Over the past couple decades, rates of prescription pain pill use have skyrocketed, both for medicinal and recreational purposes. In spite of this newfound widespread use, opiate drug effects remain the same in terms of their potential for abuse and addiction.
Much like having a drink every now and then helps to take the edge off, for many, popping a pain pill on occasion accomplishes the same end. After a certain point, this practice takes a toll on the body’s ability to maintain normal functioning on its own. Understanding the dangers of ongoing opiate abuse can help prevent an occasional indulgence from taking over your life.
Opiate Drug Effects
Opiate drugs, whether they be hydrocodone, OxyContin or heroin, have a chemical makeup that allows them to blend seamlessly within the brain’s chemical system. In effect, opiates produce the same pain-relieving effects as the body’s endorphin chemicals so the brain interacts with opiates in the same way it does its own neurotransmitter chemicals.
According to Macalester College, these conditions set the stage for opiate abuse to take shape whenever these drugs are used in excess. Slowly but surely, the brain comes to rely on opiate effects to carry out its regulatory functions, some of which include:
- Maintaining emotional stability
- Cognitive processing, such as thinking, learning and memory
- Impulse control
- Respiratory functions
- Judgement and decision making
When taken according to prescription guidelines, opiates pose minimal risks for abuse and addiction. Even in cases of occasional pill popping, the risks remain low; however, once a pattern of pill popping develops the risks associated with opiate abuse can quickly spiral out of control.
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Opiate Abuse Risks
Increasing Tolerance Levels
Opiates force the brain’s cells to produce unusually high levels of neurotransmitter chemicals. These effects overwork cell structures to the point where increasingly larger drug doses must be ingested to produce the same desired effects, according to University of Utah Health Care. These developments set the opiate abuse cycle in motion.
With frequent use, the brain’s increasing reliance on opiates to function soon gives rise to uncomfortable symptoms, commonly known as withdrawal effects. The presence of withdrawal effects indicates a full-blown physical dependence on opiates is at work.
Symptoms to keep an eye out for include:
- Problems sleeping
- Muscle aches and pain
- Bouts of anxiety
- Problems concentrating
These symptoms of opiate abuse only grow worse with time and ultimately drive continued drug use to the point where a person must keep taking the drug in order to ward off uncomfortable withdrawal effects.
The body’s growing physical dependence on opiates eventually starts to tap into a person’s mental and emotional functioning. Opiate abuse effects take on greater importance within a person’s daily life in terms of his or her ability to cope with life’s pressures and responsibilities. At this point, the mind has come to believe that getting and taking the drug is essential to a person’s overall well-being. When opiate abuse reaches this extent, a full-blown addiction is at work.
If you or someone you know struggles with opiate abuse and need help finding a treatment program that meets your needs, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? to speak with one of our addictions specialists.