Opioid Use and Addiction: Long-Term Health Effects

Opioid Use and Addiction: Long-Term Health Effects
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Opioids are basically drugs that are used medically to reduce pain and give pleasure. Both heroin and prescription medications fall under the category of opioids. Another opioid, fentanyl is abused publicly. Over a half million drug overdoses have occurred in America in the previous 20 years because of the opioid crisis, which has been driven by widespread opioid misuse. The worst form of pleasure in the world is definitely an opioid. After the brain activates a brief period of pleasure following the consumption of opioids, you must endure the discomfort. When your brain exerts more effort to accept the opioid, the situation gets worse. Then, to achieve the same euphoria, you must consume high amounts. The glass will be required to experience the same emotion, much to how you would need to fill a spoon only half full before.

Euphoria is only the beginning of this problem; an opioid addict’s brain won’t allow that person to maintain control over his or her life. The family and career lives will consequently become chaotic. However, long-term opiate use or addiction has several other detrimental health effects. Some effects and treatments will be covered in the article below. You can also pay for opioid addiction using your health insurance. 

What do Opioids do

  • They work by activating the opioid receptors in the body and:
  • Reduce pain and discomfort
  • Give pleasure by releasing dopamine
  • Stop diarrhea
  • Cause dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cause respiratory depression


Why are Opioids Addictive

Opioids’ significant potential for addiction is mostly because they not only reduce pain but also induce euphoria, which many people find delightful.

Opioid users quickly become dependent on these side effects if they use the drug frequently. To achieve the initial level of pain alleviation and euphoria, they can then keep taking more and more of the drug. Opioid dependence can develop through repeated use or abuse.


Long-Term Health Effects of Opioid Addiction

Some major side effects of opioids include Euphoria, drowsiness, confusion, nausea, constipation, and slowed breathing. Some significant health effects such as chronic, cardiovascular, and reproductive health issues are directly linked with opioid misuse.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Long-term abuse of opioids can cause chronic constipation, which is a widely common and unwanted side effect of opioids.  According to the latest ratios, around 45% of the people who are engaged in opioid misuse have reported having experienced constipation so severe that they have to stop using their medications. In some even severe cases, bowel blocking can occur, leading to hospitalization and eventually, surgery. Other side effects that fall under this category include nausea, vomiting, bloating, and cramps.


Respiratory Depression

Opioids can result in dangerously slowed breathing or respiratory arrest in case of overdose. Opioids can also induce slowed or irregular breathing. An overdose can also result in inadequate oxygen getting to the brain, which can cause coma, brain injury, or even death. Using opioids for long-term can have grave consequences on the health of your lungs. Opioids may cause a source of happiness for some time but long-term usage may even lead to an overdose or death. 


Cardiac Arrest

Another common side effect of opioid overdose is cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association is concerned about the rising number of cardiac arrests linked to overdoses and points out some key distinctions between opioid-related cardiac arrests and other cardiac arrests. These distinctions include the fact that hypoxia (inadequate oxygen) happens before the heartbeat stops. Before the heart even quits beating, this can damage the brain in just a few minutes.

Cardiac arrests are a major risk to young and old users and mostly occur in homes in absence of family.


Reproductive Problems

The reproductive systems of both men and women are negatively affected by the long-term use of opioids. According to studies, opioid misuse can cause infertility or pregnancy loss and other complications in female bodies.

Whereas for men, it affects testosterone production and harms the sperm’s quality. It has also been reported that when mothers use opioids in pregnancy, the child suffers from a syndrome known as neonatal abstinence.


Risk of Fractures

The use of opioids may increase the elderly’s risk of fracture. A study was carried out, comparing older persons with arthritis who used opioids to treat their pain to those who used NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen). It was discovered that those who used opioids, particularly short-acting opioids like codeine and hydrocodone, had a higher risk of fractures.



Some opioids can increase infectious diseases in the human body, such as human immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis. These side effects are a major risk when opioids are used by infecting, as these infections are transmitted through contaminated needles and other tools that are used for injecting.


Opioid Addiction Treatment

An elevated risk of opioid addiction is associated with inappropriate use of any opioid, whether it is legal or illegal. Despite being a chronic condition, opioid addiction is curable. With the right amount of care, addiction can be overcome, and people can begin leading brighter, stronger, and drug-free lives. These treatments have many forms including:

  • Detox
  • MAT
  • Outpatient rehab



Opioid addiction treatment comes in many forms but usually starts with detox. Since withdrawal can be extremely unpleasant, people prefer detox with medical assistance in structured treatment.

Even when a person becomes highly eager and physically strong to stay sober after detox, it is risky to be left without assistance as the addiction can come back any second. Moreover, there are behavioral and psychological problems that cannot be addressed using just detox and require a better and more structured program. The patient needs to build the life skills necessary to achieve and maintain recovery, discover new ways to cope without using opioids and start forming healthy habits.


MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment)

Medications that are used to treat opioid addiction include:


When used to treat opioid use disorder, methadone is always given in a methadone clinic environment and, when given correctly, is a part of therapy along with counseling. It alleviates withdrawal symptoms and takes care of cravings. it is available in the form of liquid and can only be used in a certified treatment program. It activates opioid receptors in the body and reduces opioid cravings. However, patients may relapse and physicians try various other things with patients that relapse like this. Highly motivated patients who have strong social support typically respond better to this therapy.


Naltrexone, a completely distinct medication, prevents the euphoric/sedative effects of opioids instead of activating the opioid receptor. Before starting naltrexone, a patient’s body must be entirely clear of any opioids. It can be injected once a month or taken orally.

When a respiratory arrest is brought on by an opioid overdose or is about to happen, naloxone may be given in an emergency. Naloxone can cure an overdose and flush out receptors, however, it is not an addiction treatment method.


Buprenorphine such as Subutex Medication is a medication that reduces opioid cravings while not producing the same euphoric effects as other opioids. This is commonly prescribed as a daily dose given under the tongue, but it can also be administered as a once-monthly injection or by thin tubes inserted under the skin that last for six months.


Outpatient Rehab

A local treatment facility must be visited 10 to 12 hours per week as part of an outpatient rehabilitation program. These sessions emphasize educating people about drug usage, providing both individual and group counseling, and teaching drug addicts how to function without their drugs. For someone with a minor addiction, outpatient drug rehab can be a decent stand-alone choice.

There are outpatient detox programs and social supporting groups that help the victims fight opioid addiction according to the patient’s schedule. Meetings at outpatient treatment facilities are typically held late at night or early in the morning, allowing participants to keep their regular schedules.


Does Insurance Cover the Treatment Cost for Opioid Addiction

Under US laws your insurance provider must offer some sort of coverage plan for your addiction treatment. Addiction treatment is normally covered by your insurance providers; either fully or partially. Each state and each insurance provider may have a different coverage plan. therefore it is highly advised that you must contact your insurance provider and get all the details before starting addiction treatment. Insurance providers want you to worry less about the costs of treatment and focus more on getting better. 

Bottom Line…

In conclusion, it can be said that while opioids are undoubtedly very helpful for reducing pain and promoting pleasure and rest, they can also be overused due to their euphoric effects, leading to opioid addiction. Viral infection, heart attack, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation are a few serious side effects of opioid addiction. However, the addiction is curable and not irreversible. Opioid addiction can be treated using a variety of methods, such as medication-assisted therapies, detoxification, and rehabilitation. Additionally, insurance companies must pay the full cost of therapy, leaving you with only about $40 to pay.

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