Potential Long Term Effects of Opiates

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Opiate drugs take many forms though heroin and prescription pain pills lead the pack in terms of rates of use. With all the ailments and conditions requiring some form of pain treatment, the use of prescription pain medications has almost become a norm within everyday society. Likewise, heroin use has picked up considerable momentum as prescription pain pill addicts transition over to this less expensive (not to mention, readily available) form of opiates.

The long-term effects of opiates tend to sneak up on users when they least expect it. This class of drugs carries an extremely high risk of addiction, so it’s fairly easy to fall into a habitual pattern of use. After a while, the effects of opiates start to impact heart function, gastrointestinal processes, sleep cycles as well as a person’s overall psychological health.

Effects of Opiates

opiate abuse

Chronic use of opiates can lead to long-term depression, emotional problems, anxiety and more.

According to the Institute for Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluation, opiates attach to specific proteins known as opioid receptors, located throughout the brain, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract. Once attached, the effects of opiates alter chemical secretion rates and thereby block pain signal messages.

These mechanisms account for the pain-relieving properties of opiates. The effects of opiates also produce feelings of calm, euphoria and contentment. With ongoing use, brain chemical imbalances start to develop and become increasingly worse over time.

Byproduct Materials

People who inject opiates on a regular basis can develop serious medical problems down the road. Byproduct materials found in heroin and prescription medications can gradually build up in the body.

Byproducts found in heroin may include:

  • Sugar
  • Brick dust
  • Talcum powder
  • Instant coffee

Likewise, prescription drug manufacturers use inactive ingredients that work to hold the medication’s ingredients together. Like heroin byproducts, these ingredients can accumulate in the body.

Physical Problems

As the effects of opiates continue to disrupt brain chemical levels, bodily systems regulated by the brain start to breakdown. The long-term effects of opiates inside the gastrointestinal tract also disrupt normal digestive functions. Problems most often experienced include:

  • Malnourishment
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Heart problems
  • Respiratory problems

Long-term effects of opiate byproducts can also produce pockets of inflammation throughout the body, especially in the heart. As these materials are mostly synthetic, these materials can easily cause infections to develop. The build-up of byproduct materials can also cause blood vessel blockages, which ultimately bring on heart disease conditions.

Psychological Problems

Long-term opiate use wears away at the structural integrity of the brain as brain cell opioid receptor sites lose their ability to function normally. These changes directly impact the cognitive and limbic regions of the brain, which play integral roles in maintaining psychological and emotional balance.

With ongoing opiate use, a person will likely experience an ongoing decline in emotional and cognitive functioning. These effects typically take the form of:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Psychosis
  • Confused thinking

Ultimately, long-term opiate use can diminish cognitive functions to the point where everyday responsibilities, such as holding down a job and caring for a family become all but impossible to do.


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