Long Term Effects of Prescription Painkiller Abuse

Written by Chloe Nicosia

The long term effects of prescription painkiller abuse are devastating to your health and wellbeing, and ending the abuse now can improve your health for the long-haul.

Two million American adults are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, and 115 people lose their lives every day as a result of an opioid overdose. But it’s not just overdose and addiction that make painkillers dangerous. It’s also the long term effects of prescription painkiller abuse, which can be devastating and–in some cases–permanent. Ending a painkiller addiction now can dramatically reduce your risk of a number of long term side effects of painkillers.

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Long Term Effects of Prescription Painkillers on the Body

People who take prescription painkillers exactly as directed by a physician can typically use these medications for around six months without experiencing any major problems. But prescription opioids can cause a number of problems if they’re abused or taken for longer than six months. The long term effects of prescription painkillers on the body include:

  • Weakened immune system and an increased risk of infection and cancer.
  • Abnormal sensitivity to pain.
  • Liver, heart and other organ damage.
  • Hormonal changes that cause infertility and reduce sex drive.
  • Addiction and dependence.

Long Term Effects of Prescription Painkiller Abuse on the Mind and Spirit

The long term side effects of painkillers aren’t just related to your body. Some of the long term effects of prescription painkiller abuse affect your mind and spirit, including:

  • Cognitive and memory problems.
  • Emotional problems.
  • Problems with making decisions.
  • Problems with judgment.
  • Serious relationship problems.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hostility.

Long Term Side Effects of Painkillers Include Addiction and Dependence

Taking painkillers for too long–whether you abuse them to get high or to self-medicate physical, mental, or emotional pain–can lead to addiction and dependence. These are not the same thing, although they typically occur together.

Painkiller addiction is characterized by being unable to stop taking prescription painkillers even though they’re causing problems in your life. You may want or try to quit or cut down, but you find that you can’t. Addiction is the result of powerful brain changes that lead to intense cravings and compulsive drug-using behaviors. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that ending an addiction almost always requires more than willpower and good intentions. Professional help is almost always necessary.

That’s because addiction changes the physical structures and chemical functions of the brain and affects thought and behavior patterns. It also almost always has underlying causes, which often include chronic stress, a history of trauma, or a mental illness like anxiety or depression. Additionally, addiction causes a number of problems in your life. All of these issues–thought patterns, underlying causes, and problems resulting from the addiction–must be addressed in order to successfully recover for the long-term.

Dependence is different from addiction, but it’s also the result of brain changes due to heavy painkiller abuse. Dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when you stop using painkillers. Dependence occurs as the brain changes its neurotransmitter activity in order to compensate for the presence of the drugs and maintain normal brain function. This causes tolerance, which means that it takes increasingly larger doses of painkillers to get the desired effects.

But as you use more, the brain continues to compensate. At some point, brain function may shift so that it now operates more comfortably when painkillers are present. Then, when you suddenly stop using, normal brain function rebounds, and this causes withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment Works

Don’t let the long term effects of prescription painkiller abuse ruin your life. Help is available for painkiller abuse, addiction and dependence. Treatment will help you withdraw safely and comfortably from painkillers and improve your life in many ways so that you no longer need drugs to cope with life. Recovery isn’t easy, but then, neither is being addicted to prescription painkillers. Better Addiction Care can help you find the right treatment program for your needs. Contact us today, and let us help you find the help you need to recover once and for all.

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 (800) 429-7690.