Opiates have a long list of potential side effects that may cause adverse reactions in some users. In some cases, opiates will cause similar reactions but the level of opiate abuse, the type of opiate that is used and the tolerance that the user has to opiates can also impact the reaction causing either a more pronounced or reduced reaction to the drug.
How Method of Use Affects User Reaction
Opiates that are injected often have a faster effect than if the drug is taken orally. For instance, taking an opiate such as Oxycontin orally by mouth will typically cause a gradual effect that lasts for a period of about 2-4 hours unless a time-release capsule is taken in which case these effects can last 8-10 hours or more. Regardless, taking the medication orally and with the pill in tact will result in a gradual impact on the user whereas taking the same medication by injection or by snorting the crushed pill will have an almost instantaneous effect.
Injecting heroin typically has a faster induction and greater impact on the user than smoking heroin. Similarly, crushing and snorting a pill such as Oxycontin or Oxycodone will have a faster response than taking the drug by mouth. Most addicts progress through a series of methods of using drugs that begins with orally abusing the drug then snorting then injecting. Injecting opiates is the most dangerous method of consumption due to a variety of factors mostly related to the rapid transmission of the drug into the body as well as the risk of infection or STDs.
Opiate Side Effects
Initially, opiates have the following side effects on the user:
- Respiratory depression
- Constricted or pin-point pupils
- Pain relief
If too much of an opiate is used, the side effects could resemble those of an opiate overdose.
The most common side effects of opiate overdose include:
- Slow breathing
- Shallow breathing
- Labored breathing
- Difficulty breathing
- Taking less than 12 breaths per minute
- Clammy, white skin
There are also many side effects that are associated with the withdrawal symptoms that result when an individual becomes physically dependent on opiates and requires the drug in order to “feel good.”
The most common symptoms or side effects associated with opiate withdrawal include:
- Loss of appetite
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Muscle pain
- Bone pain
The length of time that an opiate is used as well as the method of use and the type of drug being used will impact the severity of the symptoms and side effects that are present. For instance, if only a small amount of an opiate is used, the side effects are likely to be minimal whereas if a large dose of the drug is injected, there is an inherent risk that the signs and symptoms that are present will be those of an overdose.
If you suspect that someone you love is overdosing on an opiate, call 911 immediately for help. Most states have laws the protect the caller from any risk of criminal prosecution when they call for help—and even if your state does not offer such protection, fear should never be a reason not to call for help!
Long Term Effects of Opiates
Sustained use of opiates can lead to many long term effects. The most common effect of using opiates for a prolonged period of time is tolerance but you may also suffer from physical and psychological dependence as well as withdrawals if opiates are used for a prolonged period of time. Many of the effects that opiate abuse has on the body will not just go away even when the use of the drug stops. This is why it’s so important to seek professional treatment if you or a loved one is abusing opiates regularly or is addiction to such a drug.
The following long term effects of opiates can be expected with sustained drug use:
- Physical dependence
- Psychological dependence
- Health problems
Health Problems Associated with Opiate Use
Opiate use can result in the manifestation of a number of different physical health symptoms or problems. Chronic injection of heroin or any drug for that matter can lead to collapsed veins, needle marks and infections beneath the skin. Heart and valve infections are also possible as well as lung infections that result from the respiratory depression that occurs when opiates are used.
Many people who abuse opiates develop poor hygiene which results in a lack of physical appearance. Although this alone is not unhealthy, a lack of bathing or taking care of one’s self can lead to acne, infections, skin problems and similar conditions that pertain to the lack of cleanliness.
A weakened immune system can also lead to many adverse health problems including risk of pulmonary and respiratory problem, pneumonia and bronchitis. The health problems associated with opiate use are likely to escalate and become more severe with sustained or prolonged use of the drug.
Users who inject opiates are also at risk of developing STDs or other diseases that are transmitted through the use of shared, dirty needles. The risk of STDs does decrease when the drugs are not being used through injection but there is still high risk due to the promiscuous and risky behaviors that many opiate abusers take part in.
Bacterial infections, blood borne pathogens and complications the result in clogged blood vessels and liver or kidney disease are all potential side effects or complications that can arise from the use of opiates. Unfortunately, the health complications that result from opiate abuse become more progressive and potentially fatal as the use of these dangerous drugs carries on.