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man with head on window dealing with the long term effects of opiates

A Growing Epidemic: The Long Term Effects of Opiates

Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans lose their lives to opiate use. This harrowing reality is often the final culmination of years of substance abuse, emotional struggle, physical dependency, and mental torment. Opiates – both natural and synthetic – have claimed the spotlight as the driver behind one of the most destructive epidemics the United States has ever seen. Even among stricter government regulations and physician control, millions of Americans find themselves hooked on these devastating drugs, with seemingly little light at the end of the tunnel. Do you struggle with opioid use and find yourself suffering from the long term effects of opiates? A compassionate opiate detox center can help you take back control of your life.

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are a class of drugs either derived from the opium poppy or synthetically made. These substances work by binding to specific neural receptors responsible for regulating body temperature, mood, breathing, stress response, pain sensation, and digestive activity.

When bound to receptors throughout the body, these drugs stimulate a massive secretion of dopamine, prompting feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and reward. Because they trigger a significant psychological reward response, opiates are among the most addictive substances known to man. Commonly abused opiates include:

  • Heroin
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl

While far from an exhaustive list, these drugs are largely responsible for the vast number of annual opioid overdoses and typically elicit the most damaging consequences. The long term effects of opiates can be severe, causing damage to multiple bodily systems and organs. Prescription use often leads to drug-seeking behavior and may prompt the onset of illegal substance abuse.

The Long Term Effects of Opiates

The long term effects of opiates are far-reaching. Both physical and cognitive consequences may be severe, debilitating, and even irreversible with longstanding use. One of the most prevalent and instantly recognizable consequences of opiate use is chronic constipation and digestive upset. Because the drug acts on receptors that control intestinal peristalsis (the muscular contractions that move food through your intestines), it slows digestive processes. As such, all opioids result in short-term constipation, but with continued abuse, chronic bowel obstruction is likely.

Other physical long-term effects of opiates attack your respiratory and cardiovascular systems, often leading to respiratory depression, sleep-disordered breathing, carbon dioxide retention, severely depressed heart rate, dangerously low blood pressure, and even heart failure. In addition, Individuals who have used opiates for six months or longer typically have a 75 percent likelihood of developing mild to severe sleep apnea and obstructive or disordered breathing. Keep in mind that these effects are dose-dependent, meaning the more you ingest, the more severe your effects.

Cognitive and central nervous system long term effects of opiates are extremely common and are especially damaging for older individuals. Dizziness and sedation are prevalent symptoms of opioid neurotoxicity. Cognitive implications of longstanding opiate use include abnormal brain alterations, causing the brain to function normally when the drug is present and erratically during its absence. These cognitive changes prompt increased substance dependence as the brain develops an increasing tolerance to the drugs over time.

Getting Treatment For Opiate Dependence

Seeking treatment for opiate dependence is the first step in overcoming the drugs’ damaging and potentially lethal long-term effects. Due to their highly addictive nature, opiates require a thorough detox period. This primary step in a comprehensive opiate rehab program allows the drug to exit the body completely and begins the process of resetting physical and psychological dependence. Equally important, opiate withdrawal symptoms can be severe and potentially life-threatening, making it critical that you commit to attending a supervised medical drug detox center.

After a thorough detox period, you can then move on to drug rehab and addiction therapy treatments. These programs give you the necessary knowledge and tools to implement appropriate coping mechanisms during your recovery and subsequent sobriety. Highly beneficial programs that can help you end your substance dependence include:

The best addiction and drug treatment programs offer you symptom-specific therapies tailored to your individual needs. Addiction often leads to behavioral issues, cognitive problems, and emotional upset. At Promises Behavioral Health, our compassionate and knowledgeable team provides a safe, comfortable, and inclusive space where you can heal from addiction and finally experience relief.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

If you or a loved one suffer from opiate dependence, contact us to take back control of your life. At Promises Behavioral Health, you can overcome your dependence and return to the life you love by seeking out help when you need it. Call our compassionate team at [direct] to start your journey to recovery today.