Opioids are narcotic, analgesic or pain-relieving medications generally prescribed by doctors after surgery or to help patients with severe acute or chronic pain. Opioids work by binding to specific proteins called opioid receptors, found primarily in the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the gastrointestinal tract and blocking the pain signals from reaching the brain. The opioids produce analgesic effects due to decreased perception of pain or decreased reaction to pain.
Many studies have shown that opioid analgesics are safe and can manage pain effectively if taken exactly as prescribed by a medical professional. The problem occurs when they are abused or taken without prescription. Opioids can cause tolerance and have a strong potential to cause addiction — compulsive drug seeking and abuse despite its known harmful effects. Opioids have many adverse side effects on health of the abuser.
Common adverse effects: Many people believe that nausea, drowsiness, itching, constipation, vomiting, dry mouth, sedation or even sweating as allergic reactions of opioid use. However, these are not allergic reactions. They are in fact adverse effects of opiate abuse. The following effects can be seen to a greater or lesser extent with all opioids.
Nausea Opioid abuse can make an individual experience nausea with or without vomiting. Opioids affect the brain and gastrointestinal tract that causes nausea. Young women are found to be at more risk of developing nausea due to opioid abuse.
Drowsiness Opioids usage triggers the events like drowsiness or sedation. Opioids like morphine and heroine can cause strong drowsiness. It makes you feel sleepier than usual for the first time or whenever you increase its dose, so it is very dangerous to drive or work with machinery under the influence of opioids.
Itching and Sweating Opioid drugs release histamines, secretions released by the human immune system during allergic reactions in the body. This can result in itching. Opioids abuse can cause excessive sweating. These drugs make you lose large amounts of sweat. The excessive sweating due to opioid abuse causes cold or clammy skin.
Constipation Opioid drug abuse can result in severe constipation for many people. The opioid induced constipation is almost universal and may remain for a longer time. Opioids affect the CNS and myenteric plexus of gut and slows down the passage of stool through the intestinal tract. The constipation due to opioid abuse might become very severe that sometimes emergency surgery is required to remove the fecal impaction from the body.
Vomiting Opioid abuse affects the part of brain that controls vomiting and makes you vomit. Even patients starting opioids for genuine reasons experience vomitings. Usage of opioids without prescription can cause adverse vomitings.
Dry mouth One of the adverse effects of opioid abuse is dry mouth. Opioid abuse decreases the amount of saliva in your mouth. It reduces the production of saliva making your mouth feel dry and uncomfortable.
Sedation Opioid analgesic drugs make abusers feel sedated or mentally clouded. They will be unable to fully wake up and as a result, the person who abuses opioid drugs may be functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all the time.
Uncommon adverse effects: Along with the common adverse effects, opioids have many possible uncommon adverse effects. Uncommon or infrequent adverse reactions in opioid abusers include dose-related respiratory depression, bad dreams, hallucinations, seizures, urticaria, urinary retention etc.
Respiratory depression Opioid drugs affect the specialized respiratory neurons in the brain and cause respiratory depression in the abusers. A large opioid overdose can lead an individual even to death due to respiratory depression.
Bad dreams Rare side effects of opioid drug abuse includes bad dreams. Some opioids such as morphine, heroin, codeine, pethidine, methadone and oxycodone produce dysphoric effects such as bad dreams. Bad dreams along with confusion can cause delirium in the abuser.
Hallucinations Opioid drugs such as morphine and other drugs can cause hallucinations and can be part of a delirium. Hallucinations are false sensory perceptions. Hallucinations caused by opioid drugs are generally visual.
Seizures Seizures, the symptoms of a brain problem are also caused by opioid drug abuse. This sudden, abnormal electrical activity in the brain can be a result of effects of opioid drugs on the central nervous system.
Urticaria Opioids produce urticaria or pruritus in abusers. This itchy skin formation can be a result of cell destabilization by the opioid drug and its subsequent histamine release in the human body.
Urinary retention Large dosages of narcotic opioid drugs may cause urinary retention. You will have a full,expanded bladder that you cannot empty on your own. Simply, it reduces your ability to urinate on your own.
These medications are safe to use only under a recognized physician’s supervision. Typically, they should not be used with other harmful substances such as alcohol. Combination of alcohol or any other illicit drug with opioids could lead to life-threatening situations.
By Nate Rodney MBA
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