The short-term impact of opioid addiction presents severe consequences for a person’s mental and physical well-being.
And the long-term effects of prolonged opioid use present significant health effects including withdrawals, risk of overdose, and permanent mental health effects.
In general, a person that uses opioids over a long period of time will experience effects like:
- mood swings
- permanent behavior changes
- sexual dysfunction
- physical withdrawal symptoms (vomiting, shaking, fever)
Long-Term Physical Effects Of Opioid Abuse
People that use opioids may experience damage to the heart and brain due to the changes in blood oxygen and blood pressure. Long-term opioid use may also lead to liver and kidney disorders.
Many people take opioids in ways that can cause long-term physical impact.
The following common opioids are usually ingested by smoking, injecting, snorting, plugging, or swallowing pills/capsules.
Common opioids of abuse:
- hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
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Long-Term Damage From Opioids By Route Of Administration
Over time, opioids that are ingested through methods meant to fast-track effects can produce uncomfortable, and even life-threatening effects.
Damage From Smoking Opioids:
- lung damage
- chronic respiratory issues (labored breathing, asthma)
Damage From Injecting Opioids:
- scars (track marks)
- HIV/AIDS (needle sharing)
Damage From Snorting Opioids:
- deviated septum
- nose bleeds
- lung/sinus infections
Damage From Plugging Opioids:
- bloody stools
- increased HIV/AIDS risk
- bowel irregularities
Opioid Dependence, Addiction, And Withdrawal
Continuous opioid abuse creates a tolerance — meaning that more of the drug will be needed to achieve the same result and keep withdrawal symptoms from occurring.
This can lead to people searching for more potent opioids, or different formulations that include fentanyl to achieve an expected feeling.
A person that has built up a tolerance to opioids will often experience negative symptoms when the drugs are absent from their system. This dependence means that opioid drug use becomes a regular part of their day-to-day life.
Addiction is the psychologically-driven craving for drug use, which can accompany physical dependence and can persist even after a person detoxes from opioid use.
When opioids are absent, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms like:
- fever-like symptoms
Long-Term Effects Of Opioid Abuse On The Brain
Opioids affect a person’s behavior and ability to think clearly and interact with stability after immediate and prolonged use.
However, when opioids are consistently abused, brain chemistry can change.
Chronic opioid abuse can lead to issues like:
- poor response to stress
- antisocial personality disorder
- problems with decision-making and behavior
- behavior regulation
- altered pain perception
- chronic discontent
Getting Treatment For Opioid Abuse And Addiction
Recovery from long-term opioid addiction can help reduce and even reverse some symptoms of prolonged opioid abuse. In general, inpatient treatment will provide the best environment for detox and early-stage recovery.
On a case-by-case basis, outpatient therapy and care management can help ensure a successful rehabilitation recovery.
Some detox programs and outpatient facilities may use medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms. These medications include:
If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids, help is available. Call one of our treatment specialists to learn more about the best treatment option for your needs.
Published on June 8, 2021
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Addiction Science & Clinical Practice — Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Opioid Overdose
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Opioid Addiction
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Drug Facts: Prescription Opioids
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA — Heroin Research Report
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Opioids