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What Are the Long Term Effects of Opiate Addiction?

It is estimated that Americans consume about 80% of the world’s supply of opiates. Shocking as that may be, abuse of prescription opiates has become a real problem with far-reaching mental, physical and social effects. Opiate addiction can occur when this class of drugs is consumed in copious doses and for prolonged periods of time. Opiate drugs are commonly prescribed to individuals suffering from extreme pain.

They work by directly binding to the receptors in the brain, resulting in a feeling of intense high which is followed by relaxation. The body quickly builds up a tolerance to the opiate compounds, demanding more and more of the opiates to achieve the same result. Then the nightmare begins. Below are some of the long-term effects of opiate addiction.

Mental Effects

Chronic opiate abuse has detrimental effects on the brain. Specifically, opiates alter the brain’s reward and pleasure mechanisms while also altering the production of endorphins. The latter results in dependence on opiates which further compounds the problem. Bombardment of the brain’s opioid receptors alters the structure of the brain itself, which in turn alters the hormonal and neuronal systems. Such effects are not easy to undo.

Chronic opioid abuse affects regions of the brain that control muscle movement, hearing, sight, speech, emotions, and decision-making. The ability to exercise good judgement, react to stressful situations and control one’s behavior is completely altered. Common mental defects associated with long-term opioid abuse include depression, anxiety, and the risk of permanent brain damage due to hypoxia brought on by respiratory depression.

Physical Effects

There are many detrimental effects associated with long-term opioid abuse. Naturally, the health of the addict comes into question. As far as the physical effects go, there are obvious signs of physical emaciation as a result of prolonged opiate abuse. These arise from gastrointestinal complications and lowered appetites. The fact that addicts spend more money on drugs than on pretty much anything else means that their nutritional status will be impacted. Other physical effects of opioid abuse include damage to vital organs such as the liver and the kidneys.

Social Effects

Every aspect of the addict’s life is affected by opiate abuse in the long term. The social effects of prolonged opiate abuse include job loss, financial ruin, and an increased likelihood to commit crimes leading to incarceration or death. It is also worth mentioning that opiate addicts are likelier to have failed marriages or be involved in some form of domestic violence or child abuse. At some point, if the affliction is not addressed, addicts may continue down the slippery slope into homelessness. The addict is unable to relate normally with his or her loved ones and family which often leads to broken ties and failed relationships. There are also increased incidences of HIV/AIDS contraction among users.

As you can imagine, hardly any aspect of an addict’s life is left untouched. Opiate addiction is a real problem in the United States and globally as well. The good news is, like any addiction, opiate addiction can be treated and the person can regain back their health and wellness and resume a normal lifestyle.

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