Prescription painkillers are highly addictive drugs that are far more dangerous than most people realize. Although they can be effective treatment for moderate to severe short-term pain, such as the pain you would experience after surgery or injury, it is crucial for all patients taking prescription opioids to be aware of the impact these drugs can have on your body, and how easily use can lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Taking prescription painkillers makes changes in the brain and body that can cause long-lasting health complications. Even taking painkillers for a brief period of time can but you at risk of developing a risky side effect or unexpected health complication. You need to be informed of the risks and proceed with caution.
Common long-term health complications that can be caused by prescription painkillers include:
- Lessened immunity: The use of prescription painkillers can compromise the immune system, making you more vulnerable to viruses, infections, and other illnesses.
- Gastrointestinal problems: Taking prescription painkillers commonly causes constipation, and can also cause other gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, and bloating.
- Muscle breakdown: Prescription opioids can cause muscle and tissue to break down, which can lead to many problems, especially kidney disease and kidney failure.
- Liver problems: Opioid use strains your liver, which is responsible for filtering chemicals, medications, and toxins from your body. Undue stress on liver function can cause liver disease and liver failure.
- Respiratory failure: Prescription opioids work as central nervous system depressants, which means they slow down many bodily functions, including respiration. Taking too much, or taking opioids for too long can cause long-term breathing difficulties, including the collapse of the respiratory system. Reduced oxygen to the brain causes a decline in brain function, and can even brain damage and coma if the oxygen intake is low enough.
- Heart issues: Prescription painkillers can also slow your heart rate and cause irregularities in heart rhythm. This can increase your risk of heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke.
- Death: The misuse of prescription painkillers is responsible for half of all opioid overdose fatalities. Taking just a little too much or mixing the drug with another CNS depressant such as alcohol can lead to heart malfunctions, respiratory distress, seizures, coma, and death. An overdose can become fatal due to the failure of any important bodily system, not just the brain, lungs or heart. Kidney failure is a frequent culprit in overdose deaths.
The first step to avoiding health complications due to prescription painkillers is to understand the risks, to follow prescribing instructions as closely as possible, and to stay in contact with your doctor about any side effects that you may experience.
If you or a loved one has developed a dependency or addiction to prescription opioids, there are effective treatments available to help you. Finding the right rehab facility can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Addictions.com can help simplify the process by connecting you to the best options available to you.