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What do Opioids do to the Body?

July 11, 2022

Opioid abuse has a range of effects on the body. Opioids are typically used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. They may be prescribed following surgery or an injury. Also, prescription opioids may be part of a treatment plan for cancer. Treating chronic pain, such as back pain, is another use of this type of drug.

Opioids work to counteract pain by interacting with opioid receptors in the cells. This controls the pain while also producing a relaxed state in the user. While their prescribed use is common, opioids have a range of effects on the body. Some of them can be quite serious. Off-label or recreational use of opioids presents additional health risks including overdose and death.

Short-Term Effects of Opioid Abuse

Moving from prescribed use of opioids to a level of misuse can lead to several types of outcomes. A person can go from relaxed and happy with pain under control and feeling a sense of euphoria to noticing signs of physical changes. Drowsiness during normal waking hours is one sign. Another is slowed breathing from the depression of the respiratory system. Nausea and constipation may appear. Short-term opioid abuse can lead to a loss of consciousness, with additional risks if it occurs when driving or working in a high-risk environment. Another serious outcome of opioid abuse is  going into a coma.

Long-Term Effects of Opioid Abuse

Sustained abuse of opioids leads to an increased amount taken each time and more frequent use as tolerance for the drug elevates. The outcome for a person can be severe, starting with physical dependence and overdose and ending with death. The death risk increases from a higher potential for contracting infectious diseases through intravenous drug use and injuries from being in accidents. Mental effects may be significant, too, and include an increase in symptoms associated with anxiety or depression.

GI System

Long-term opioid abuse can lead to GI problems. These include chronic constipation. Bowel obstruction is an example of a GI complication stemming from opioid abuse that can lead to hospitalization. Chronic constipation can also affect mental health conditions, such as intensifying the symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Respiratory System

Long-term opioid abuse can result in multiple respiratory problems They include slowed or irregular breathing. In the case of overdose, slowed breathing could become respiratory arrest when breathing stops. The outcome of a loss of oxygen to the brain could be coma, brain damage, or death.

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction can be emotional, physical, or behavioral. An emotional sign may appear as a person often becoming irritable or nervous. You may see quick changes to their mood, including a tendency to express or exhibit sadness. Physical signs of opioid addiction may be the result of a lack of maintaining hygiene practices, leaving teeth unbrushed, and not regularly bathing or cleaning clothes. Behavioral changes may be the most noticeable signs. A person addicted to opioids may remain isolated frequently and avoid family and friends. They may miss appointments and ignore commitments. You may notice they ask for money without naming a reason. Arrest or legal issues may be another sign of a person with opioid addiction.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Signs of opioid withdrawal may begin within 12 hours of a last dose. Strong cravings for the drug are among the signs. Like any drug, factors influencing the duration and severity of withdrawal are shaped by gender, body chemistry, genetic makeup, how the substance was administered (swallowed, snorted, injected, etc.), and whether other substances were used at the same time. Typically, withdrawal symptoms from opioid use last 3-5 days. In severe cases, they can last for months.

Within 12 Hours of Last Dose

  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Goosebumps
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Yawning
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Widened (dilated) pupils
  • Body aches
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Belly cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Shaking
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

5 Reasons to Use Medical Detox for Opioid Abuse

1. Medical detox eliminates the risk of complications from opioid withdrawal.

Medically supervised opioids detox allows a person to move through withdrawal with symptoms managed by professionals, ensuring a safe and comfortable experience. Prescription medications may be used as part of treatment.

2. Medical detox provides round-the-clock care.

Medically-supervised detox allows a patient to receive round-the-clock monitoring and care as they move through the stages of withdrawal. As symptoms appear at any time, day or night, the medical team can manage them.

3. Medical detox can address co-occurring physical and mental health conditions.

Co-occurring physical and mental health needs can be addressed and treated during a medical detox. Physical needs may stem from chronic conditions, and mental health concerns may include anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress. A patient whose mental health and physical wellness are prioritized during this period is more likely to be prepared for the comprehensive recovery work ahead.

4. Medical detox can provide diagnosis of underlying conditions.

Medically-supervised detox also provides an opportunity for undiagnosed mental health disorders to be discovered. The treatment team may uncover a co-occurring disorder that has been a factor in a patient’s previous struggle to start recovery.

5. Medical detox sets up a patient for success in transitioning to inpatient or outpatient care.

A personalized treatment plan provided during medical detox equips patients with valuable information on how to make their next treatment decision.


Restored Path’s Solution

Restored Path Detox is DFW’s premier location for sophisticated medical detox. Conveniently located in Frisco, we provide a safe sanctuary for healing that is also a state-of-the-art detoxification facility for a wide range of substances. Our compassionate physicians and therapists want you to get well and are committed to removing any existing barriers to your care. Restored Path’s team of board-certified physicians and highly qualified nursing team have extensive critical care experience and are available to monitor your detox program 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol use, call us today and take your first step towards recovery: 469-827-0000.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol use, call us today and take your first step towards recovery: (469) 827-0000.

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