Dangers of Long Term Opioid Use

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Long Term Opioid Use and the Risks an Addict Faces

Long term opioid use can lead to an array of problems. With the rise of the opioid crisis, it has become important to educate people on the dangers they face when they abuse opioid pain relievers and heroin over the long term.  In a 16 year period from 2000 to 2016, over 600,000 people lost their lives as a result drug abuse. Every day in America, as many as 115 people die from an opioid overdose, on average.

To better understand the risks involved with long term opioid use, we will explore the effects that the substance has on a person’s organs and brain.


Since opioids are a highly addictive chemical mixture, they are not meant to be taken over the long term. One of the major concerns when it comes to long term opioid use is the formation of a debilitating addiction. When an addiction forms, the person’s life and health become greatly affected and they become their own worst enemy. Even though the user may have noticed negative side effects of long term opioid use, they don’t stop because it’s not that easy to stop dependence to a drug.

Once the addiction is broken, withdrawal effects must be dealt with. Withdrawal symptoms generally occur over about a week period, but some symptoms such as depression can last for several weeks. Symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, tremors, abdominal cramps, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting and extreme cravings.

Tolerance and Overdose

One of the life-threatening aspects of long term opioid abuse is overdose. Overdose is not something that happens on purpose usually, but rather by accident. A person may have abused opioids for months while building a tolerance, which caused them to have to take increasing amounts of opioids as time went by. The danger comes in when a person stops for a time, lowering their tolerance. If relapse occurs, they may go straight back to taking the same amounts of the drug, which their body is not used to anymore, leading to overdose.

Overdose can also happen by accident when a person buys illegal opioids that may be much more potent than they realize, such as fentanyl.

Long Term Effects of Opiates on Organs

The long term effects of opiates on organs can lead to serious conditions that require medical attention. The following are some of the long term effects of opiate abuse on the organs and systems in your body:

  • Immunosuppression
  • Amenorrhea
  • Increased heart attack and heart infection risk
  • Fertility problems
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Galactorrhea in breast feeding mothers
  • Hormonal dysfunction
  • Liver damage or failure

Intravenous opioid users also run the risk of exposing themselves to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Brain damage is common in cases where there has been a non-fatal overdose. Taking too many opioids can result in respiratory depression. The lack of oxygen that your body gets causes the brain to be staved of oxygen, quickly causing brain damage.

Long Term Effects of Opiates for Chronic Pain

For those who began taking opioids as a way to deal with chronic pain, there are long term effects of opiates for chronic pain too. User may experience a rebound of the chronic pain that had been dulled through the use of opioids. When use stop due to the dangers of opioid abuse, the abuser can develop paradoxical hyperalgesia, which is an abnormal level of pain sensitivity. It can be particular difficult to deal with since opioids are no longer an option.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.