Long-term use of opioids can affect most organs and systems of the human body and interact with brain cells negatively. As a result, you may experience lethargy, tiredness, muscle weakness, depression, severe constipation, persistent breathlessness, and many other side effects due to the continuous use of opioids. Unfortunately, long-term opioid use also leads to severe addiction to them. That’s why people may find it difficult not to take opioids despite their lethal side effects.

Platforms like Confidant Health provide an opportunity to overcome this addiction through their Medical Assisted Treatment (MAT). This program offers an integrated approach towards the recovery from opioid use so that you can prevent yourselves from further side effects of long-term opioid use.

How do opioids affect the brain and the body?

Special chemicals (called neurotransmitters) are present in the brain that control the feelings of pain and happiness. These chemicals (such as dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline) can act on different cells of our brain and are usually responsible for changes in behaviors, thoughts, and pain. 

Naturally occurring opioids (known as endogenous opioids) are present in minimal quantities in the brain and can suppress feelings of pain, increasing happiness. Similarly, artificial opioids are often used to relieve pain and feel happiness. But unfortunately, long-term use of opioids can make you experience certain side effects related to the brain and body.

Long-term use of opioids affects the functioning of the brain and its cortex and temporal lobe. These parts affect our life, every activity like social interactions, memory storage, and how we process. Long-term use of opioids affect the brain and lead to:

  • Decreased regulation of behaviors

  • Malfunctioned emotional processes

  • Poor memory

  • Decreased problem-solving skills

  • Poor decision-making abilities

Similarly, long-term use of opioids can also result in addiction, depression, increased tolerance, cardiac issues, respiratory problems, and muscle aches.

Side effects of long-term opioid use

Opioids have severe effects on human health. As one gets addicted to opioids and becomes dependent on them, they have to face severe health complications such as breathing problems, cardiac arrest, and brain damage. Let’s discuss these effects system-wise.

Effect on the GI system

Long-term use of opioids can severely affect the digestive system of an individual. It causes severe constipation that can even lead to intestinal obstruction. Moreover, chronic constipation itself is a risk factor for depression and psychological distress.

Effect on the Cardiovascular system

Long-term opioid use leads to abnormalities of heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation, which may cause heart failure, stroke, and even death. In addition, people who use opioid injections have a chance of blood-borne bacterial infection due to contaminated needles, which may cause endocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart's inner lining, which is a life-threatening situation.

Effect on bones

If people with arthritis use opioids as pain relievers, they have more chances of fractures, especially those who use short-acting opioids such as hydrocodone or codeine, rather than those who use NSAIDs. Bone fractures, weak bones, or fragility in bones may occur due to long-term opioid use.

Effect on reproductive health

Opioids can harm both male and female reproductive systems. Opioid use may lead to low fertility rates or abortions. Long-term use can also cause complications in pregnancy, such as preterm birth and abruption of the placenta. Similarly, opioids can also cause a significant reduction in testosterone levels and affect sperm quantity or quality.

Effect on the respiratory system

Long-term opioid use can also produce certain negative impacts on the respiratory system, such as difficulty in breathing, irregular breathing, or respiratory arrest. These effects usually occur due to weakness of respiratory muscles. In addition, the overdose of opioids can sometimes lead to depletion of oxygen supply to the brain, which causes damage to the brain, coma, or even death.

Effect on the nervous system

Opioid use can weaken the human nervous system as these opioids can slow down nerve conduction in the central nervous system. That’s why you may feel lethargic and dizzy throughout the day while using opioids for the long term. 

Furthermore, opioids can also put you at increased risk for sleep apnea (i.e., intermittent cessation of breathing while sleeping), stroke, and dysregulation of hormones in the body).

Long-term opioid use FAQs

What can I do to avoid these side effects?

If you are stuck with opioid use, Confidant Health can provide viable solutions for recovery from this addiction. Confidant Health has adopted an integrated approach known as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to deal with opioid addiction. In this approach, a licensed healthcare professional may also use a special drug called suboxone that can help you recover from opioid use. 

Do opiates cause permanent brain damage?

Permanent brain damage only takes a few minutes if there’s oxygen deficiency in the brain. Unfortunately, drugs like opioids can produce intermittent or continuous lack of oxygen supplied to the brain. As a result, permanent damage to brain cells may occur due to long-term use or overdose of opioids. Permanent brain damage can present clinically in many ways, such as the following,

  • Unable to concentrate or face memory loss

  • Impaired vision or hearing

  • Loss of balance, coordination, or balance

  • Inability to read, write, and judge

  • Difficulty in communication

  • Coma and Death.

How do opioids make you feel?

Opioids activate special receptors throughout the body known as opioid receptors. Activation of these receptors results in temporary euphoria and feelings of joy. Moreover, opioids also suppress pain and make you feel happy, relaxed, and calm for a specific period. 

Recurrent use of opioids results in the dependence on opioids to feel good. If you stop the use, you lose the feeling of pleasure as your body becomes addicted to opioids for happiness. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) can be a good option for overcoming such an addiction to opioids.

Which organs are commonly affected by opioids?

Although opioids can affect almost each body organ, the common organs affected by opioids include the nervous system (brain and nerves), gastrointestinal tract, liver, heart, lungs, reproductive organs, and muscles. Moreover, it can also affect the body's immune cells, resulting in weak immunity and recurrent infections. 

Consult with Confidant's Health care Professionals

Opioids can produce life-threatening side effects on long-term use as they can affect most organs and systems. Confidant Health provides a solution to recover from opioid addiction. The health professionals at Confidant Health can navigate you throughout the recovery process by providing different treatment options to recover from long-term use. You can download Confidant’s app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.