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Side Effects of Opioids

A person stands in a dark bedroom lit by a window learning about the side effects of opioids

Opioids are potent drugs that can relieve pain and create feelings of euphoria. They can also produce a large number of unwanted short- and long-term side effects. Individuals who use opioids risk developing severe side effects and addiction.

Whether prescription medications or illegal substances cause it, opioid addiction is a treatable disease. Call Northpoint Omaha today at 888.687.8014 to learn more about our opioid addiction treatment program.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy plant. They include prescription medications and illicit substances. Some of the most commonly used opioid drugs include:

  • Heroin
  • OxyContin (oxycodone)
  • Vicodin
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Tramadol

The effect of opioids on the brain’s reward center makes them highly addictive. Some individuals can become physically dependent
on the drug with a few weeks of consistent use.

Opioids and Prescription Drug Abuse

The high number of prescriptions written for opioid medications has contributed heavily to the opioid epidemic. Opioid use may start as a solution for pain management, but it can quickly lead to physical dependence and addiction. Signs of opioid abuse include:

  • Unexplained financial hardship
  • Doctor “shopping” to get new prescriptions
  • Complaints about losing pills or blaming others for stealing them
  • Personality changes and mood swings
  • Appearing to be sedated, sleepy, or overly relaxed

If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s opioid use, don’t wait to get help. Speak with your physician or a mental health specialist about a treatment program.

The Side Effects of Opioids

Depending on the type of opioids being used, side effects can begin within a few hours after use. With short-acting opioids like oxycodone, side effects can be noticeable within six to eight hours.

The short-term side effects of opioids include:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Headache
  • Mental fog
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea, vomiting, and other flu-like symptoms
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • In addition, an intense itching sensation, considered a “pseudo allergic” reaction to the drug, may affect some people. This itching is not an actual drug allergy but mimics some of the same symptoms of an allergy. Itching occurs because opioids activate “itch-specific” receptors in the brain. This uncomfortable feeling can cause mental and physical anguish.

The long-term side effects of opioids can be severe and even life-threatening. Some of the long-term effects include:

  • Addiction
  • Depression
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Weakened bones
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased pain
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Irregular menstrual cycles

Chronic and painful constipation is also a long-term side effect. Severe cases of constipation can lead to bowel blockage, perforation of the intestine, and pain.

Death by overdose is the biggest concern when it comes to unwanted side effects of opioids. This dangerous side effect is experienced by tens of thousands of Americans every year, prompting many local communities to take action. People who experience withdrawal from opioids, whether they are in recovery or unable to get the drugs when desired, are at high risk for overdose.

Once the body has detoxed from the substance, it is no longer able to tolerate the same dosage as before. People may not realize the danger of taking their “normal” dose before it’s too late. Illicit drugs that are laced with other substances, as well as unusually potent batches of synthetic fentanyl, can also cause overdoses.

Find Help for Prescription Drug Abuse at Northpoint Omaha

Some of the side effects of opioid abuse can cause long-lasting damage to your mental and physical health. Addiction recovery treatment provides the mental and physical health care needed to address any damage caused by opioids. Contact Northpoint Omaha at 888.687.8014 with questions about opioid rehab.