Addressing Long-Term Effects of Opioid Use Disorder

Woman sitting on a window sill, deep in thought with a sad expression, reflecting on the challenges of opioid use disorder.

Untreated opioid addiction (or in other terms, opioid use disorder) is damaging to mind and body health. 

Opioids, whether prescription painkillers or illicit substances like fentanyl, aren’t just occasionally misused by those who become addicted. It often escalates quickly from experimental use and becomes a daily necessity for many individuals who uses the drug regularly.  

Those who misuse opioids for an extended period of time will deal with the drug’s detrimental mental and physical effects. These conditions will begin to impede on their ability to function normally, causing their health and overall life to decline rapidly.   

How Opioid Use Changes the Body 

The physical and psychological dependence on opioids develops rapidly, even for those who are new to them. When someone ingests high doses of these drugs, the opioid receptors in the brain are exposed to upwards of 1000 times more “happiness” stimulation than occurs naturally in the body.  

Due to this phenomenon, opioid addiction can rewire the brain’s “reward pathway,” which is normally responsible for feelings of contentment. Sensations such as satiating hunger, sexual reward and general happiness doing things they enjoy or something as simple as laughing pale in comparison to the euphoric high of opioid substances.  

Opioid users begin to chase that first initial high with every subsequent dose. With repeated and extended opioid misuse, the brain starts to change and rewires to prioritize substance use above all else.  

Because opioid withdrawal symptoms are so uncomfortable, many people will use the drug just to avoid feeling sick, all the while feeding their addiction and increasing their tolerance. Thus begins the vicious cycle of misusing opioids to feel “normal” and continuing to avoid the feeling of the drug wearing off.  

A man appearing distressed and deep in thought, with his head resting on his hands over a dining room table.

Effects of Prolonged Opioid Use Disorder

It’s very difficult for individuals with opioid use disorder to cease their addiction without medical intervention due to the nature of its impact on the brain. The drug’s long-term effects introduce psychological issues outside of the chemical dependency of the drug, making opioid recovery a challenge for those who embark upon it.  

Some long-term effects of the drug include: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Mood swings 
  • Confusion 
  • Seizures 
  • Chest pains 
  • Irritability 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Suicidal ideation 
  • Respiratory issues 
  • Impaired judgment 
  • Reckless behavior 
  • Brain damage 
  • Loss of pleasurable feelings 

People with opioid use disorder also have difficulty dealing with pain on their own without the use of opioid analgesic properties. The opioid receptors in their brain have multiplied their requirements due to chronic exposure.  

Many patients in opioid addiction treatment show signs of decreased pain resiliency due to this factor. Their ability to cope with pain decreases as they aren’t able to use opioids consistently. Thankfully, this is treatable with the help of medications and comprehensive therapies.   

Mental Health Effects of Opioid Misuse 

The harm opioid addiction causes to the body’s organs is undeniable, but many people will also develop mental health issues. Although many people begin to misuse opioids as a way to cope with untreated mental illness, the experience of addiction can also cause a lot of trauma.  

Opioid use disorder can influence people to make regretful decisions that lead them to dangerous encounters and experiences. Some may find themselves victims of violence and abuse, while others may lose their jobs and homes.  

All of these experiences can have lasting damaging effects on a person’s psyche, especially if they are already vulnerable due to their addiction. Many refer to these events as “hitting rock bottom” in their addiction.  

Some say that reaching these horrible lows is what made them finally seek opioid use disorder treatment. However, no one needs to incur so much trauma before they get help. Avoiding these potentially deadly incidences will prevent more extensive mental health treatment and further misuse caused by hopelessness and sorrow.   

Woman sitting thoughtfully on a park bench, holding a book with a contented smile, symbolizing peace and satisfaction in a moment of solitude.

Opioid Treatment and Recovery 

Those who find themselves faced with opioid use disorder may feel like they can never be themselves again, even if they seek professional help. Opioid addiction can make people believe that they’ll never experience happiness the same way as before without a steady supply of the drug.  

Thankfully, addiction science has advanced over the past three decades of the opioid epidemic, and experts have crafted a way for individuals to achieve successful opioid recovery. With programs like medication-assisted treatment available, those looking to recover and address their opioid addiction can gradually work towards healing.  

With medical professionals’ help and effective FDA-approved medications, many people with opioid use disorder can quickly get on a path toward a fulfilling life after addiction. The long-term effects of prolonged opioid misuse become more easily treatable once the patient is stabilized and prepared to move on to a new, sober, and healthy life. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder at Middlesex Recovery

Opioid addiction recovery is possible for everyone. Middlesex Recovery offers convenient and affordable programs in our outpatient facilities. Patients work with specialized medical providers and nursing staff to get started on medication-assisted treatment and substance use counseling.  

To receive the help you deserve, reach out to Middlesex Recovery today. Contact us online or by phone at 781.305.3300 for more information about addiction recovery.