What Are the Long Term Health Effects of Prescription Opioids?

If you have been injured, or undergone surgery, you do need to treat your pain. Untreated pain can lead to a number of stress-related health problems, as well as mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. But this kind of pain tends to be treated with prescription opioid painkillers, which are highly-addictive drugs that can cause a host of dangerous side effects, and anyone who takes them needs to be aware of the risks.

Even short term use of prescription opioids can be risky, but the longer you take these medications, the more risk you take with your health and wellbeing. Long term use of prescription painkillers frequently causes the following serious health complications:

  1. Gastrointestinal Problems

Taking prescription painkillers for even just a day or two can cause nausea and constipation, and long term use can exacerbate those problems, as well as cause bloating and vomiting.

  1. Lowered Immunity

The use of prescription painkillers affects the immune system in ways that will make you more vulnerable to disease and illness.

  1. Liver and Kidney Problems

Long term use of prescription painkillers strains the liver, which is responsible for filtering toxic chemicals in the body. Too much strain on the liver can lead to liver disease or failure. Prescription painkillers also break down muscle and tissue, putting you at risk for developing kidney disease and failure.

  1. Heart Problems

Prescription painkillers are central nervous system depressants, which slow many important bodily processes. They slow heart rate, and can cause irregular heartbeats, and can increase your risk of developing heart disease.

  1. Problems with Respiration

As CNS depressants, prescription painkillers also slow down breathing in ways that can cause serious breathing issues and respiratory failure. They can also reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, causing coma and brain damage.

  1. Problems with Memory and Cognition

Using prescription opiates for a long period of time reduces brain matter and impairs your ability to think and reason, as well as to learn and remember. Reduced blood flow to the brain can trigger short term memory loss, and a recent study found a connection between long term painkiller use and cognitive decline and dementia. This damage can be repaired if you seek treatment, but it takes time, and the longer you wait, the more damage opioids will do to your mental functioning.

  1. Death

Long term use of prescription opiates, especially if they are misused, frequently leads to accidental overdose and death. There are a multitude of ways that opiates can negatively impact brain and body function, which means unintentional toxicity can lead to death by many possible means, from kidney failure to cardiac arrest.

Prescription painkillers can be used safely, but only if you are informed, and use them responsibly. Make sure that you and your family members are aware of the risks of opiates, both due to addiction, and to the myriad of negative health complications they can cause. Check out Addictions.com for more information.

Long Term Effects of Painkillers on the Brain