Opiate Short and Long-Term Effects

Opiate addiction is a growing problem around the world. The World Health Organization reported that globally, about 13.5 million people use opioids, and 9.2 million of them use heroin.

In 2016, more than 42,000 people died from an opioid overdose. And 115 Americans die every day from it. About 40% of those deaths were due to prescription opioids, often prescribed to relieve chronic pain or other severe pain.

The problem is growing, and affecting millions of people and their loved ones. Nearly 20% of Americans have used illegal drugs or abused prescription drugs in their lives. In 2016 alone, 11 million people misused Rx opioids.

If your loved one struggles with opiate addiction, you and they are not alone. Knowing the short and long-term effects of opiate drugs may be just what they need to realize they need help, now.

What Are Opioids?

The most common pharma-approved opioids include morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, fentanyl. These drugs can be addictive if not managed properly. Since 1997, the rate of prescription opioid abuse has skyrocketed.

Research suggests that a majority of today’s heroin users started out taking prescription opioids. And when those prescriptions were no longer available, or the body developed a tolerance to them, something stronger drew them to seek other forms, such as heroin. In the U.S. in 2015, about 828,000 people over the age of 12 used heroin. More than 12 million abused prescription opioids.

Opiate abuse is a serious societal and interpersonal problem. And it must be treated as such. With many dangerous short and long-term effects, it will not only result in physical harm but also leave a trail of devastation behind it.

Short Term Opiate Effects

Opiates enter the opioid receptors in the brain, causing a pleasurable high. But even though they may feel good in the moment, these drugs wreak havoc on the body. Along with a number of uncomfortable effects, opiate users are typically also at higher risk for certain diseases, including HIV and hepatitis.

Short-term opiate abuse can result in:

  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Feeling overly happy
  • Flushed face
  • Poor coordination
  • Sleeping too much or sleeping too little
  • Sweating

Uncomfortable though these effects might be, they can be considered mild compared to other more serious effects of opiate abuse, which include:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing or inability to breathe
  • Difficulty swallowing or inability to swallow
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headaches / Dizziness / Drowsiness
  • Hives
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low blood pressure
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Panic attack
  • Rash
  • Seizures
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Swollen face, tongue, hands, feet or throat
  • Vomiting

Long Term Opiate Effects

If not managed, opiate addiction will continue to take over ones’ life, requiring more and more of the drug to achieve the desired high. And as use increases, the symptoms and long-term effects continue to worsen, breaking down the body and moving one step closer to a complete shutdown. Common long-term effects of opioid use include:

  • Addiction
  • Brain damage and loss of cognitive abilities
  • Blood borne diseases
  • Blood infections
  • Coma
  • Constipation and bowel obstruction
  • Death
  • Dental problems
  • Impotence
  • Overdose
  • Partial paralysis
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Skin abscesses
  • Vein collapse
  • Weak immune system

Signs of Potential Opiate Addiction to Watch For

Opiate addiction is an all-consuming problem for prescription and illicit drug users alike. Drug addicts live from fix to fix, and will do nearly anything to ensure their next high. And this can lead to a host of devastating problems, not only within their body and mind, but externally as well. If you suspect your loved one may be misusing prescription drugs or illegal drugs, look for the visible signs commonly associated with opiate addiction.

These signs can extend across various parts of life, and can result in long-term devastation, socially, financially, professionally, legally and within relationships.

Financial problems

Because a drug addict’s body craves the drug, they’ll do what they need to do to get a fix—even if it means putting their entire financial future at risk. Watch for signs like:

  • Borrowing money from loved ones
  • Withdrawing money from savings and retirement accounts
  • Filing for bankruptcy
  • Inability to pay mortgage or rent, despite having a job

Professional problems

Drug addicts will quickly find their jobs in jeopardy. Without getting help, they may lose their jobs or find themselves on probation. Have you seen the following symptoms in your loved ones’ professional life?

  • Consistently being late to work due to seeking or having their morning fix
  • Poor performance and
  • Losing a business or job because they embezzled company funds to pay for the next high

Legal problems

Whether forfeiting their home, being unable to pay debts, filing for bankruptcy, stealing money or ending up in prison for illegal drug use or selling, legal problems can be all too common among drug users.

Social and interpersonal problems

It’s all too common for social and interpersonal relationships to be hit hard by the effects of opiate addiction. Because drug users turn their whole attention to securing another hit, relationships fail. Drug addicts often begin to withdraw (or they may even be locked out of participation) from the activities they used to enjoy. Is your loved one doing the following?

  • Ignoring loved ones and events
  • Becoming violent at home
  • Forgetting or avoiding family-focused responsibilities
  • Lying to prevent being discovered as an opiate user
  • Not eating or losing excessive weight

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Because opiates affect the body and mind, they can take a very uncomfortable toll on the body when drugs are withheld. That’s why many drug addicts refuse to get help, even if they realize they need it. But with medications, group support and therapy, users going through a detox program can minimize discomfort for a sustainable detox experience that puts them on the road to long-term recovery.

These withdrawal symptoms can include everything from:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Lack of concentration
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Rapidly beating heart
  • Dilated pupils
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Paranoia
  • Elevated blood pressure

There Is Hope and a Way out of Opiate Addiction

Opiate addiction hurts more than just the user. It tears families and friendships apart. But there is help and hope. If you or your loved one are struggling to find a way out of the cruel cycle of opiate addiction, contact our team of caring counselors to discover what resources are available to you. We’re eager to help you start your journey back to health and long-term recovery.