Effects of Opioids on the Body
When consumed, opioids impact virtually every system in the body including the brain, respiratory system, nervous system, digestive system, and immune system, just to name a few.
Effects on the brain: Opioids are effective in impacting the parts of the brain that control our feelings of sleepiness, often causing users to experience daytime drowsiness. For example, many heroin users report feelings of profound lethargy, causing them to exhibit what is referred to as “nodding off.” When an opioid user is nodding off, they will slip in and out of consciousness without any control. Another major impact of opioid use on the brain is the development of major depression after prolonged use. In fact, research has found that individuals who have used prescription pain medications for more than six months were 50% more likely to experience a depressive episode.
Effects on the Respiratory System: Opioid drugs are particularly dangerous because when taken in high doses, they can lead to respiratory depression. When respiratory depression occurs, the users breathing has slowed to an unnaturally low pace. In some cases, breathing will stop entirely leaving the body and brain with a lack of oxygen to function. Critical organ injury can occur, as can death.
Effects on the Nervous System: While opioid drugs are intended to reduce pain in users, prolonged use can actually result in a condition of increased sensitivity to pain known as hyperalgesia. Use of these drugs can also result in a loss of coordination and slowing of the user’s physical movements.
Effects on the Digestive System: Having opioids in the digestive system can lead to slowed gastrointestinal motility, chronic constipation, small bowel obstruction, and even uncontrolled vomiting.
Effects on the Immune System: Use of opioid drugs can severely diminish the body’s immune system, leaving users at risk for illness and infection.