditions, like constipation, bloating, and digestion problems.

Even if you did not have gastrointestinal problems before using opioids, you are more likely to develop them as one of the lasting effects. Abdominal pain and bloating can be uncomfortable if not treated properly.

HIV and Hepatitis

Although you usually hear about diseases like HIV as sexually transmitted infections, you can also get these viruses from opioid use. Sharing needles is a common problem among users, so it can easily inject the virus directly into the bloodstream.

HIV and hepatitis are both somewhat manageable in the early stages, but there is currently no cure for either of them. These long-term side effects of opioid use will last a lifetime.

You can still have a good quality of life with HIV or hepatitis, but you will need to get regular checkups to ensure that your body is functioning properly. You should also notify any sexual partners that you have the virus.

Blood Infections

Bacteria from a dirty needle can lead to major infections of the bloodstream. And an opioid user may not have the strengthened immune system to fight it off.

Some of these infections can go straight to the heart, as is the case with bacteria that grow on its valves. They can also latch onto key parts of the nervous system, like the spine and the brain, and cause massive amounts of damage to neurological functioning.

In extreme cases, current or former opioid users can develop sepsis. Sepsis occurs when your organs begin to shut down as a reaction to an infection in the body. If it progresses into septic shock, there is a good chance that the patient will not survive the infection.

Know the Many Long-Term Effects of Opioids

Even if you stop using the substances, you can still suffer from the long-term effects of opioids. With this information, you should be able to help yourself or your loved one have all of the facts regarding opioid addiction.

Would you like to learn more about recovering from opioid addiction? Contact us today for answers to all your questions and concerns