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What Are the Side Effects of Long-Term Opioid Use?

The side effects of long-term opioid use can make recovery from opioid addiction challenging. Many people with an opioid addiction might be fearful of seeking treatment to avoid the pain of detoxing from long-term opioid use. However, without getting help for your addiction, you can experience negative side effects from long-term opioid use. 

Physical Side Effects of Long-Term Opioid Use

Long-term opioid use can wreak havoc on your body. Your physical health might suffer if you continue to abuse or misuse opioids without seeking addiction treatment. 

Physical side effects of opioid use include:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Overdose and death

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that those who use injectable drugs, like heroin, have an “increased incidence of blood-borne infections, including viral hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and bacterial and fungal infections.”

Risk of Developing Dependence and Addiction

According to MedlinePlus, another risk of long-term opioid use is that you might develop a dependence or addiction to opioids. Dependence and addiction are similar; however, both can put you at risk of experiencing withdrawal if you stop using opioids.

  • Dependence means that you experience withdrawal symptoms when not using opioids. You can still develop a physical dependence even if you do not misuse or abuse your medications. 

When you misuse prescription opioids, you might be taking a higher dosage than prescribed without consulting your physician. You might also begin abusing your prescriptions by taking opioids to get “high” or feel the euphoric effects of opioids. Misuse and abuse of opioid medications can put you at a greater risk of developing an addiction. 

  • Addiction means that you will take opioids compulsively, despite knowing that they are causing harm. You might forgo many other areas of your overall health and well-being to get a “fix” of opioids. 

When you have an opioid addiction, you might go to great lengths to obtain opioids despite the risk. You might seek legal opioids by feigning chronic pain symptoms to increase your prescribed dose or go from one doctor to the next to get more scripts. 

Additionally, you might seek opioids illegally by buying another person’s medications or getting street drugs like heroin. When you buy drugs illegally, you might increase your risk of being in traumatic situations, getting arrested, or taking lethal doses of opioids.

The Effects of Long-Term Opioid Use on Mental Health

Not all side effects from long-term opioid use are physical. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), when “[c]ompared with the general population, people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders.” 

Some of the mental health effects of long-term opioid use are common among those with other substance use disorders, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations

Both the mental and physical side effects of long-term opioid use can impact your ability to detox during the early stages of treatment.

How Does Long-Term Opioid Use Impact Withdrawal?

Withdrawal symptoms while detoxing can be more severe following long-term opioid use. You might need more time to withdrawal if you have been using opioids for years. Opioid dependence significantly impacts your withdrawal symptoms. Your body might need time to adjust to functioning without opioids flooding your system.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms of long-term opioid use include:

  • Increased irritability and agitation
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Runny nose and cough
  • Fever
  • Chills, clammy skin, and excessive sweating
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite

Many of the symptoms of withdrawal might be similar to having the flu or other sickness. During detox, you will feel the most acute symptoms during the early stages. In the early stages of treatment, withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to about four weeks.

How to Detox From Long-Term Opioid Use

Detox from long-term opioid use can be challenging. However, with the support and help from a medical detox center, you can safely detox from long-term opioid use. Detoxing at home without supervision from professionals can be risky, dangerous, and even deadly—especially following long-term opioid use.

A medical detox center can help you stop long-term opioid use while helping you manage both the physical and mental health symptoms of withdrawal. Medical detox centers can offer some of the following to help you during withdrawal from long-term opioid use:

  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which can:
    • Ease withdrawal symptoms
    • Help you feel “normal” during early treatment
    • Minimizes the risk of relapse
  • Providing comfort and support
  • Keeping you safe from relapsing
  • Transitioning you from detox to addiction treatment

Long-Term Opioid Use Treatment in Nashville

Detox is the first step of comprehensive treatment for long-term opioid use and other addictions. You or your loved one can get the treatment you need for every stage of recovery at a facility that provides medical detox, residential rehab, and aftercare services. Brentwood Springs Detox of Nashville, TN, is here to help you overcome opioid addiction and dependency from medical detox to the advanced stages of long-term addiction recovery. Call us today at (615) 560-7545.

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