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The human body is designed to do amazing things. With trillions of nerves, cells and atoms, our bodies are built to function like a well-oiled machine that can endure, sustain and push past preconceived limits.

When a chemical substance, such as a medication, is introduced for a limited time, bodily functions are temporarily altered. With continuous, long-term use, a medication can negatively impact the body’s natural homeostasis – potentially shifting the body’s outlook from a well-oiled machine to a dependent, addicted system.

This is especially true with opioids.

While highly effective at treating and managing severe and chronic pain from an injury, surgery or medical complication, opioids have a dark, dangerous side.

Opioids are highly addictive substances that adversely affect several of the body’s vital systems. To learn how opioids affect the brain, read our blog post How Opioid Addiction Affects the Mind.

Long-Term Effects of Painkillers on the Body

Opioid addiction usually starts after the body has built a tolerance to the drug, necessitating a higher dose to achieve the coveted high and pain relief. Addiction seizes control over the mind and body, creating multiple health concerns and consequences.

How Opioids Affect the Nervous System

Long-term use of opioids has a role-reversal effect on the nervous system. Constant use of opioid painkillers depresses the central nervous system and can cause:

• Hyperalgesia. A condition in which the body experiences an increased sensitivity to pain, potentially due to damaged nociceptors (sensory receptors for pain) or peripheral nerves.
• Psychomotor impairment. A condition in which a person’s thoughts are slowed, physical movement reduced and coordination diminished.

How Opioids Affect the Respiratory System

Because opioid painkillers depress the central nervous system, this means they are also a respiratory depressant. Chronic use of opioid painkillers can lead to:

• Respiratory depression. A condition in which the body’s breathing rate is slowed.
• Respiratory arrest. A condition caused by extreme doses in which the brain and body tissues do not get the necessary amounts of oxygen, often leading to crippling organ system injuries or death.

How Opioids Affect the Digestive System

Long-term use of opioid painkillers can cause unpleasant digestive symptoms, such as:

• Constipation. A condition cause by a slowed digestive transit, leading to infrequent and difficult-to-pass bowel movements.
• Small bowel obstruction. A condition in which food or liquid is blocked from passing through the intestines.
• Gastrointestinal perforation. A condition in which a hole is formed in a portion of the gastrointestinal tract wall.
• Nausea. Opioid users may experience sudden, uncontrollable vomiting.

How Opioids Affect the Immune System

Since opioid receptors help regulate immunity, opioid painkillers can suppress the immune system and prevent immune response. This can lead to an increased susceptibility to infection.

How Opioids Affect the Liver

Continuous use of opioid painkillers can cause liver injury or failure. Opioids compromise the liver’s ability to function optimally and process toxins. Additionally, several opioid painkillers possess an ingredient called acetaminophen. Because of this compound’s toxicity level, the liver is likely to sustain damage.

Regardless of how your opioid use started, the longevity of your health depends on you seeking professional help and treatment. Abusing opioids has a deadly consequence that can happen to anyone.

Prescription Drug Treatment at Covenant Hills

You only get one life and one body – make the most of yours by putting opioid addiction behind you. At Covenant Hills Treatment Center, your whole-body health is our main priority. Restore your body, mind and faith in God while expelling the addiction that has ruled your life for far too long. Learn more about our prescription drug treatment, or contact us for a free and confidential assessment.