Addressing Long-Term Effects of Opioid Use Disorder



Those who misuse opioids for an extended period of time likely deal with the drug's detrimental mental and physical effects. Opioids aren't a substance misused only occasionally for those who become addicted, whether they are prescription pain killers or illicit substances like heroin. Opioid use disorder escalates quickly from the experimental phase and becomes a daily need for nearly everyone who misuses it regularly. The physical and psychological dependence develops rapidly as the opioid receptors in the brain are being exposed to upwards of 1000 times more "happiness" stimulation than occurs naturally in the body.


Opioid addiction can rewire the brain's "reward pathway" that otherwise allows people to experience feelings of contentment such as satiating hunger, sexual reward, and general happiness doing things they enjoy or something as simple as laughing. The high of opioids is described as euphoric, leaving the substance user to chase that first initial high with every subsequent dose. With repeated and extended opioid misuse, the rewiring in the brain changes to prioritize substance use above all else, especially with withdrawal symptoms being so uncomfortable that some people will use the drug just to avoid feeling sick.


Effects of Prolonged Opioid Use


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 as their receptors have multiplied their requirements due to habitual exposure. Many patients in opioid treatment show signs of decreased pain tolerance due to this factor. Their ability to cope with pain decreases as they aren't able to consistently use opioids.


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 and medical 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. However, addiction science has advanced over the past two 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 to get them on the path towards 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 forward towards a new, sober, and healthy life.


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.