What Happens To The Body After Years of Opioid Abuse

The serious problem of opioid abuse has had a lasting and negative impact on today’s society, causing a lot of harm and ruining many lives. Opioids, initially meant to help with pain, have become a two-sided tool, causing harm as well as relief. We will dive into the intimidating narrative of what happens to the body after years of opioid abuse. Apart from the instant feeling of happiness, a mix of physical and mental changes starts happening, reshaping the core of your life.

Mechanism of Opioids

Opioids are a class of powerful pain-relieving compounds that engage with the body’s neural circuitry. Upon ingestion, opioids navigate their way into the bloodstream and ultimately reach the brain. Here, they lock onto specialized receptors known as opioid receptors, which are situated throughout the central nervous system. These receptors, like keyholes awaiting their fitting keys, are predominantly found in regions associated with pain perception, mood regulation, and reward pathways.

Girl thinking about what happens to the body after years of opioid abuse.
What happens to the body after years of opioid abuse is that body’s response to pain becomes altered.

Once bound to their receptors, opioids set in motion a line of effects. They effectively dampen the transmission of pain signals, leading to a profound sense of relief. This process not only diminishes the sensation of pain but also induces a feeling of euphoria, leading to the potential for misuse and addiction, which is why many people are at risk of eventually visiting a drug rehab center after using opioids. Over time, the body’s response to pain becomes altered, leading to increased tolerance and, subsequently, the need for higher doses to achieve the same pain-relieving effect.

Organ System Effects

Far-reaching consequences of opioid misuse show the urgent need for prevention. Opioid treatment programs and rehabilitation are aimed at treating opioid addiction and helping people recover from its harmful effects. Some of the most common physical issues caused by the long-term opioid abuse include:

  1. Liver: Prolonged opioid abuse can strain the liver’s metabolic capacity. This can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, which ultimately contribute to conditions like opioid-induced liver injury or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
  2. Heart: Opioids can have a detrimental impact on the cardiovascular system, as they potentially cause irregular heartbeats, decreased heart rate, and decreased blood pressure. Long-term abuse may increase the risk of heart infections (endocarditis) and decrease overall cardiac function. This raises the risk of heart failure.
  3. Kidneys: The kidneys can suffer from reduced blood flow and oxygenation due to opioids. This can lead to acute kidney injury or, in severe cases, kidney failure.
  4. Gastrointestinal System: Opioid abuse can disrupt the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe constipation, decreased motility, and even bowel obstruction. These effects may cause chronic gastrointestinal issues and complications requiring medical intervention.
  5. Respiratory System: One of the most dangerous effects of opioids is respiratory depression, where breathing slows down to dangerous levels. Over time, this can compromise lung function, reduce oxygen supply, and increase the risk of respiratory infections.
  6. Immune System: Opioids can suppress the immune system, impairing its ability to fight infections. This makes you more susceptible to illnesses, including pneumonia, HIV, and hepatitis C, particularly if needles are shared during intravenous drug use.
  7. Endocrine System: Opioid abuse can disrupt hormonal balance, impacting the production of essential hormones such as cortisol and testosterone. This can lead to issues like adrenal insufficiency, decreased libido, and sexual dysfunction.

Impact on Overall Mental Health

The effect of long-term opioid abuse on mental well-being is a complex and detailed occurrence that can worsen existing mental conditions, cause new ones, and lead to a cycle of stress. While opioids may bring initial happiness and relief, they can significantly change brain chemistry and disturb the careful balance of neurotransmitters, resulting in various mental health problems.

  1. Nervous System: Chronic opioid abuse can cause nerve damage, leading to neuropathic pain, tingling, and numbness.
  2. Mental Health: Prolonged opioid abuse can exacerbate or trigger mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. The interaction between opioids and neurotransmitters can cause mood swings, emotional instability, and worsened mental well-being.
  3. Overall Health Complications: The cumulative toll on these vital organ systems can result in a myriad of serious health complications, including organ failure, sepsis, and increased mortality rates.

Impact on Pain Perception

The story of opioids and their effect on pain perception is far from straightforward. At first glance, these powerful painkillers seem like a beacon of relief, promising to ease our suffering. However, as time goes on, things take a puzzling turn. It turns out that using opioids for a long time can actually make us more sensitive to pain, which is quite the opposite of what we expect. This weird twist is called opioid-induced hyperalgesia.

Woman having difficulties with opioid addiction.
It turns out that using opioids for a long time can actually make us more sensitive to pain, which is quite the opposite of what we expect.

The pain signals in our body normally get processed by receptors, kind of like messengers, in our nervous system. When we introduce opioids, they mess around with these receptors. Instead of simply numbing pain, opioids can mess up the balance and make those receptors more sensitive. So, over time, even mild pain can feel much worse than it should. It’s like trying to fix a leaky faucet and accidentally making the whole plumbing system go haywire.

Withdrawal and Treatment

Quitting opioids is a journey fraught with challenges, particularly when confronting the formidable foe of withdrawal. As the body, accustomed to the presence of opioids a range of distressing symptoms emerge. These symptoms, collectively referred to as withdrawal, can be intensely uncomfortable both physically and emotionally. Partial hospitalization program rehab can help you cope with withdrawal problems and get your life back on track. The psychological toll of withdrawal is equally daunting. Intense cravings, anxiety, irritability, and depression cast a shadow over the process, testing the resilience of those striving for recovery.

Woman talking to therapist about what happens to the body after years of opioid abuse.
As the body, accustomed to the presence of opioids a range of distressing symptoms emerge.

This is where the critical importance of professional treatment and support at outpatient detox rehab comes into play. Attempting to navigate withdrawal and overcome addiction in isolation is akin to scaling an insurmountable peak without ropes or guides. Professional treatment programs provide a structured and supervised environment where you can safely detoxify while receiving medical and psychological support.

Long-Term Recovery and Healing

Even in the darkness of opioid addiction, there’s a light of hope that shows the way to lasting recovery and deep healing. While the journey may be challenging, it is one of remarkable transformation and renewed purpose.

As you navigate through detoxification and substance abuse treatment programs, you gradually regain control over your life. With each step forward, a sense of empowerment takes root, dispelling the notion that addiction is an insurmountable sentence.

The journey towards healing extends beyond the cessation of drug use. It encompasses the restoration of physical health, mental well-being, and the revival of relationships. The support of loved ones, often strained by addiction, becomes a cornerstone of recovery. Rebuilding trust, fostering understanding, and seeking forgiveness pave the way for a renewed sense of connection and belonging.

Daughter supports her father to deal with addiction.
The support of loved ones, often strained by addiction, becomes a cornerstone of recovery.

Our Pennsylvania Intensive Outpatient Program guided by dedicated healthcare professionals and therapists, provide the tools needed to navigate the complexities of recovery. Through a combination of evidence-based therapies, counseling, and peer support, you learn to rewire your thought patterns and cope with triggers.

What happens to the body after years of opioid abuse: Conclusion

As the body’s systems become entwined in the web of dependency, we see what happens to the body after years of opioid abuse. The journey from the depths of opioid abuse to the shores of recovery is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. It speaks to the power of seeking help, fostering understanding, and addressing the stigma that has long shrouded this issue.

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