Opioid Side Effects & Complications

Opioid abuse can lead to addiction, as well as severe side effects and complications.

Opioids are types of painkillers that are prescribed for short-term pain management. Prescription opioids are a form of pain medicine that can lead to physical dependence if misused.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids are a class of drugs that include:

  • illegal drugs such as heroin
  • synthetic opioids such as fentanyl or tramadol
  • pain relievers such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (Oxycontin)

Those suffering from chronic pain may use opioids to find pain relief, but many abuse opioids for their euphoric effects. Opioid abuse can lead to addiction, as well as severe side effects and complications.

Side Effects Of Opioid Use

Whether a person is abusing the cough suppressant codeine or a prescription opioid such as hydromorphone (Dilaudid), the side effects of opioid use can cause concerns for your overall health.

Common Side Effects

Some of the common side effects of opioids include:

  • constipation
  • ​sweating
  • drowsiness
  • sedation
  • sleepiness
  • dizziness
  • depression
  • itching
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • hormonal dysfunction

Serious Side Effects

Serious side effects caused by excessive opioid use are:

  • respiratory depression
  • cravings which can lead to physical dependence
  • changes in heart rate
  • muscle rigidity
  • gastrointestinal problems

Complications Of Opioid Abuse 

When it comes to prescribing opioids to patients, healthcare professionals will likely inform you of the risk of addiction, as well as other potential complications.

Opioid Use Disorder

Long-term use of opioids may lead to opioid use disorder. Once your body has developed a dependence to the drug, you may find yourself having cravings that you can’t control. Opioid use disorder is characterized by continuing to use despite harmful consequences.

Opioid Overdose

Those addicted to opioids may begin to consume higher doses to fulfill their “high.” This can cause a person to combine various opioids.

This can be dangerous, especially when someone begins to take too much of the drug. This can lead to an overdose.

Some of the symptoms of an opioid overdose include:

  • a limp body
  • vomiting
  • unable to speak
  • heartbeat stops
  • lips and fingernails turn blue

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many overdose deaths involve opioids and benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), or alprazolam (Xanax).

If you suspect someone has overdosed on opioids, call 911 right away. Thankfully, the medicine naloxone is used to help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Opioid Withdrawal

Those who abuse opioid pain medication and suddenly stop taking the drug may experience opioid withdrawal. Some opioid withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • yawning
  • diarrhea
  • anxiety
  • muscle aches
  • hyperventilation
  • hyperthermia
  • chills

Intravenous Drug Use

Those addicted to opioid prescription medication may eventually turn to the illegal drug heroin. In doing so, a person may use the drug intravenously by watering it down and injecting it into a vein.

This can lead to a number of complications and side effects such as:

  • needle-sharing, which can lead to contracting hepatitis or HIV
  • abscesses on your skin that can cause an infection
  • fungal infections
  • scarred or collapsed veins

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides three approved medications commonly used to treat opioid use disorder. These include methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine.

Besides medication-assisted treatment, other recovery options for OUD include behavioral therapy, group therapy, peer support groups, and more.

To learn about outpatient programs, please contact us today.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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