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How Opioids Destroy the Body

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Opiates are a powerful and often deadly class of drugs that can include prescription painkillers like OxyContin and heroin. Yet they can be found in medicine cabinets across the US, with hundreds of thousands of people addicted to them.

An addiction can begin with a prescription to treat pain caused by an injury or surgery. Though these painkillers are effective, they also have a very high likelihood of abuse, dependence, and addiction. After taking prescribed opiates for a certain period of time, a patient may become addicted and need stronger drugs like heroin to deliver the same amount of relief.

Opiates not only destroy lives, they also damage the body.

Opioid Effects On The Brain

Opiates flood the brain with dopamine and create a feeling of euphoria about one thousand times stronger than what is experienced under normal circumstances. The brain quickly adjusts to the presence of opiates and starts to see the presence of the drugs as normal. After rewiring itself, the brain no longer receives satisfaction from activities that would normally activate pleasure centers, such as enjoying a meal or watching a sunset.


To break an opiate addiction, the brain has to adapt to functioning without the drugs.

It’s also important to note that the brain is designed to continue to seek out activities that bring pleasure. This is how an addiction is developed.

Opioid Effects On The Respiratory System

Opiates depress the central nervous system, or slow breathing, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness or death.

If an individual’s rate of respiration slows too much, they can experience respiratory arrest. This prevents the brain and organs from getting adequate oxygen, which can lead to severe organ damage.

Chronic opiate use is also associated with central sleep apnea, ataxic breathing, hypoxemia, and carbon dioxide retention.

Opioid Effects On The Digestive System

Opioid use and addiction also impacts the digestive system. The digestive system has opioid receptors controlled by the body. Taking opiates impacts the muscles of the digestive system, often leading to severe constipation, nausea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and bloating.


Ultimately, chronic opiate use results in more severe issues like obstruction of the small bowel and perforation, which can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Opioid Effects On The Liver

Though opiates don’t directly cause liver damage, overdosing on potent opioids can lead to acute liver injury. Many opioid painkillers are combined with acetaminophen, which can lead to toxicity and damage to the liver.

Opiates particularly likely to lead to liver damage include Lortab, Norco, and Vicodin. The risk is compounded when these opiates are taken with alcohol.

Opiates impair the liver’s ability to process these toxins, potentially leading to liver injury or failure caused by the acetaminophen component in opioids.

These are just a few ways opiates destroy the body. Opiates can also lead to the development of a condition called hyperalgesia. Symptoms of this condition may include an increased sensitivity to pain, slow movement and coordination, and a weakened immune system susceptible to sickness and infection.