Effects of Opioids on the Body

Written by Journey Pure Staff

There are patients who come through JourneyPure with an addiction to prescription pain medication who say it’s the one drug they couldn’t shake. Michaela S. had abused alcohol, marijuana, even meth. But it was her addiction to opioids that ultimately brought her to treatment at JourneyPure.

She described herself as “beaten and broken down,” lying and stealing to feed her addiction. And when she would try to quit, the withdrawals were too much to bear.

Ashley W., says she took a downward spiral after a series of surgeries spurred an addiction to pain medications. She spent nearly four years trying to kick the addiction but she, like Michaela, couldn’t function day-to-day without the pills.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 2 million people in the U.S and between abuse opioids. Sadly, more people die from a prescription opioid overdose than from all other drugs combined.

Short-term Effects of Opioids

Opioids, when used to manage pain, are very effective but as soon as they are taken not as prescribed, they become extremely addictive. There is a long list of short-term effects from abusing the drug, which speaks to the drug’s impact on the brain and central nervous system. The drug works to slow down the chemical process, therefore someone abusing opioids can have slurred speech and a lack of focus or inability to concentrate.  They can also experience shallow breathing and if taking large amounts at once can go in and out of consciousness, referred to as “nodding out.”

As the drug takes more control of the body, temperatures can fluctuate rapidly, causing hot flashes or chills and a person will experience mood swings. In addition, the more drugs used, the higher the user’s tolerance level so the vicious cycle and potential for overdose begins.

Painful Withdrawals

Clinicians say it can take from 72 hours to a week for the withdrawal symptoms to subside, which can progressively worsen from simple muscle aches, excessive sweating, trouble sleeping and anxiety to more intense symptoms such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat and sometimes blurred vision.

Long-term Effects of Opiates

Experts are still studying the long-term effect of opioid abuse on the brain. They do know that the drugs slow breathing, which can affect the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain – a condition called hypoxia. According to an article in drugabuse.com, “Hypoxia can have short- and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma and permanent brain damage.”

Help For Opiate Addiction at JourneyPure

Both Michaela and Ashley are in recovery and feel like they can lead healthy lives free of addiction thanks to JourneyPure. If you are a loved one are abusing prescription medications we can help. Our caring staff will be by your side throughout the detox process to make it as comfortable as possible. Once in recovery, you’ll enjoy relaxed accommodations as you begin to restore your mind, body, and spirit.

We operate both inpatient rehabs and outpatient Suboxone clinics. Call us today to speak with an admissions coordinator who will answer any questions you have.


National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.