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Is Long-Term Opioid Abuse Linked to Chronic Pain?

Opioids are prescription medications used to treat moderate to severe pain. They work on the CNS (central nervous system) by activating Mu receptors in your brain. When these receptors are activated, they release the “feel-good chemicals” known as endorphins or dopamine and tell your brain that you are not in pain.

How Do Prescription Opioids Work?

As a result, opioids produce an intense calming effect and promote relaxation. If they are taken in high doses, opioids produce a euphoric feeling. This is what makes these medications so highly addictive. The CDC’s “Prescription Opioids” states:

Prescription opioids can be used to treat moderate-to-severe pain and are often prescribed following surgery or injury, or for health conditions such as cancer. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the acceptance and use of prescription opioids for the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain, such as back pain or osteoarthritis, despite serious risks and the lack of evidence about their long-term effectiveness. Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. In fact, as many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction. (CDC)

Is Long-Term Opioid Abuse Linked to Chronic Pain?

Is There Chronic Pain from Long-Term Opioid Abuse?

Opioids can be very effective and generally safe when used on a short-term basis; however, if used long-term, there are many risks and effects they can cause on a person’s physical and mental well-being. As stated above by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids are being prescribed more and more for chronic pain issues. Unfortunately, when these drugs are taken over a long period, they can have debilitating effects on a person physically.

More About Chronic Pain from Opioid Addiction

Opioids copy the body’s natural chemicals, which help a person deal with pain. When they are used long-term, it makes a person more sensitive to pain, making the pain much worse. The body gets used to the individual taking the medication, and it’s not able to create and use its natural endorphins. So opioids eventually damage an individual’s ability to deal with pain naturally.

Adverse Effects from Taking Opioids For a Long Time

One of the biggest risks with long-term opioid use/abuse is the risk of dependence and addiction. Opioids can also damage a person’s immune system and weaken the body’s ability to fight off infection. They commonly cause gastrointestinal issues like constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Opioids taken long-term can also have other adverse effects on an individual’s health. Some of these effects can include:

  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Impaired concentration and memory problems
  • Hormonal imbalance issues
  • Severe depression and anxiety
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry skin
  • Liver damage (due to acetaminophen)

As stated above, we know that opioids can damage a person’s natural pain receptors and make any pain worse and more intense. As long as an individual continues taking them long-term, they will experience chronic pain issues. The only way to stop this cycle is to stop taking opioids, and the body will start to repair itself over time.

Addiction Recovery for Opioid Abuse at Evoke Wellness

If you or someone you love struggles with an addiction to opioids or any drugs, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Evoke Wellness assists men, women, and families throughout the United States who struggle with substance abuse and are searching for opioid addiction treatment. One of our addiction specialists can help you find the right treatment program that will help get you on the road to long-lasting recovery. You don’t have to suffer any longer. All calls are free and confidential.