The nation’s opioid epidemic has taken an alarming toll on the health of our citizens that are struggling with addiction. Opioids have a high risk of overdose and have led to thousands of deaths in recent years as the problem continues to increase. Abusing opioids can either be deadly or have serious effects on a person’s mental and physical well-being.
Opioid abuse can lead to a number of short term and long term side effects that can be dangerous for the user. People who use their opioid medication the way it is prescribed may have a few reactions to the drug but people who take a higher dose will experience much more severe effects. Someone who abuses opioids regularly over a long period of time will start to see a negative impact on how they feel physically and mentally.
One of the worst side effects of opioid abuse is the possibility of overdose if someone accidentally takes a higher dose than they can handle. This happens all too often to opioid abusers and they are not always able to recover from an overdose. It is important to get immediate help and have access to medications that can reverse the effects of an overdose.
Short Term Effects
People who take opioids will experience a few immediate effects even when they take a regular dose. They will notice that their feelings of pain diminish significantly but they also might feel drowsy, confused or experience a sense of euphoria. People can quickly become addicted to the feeling of being relaxed and euphoric when they take a dose of opioids and might take a higher dose to feel more of the effects.
Abusers who take more than the recommended dose of opioids can begin to experience many negative short term side effects. They might feel depressed, lethargic or have frequent mood swings. These are some of the more common short term side effects of opioids:
- Dry mouth
- Flushed face
- Constricted pupils
- Lack of coordination
- Sleeping too much or too little
People’s bodies react to opioids differently so they may experience some of these symptoms depending on their physiology and how much of the drug they are taking. Short term side effects can lead to discomfort but if they progress into an addiction these problems can become more serious and start to affect them mentally as well.
Long Term Effects of Opioid Abuse
It does not take long for opioid abusers to become addicted to the drug because they will constantly be chasing the feeling of euphoria that they had the first time that they took it. As their tolerance increases their dose will increase and they will start to experience more serious side effects. The longer a person takes opioids the more damage they are causing to their mind and their body.
These are some of the common long term effects of abusing opioids-
- Skin abscesses
- Respiratory depression
- Weakened immune system
- Brain damage and loss of cognitive abilities
- Dental problems
- Mental health conditions like depression
- Confusion, irritability
- Loss of appetite
- Panic attacks
It is common for people with addictions to begin developing symptoms of a mental illness like depression or anxiety and this can occur frequently with opioid abusers. Someone with an addiction to opioids often experiences mood swings and emotional instability which can drive them to abuse more drugs. People with long term mental health effects will need to get treatment for both their addiction and their mental illness.
Recognizing Symptoms of an Overdose
The more dire side effect of opioid abuse is an overdose and that is why it is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of one to prevent it from becoming fatal. Someone who is experiencing an overdose may have:
- Loss of consciousness
- Slow, shallow or erratic breathing
- Skin turning bluish purple or gray
- Slow or erratic pulse
- Choking sounds, vomiting
- Limp body and pale face
If it looks like someone is experiencing an overdose it is important to get help immediately or call 911 so that a first responder can use naloxone or a similar medication to reverse the effects. People who overdose can still survive if the symptoms are caught early and they are treated effectively.
Whether opioids are abused for a short period of time or over a long period of months or years, they can still be very dangerous and have a negative impact on person’s health. People who abuse opioids for many years are more likely to see complex health problems and mental conditions that are difficult to recover from. If you or someone you know has been abusing opioids it is important to get help as soon as possible to prevent the negative side effects of the drug from causing issues in their life.