The opioid epidemic is one of the worst substance-related problems in American history, second only to alcohol. The CDC estimates that nearly 500,000 people have died from an opiate overdose from 1999-2019. That is almost 25,000 people per year.
Unlike alcohol or other drugs, opioid use originally stemmed from the medical community, rather than bars or street dealers. During the 1990s, opiates were overprescribed and considered safe — with a low chance of addiction — by many doctors. This was in fact wrong, and it ended up causing a lot of people to develop opiate dependency despite following doctor’s orders.
With drugs like heroin being far cheaper than prescription opiates, this created a massive problem.
Many people who are aware of the effects of drugs know that opiates can easily cause an overdose. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only negative outcome that is public knowledge. Abusing opiates has many negative effects on the body and mind, which should be more widely known.
There is a chance of someone believing that as long as they avoid an overdose, opiates are not hurting them too severely. After all, morphine and oxycontin are still prescribed to this day. However, even if someone avoids overdosing, opiates like heroin can permanently damage the body, sometimes beyond repair. This is why it is important to learn about the harmful effects of these substances.
The Medical Fallacy
There is a misconception among some people that because a drug is administered by medical professionals, it must be relatively safe. Someone who would never take heroin may experiment with codeine, fentanyl, or oxycontin because of this false idea. However, this is not just false, it is dangerous. A great example of this is propofol.
Propofol is a commonly administered anesthetic, which when used properly can aid in surgery and other procedures, saving the patient a lot of pain. When given an improper dose, however, propofol can easily kill someone through respiratory arrest and hypoxia.
The importance of proper dosing is why anesthesiologists and pharmacologists exist. These professionals dedicate years of schooling to learn about the substances they administer. When dosed properly in a medical setting, opioids can be useful in treating severe pain. When not administered by professionals, improper dosing and overuse can lead to life-threatening problems. This is when severe side effects and health problems arise in people, especially those who become dependent on these harmful substances.
Long-Term Negative Effects
Heroin is one of the most abused opioids and leads to the most overdose-related deaths. Science has found, however, that the dangers of heroin go far beyond the risk of overdose. Research shows that repeated heroin use “changes the physical structure and physiology of the brain, creating long-term imbalances in neuronal and hormonal systems that are not easily reversed.”
This same government research also tells us that heroin can deteriorate some white matter of the brain. In turn, this may affect decision making, the ability to regulate behavior, and responses to stressful situations.
Opioids are dangerous substances regardless if someone overdoses or not. Thankfully, as we learn more about how these substances affect the human body, our treatment of addiction and health consequences steadily improve.
Treatment such as methadone has been life-saving for many and helps reduce both cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Although heroin withdrawal usually lasts around a week, in some patients it can last for months. Symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, leg movements, and cold flashes with “goosebumps.”
Opiate addiction is a problem facing many people around the world that can have dire consequences. However, this does not mean that there is no hope. Many people who were once troubled by opiates have reached a state of recovery and live healthy, meaningful lives. One of these people is actor Russell Brand, who found career success and good health after treatment and recovery.
Although the withdrawal symptoms may be daunting, there are two important things to keep in mind. First, medical science has found successful treatments for both opiate cravings and withdrawal symptoms to help you on your path. Second, the health consequences of continuing heroin or opiate use are far worse than the withdrawal.
It is also important to remember that the consequences of continued use may be permanent. Withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand, are temporary. Sometimes difficult choices must be made for the benefit of your body and mind. However, from the words of Russell Brand and the many others who overcame addiction — it is worth it.
Opiate addiction is a major problem facing America and many nations around the world. Although overdoses are a terrible result of this disorder, it is important to recognize the other consequences as well. The more informed we are, the better choices we can make in regards to seeking help for ourselves and our loved ones. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we are well-equipped to treat opiate addiction, among other substance use disorders. Our well-trained staff offers various treatments and therapies to fit our client’s needs. We consider each client’s circumstances and the nature of their substance use problems to create an individualized treatment plan. While many opiates have the same side effects, a client may have come to misuse the substance in many ways. Our comfortable facilities are located in sunny southern California. To learn more about how we can help you achieve and maintain recovery, call us at (866) 338-6925 today.