Destination Hope Blog » Understanding What Opiate Addiction Does to Your Body

Understanding What Opiate Addiction Does to Your Body

Opiate addiction has serious physical and mental consequences. To understand the effects of addiction on the body, it can help to know how opiate addiction works, as well as the long-term effects of both opiate use and opiate withdrawal.

The Mechanics of Opiate Addiction

When a person uses an opiate, such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, or heroin, the drug activates receptors in the brain that relieve pain and create a sense of calm or euphoria. Opiates mimic naturally occurring chemicals that our bodies produce in order to cope with sudden, extreme physical stress.

These natural opiates allow the body to function in extreme circumstances, such as after a serious injury.

Long-term opiate use desensitizes these receptors, so that higher doses of the drug are needed to produce the same effects. At the same time, the body adjusts to this higher level of chemical activity in the brain. This causes the body to interpret moderate, everyday stress as extreme stress, intensifying cravings.

The Effects of Opiate Use

Long-term opiate addiction can result in infections around the heart valves and the lining of the heart. It can also lead to lung infections and pneumonia. When opiates are snorted or injected, they can cause serious vascular damage. Collapsed veins and abscesses can also occur when the drug is injected. Irreversible damage to the liver and kidneys can result from overuse and from toxic substances used as additives in street drugs.

An overdose of opiates causes the heart and lungs to slow to the point that oxygen cannot be delivered through the body, causing death.

The Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal

Once the body has formed an opiate addiction, withdrawal sets in after only a few hours without the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and include tremors, cramps, rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness.

These symptoms usually last for 48-72 hours as the opiates leave the body. After detoxification, it can take days or weeks for the body to adjust to the absence of the drug. Qualified medical assistance can help manage this period of withdrawal, such as that provided by a professional treatment facility.

Opiate addiction leads to long-term changes in how the body functions, especially under stress. This is known as protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal. Long after detoxification, a person in recovery will often experience sudden periods of extreme craving. This can be accompanied by recurrences of insomnia, anxiety, and depression that a person in recovery may struggle with for the rest of their life.

If you or someone you love is suffering from the effects of opiate addiction, substance abuse or any other type of addiction, please call us today.  Our addiction treatment counselors can help you deal with physical, emotional and psychological consequences of drug and alcohol abuse.

Programs for substance abuse are effective, safe and have helped many men reclaim their lives. Destination Hope is a full service drug, alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment facility in Florida for men suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues.