The Side Effects of Opioid Use That You Probably Didn’t Know of Before

Opioid abuse has become one of the deadliest issues that America and many parts of the world are battling today. Despite the fact that they have legitimate medicinal uses, people end up abusing them at great risk to their health.

The Royal College of Anaesthetists states that fifty to eighty percent of patients in clinical trials end up experiencing side effects from opioid therapy. They also note that in everyday use, this ratio may be higher. 

In this article, we will learn about three of these lesser-known side effects. The more context and awareness there is about the dangers of opioid abuse, the better.

1. You Become Prone to Dental Problems

While opioids are commonly associated with pain management, their misuse and abuse can lead to a range of dental problems. This exacerbates existing oral health issues and creates new challenges for individuals struggling with addiction.

One of the most significant oral health issues associated with opioid abuse is a condition known as “dry mouth,” or xerostomia. Opioids can suppress saliva production, leading to a dry, parched feeling in the mouth.

What’s even more unfortunate is that even if you decide to quit abusing opioids, some of the medication you take during de-addiction can have side effects. That’s right. Suboxone is often prescribed to help overcome the dependence on opioids and withdrawal symptoms. 

However, as TorHoerman Law notes, people who took the drug have suffered from side effects, which included tooth decay. 

As you can imagine, this has led to a number of people filing Suboxone tooth decay lawsuit cases against the manufacturer Indivior. Imagine trying to gain control over your addiction, and a part of the recovery process ends up hurting you. 

2. Respiratory Depression During Sleep

This is a critical concern associated with opioid abuse, presenting significant risks to individuals’ health and well-being. While opioids are effective at relieving pain, they can also depress the respiratory drive, leading to shallow or slowed breathing, particularly during sleep.

Studies have shown that opioids cause respiratory depression because they act on something called “μ-opioid receptors.” These receptors are responsible for how you regulate your breathing. It’s a delicate balance of neurochemistry that ends up being disrupted by opioid abuse.

During sleep, the body’s respiratory system undergoes changes, including decreased muscle tone and respiratory rate. When opioids are introduced into the system, these natural processes can become further compromised, resulting in potentially life-threatening respiratory events such as apnea and oxygen desaturation. 

Hypopnea, characterized by shallow or unusually slow breathing, is another common respiratory event associated with opioid abuse during sleep. While not as severe as apnea, hypopnea can still lead to inadequate oxygenation of the blood and contribute to daytime fatigue, cognitive impairment, and other health complications over time.

3. You Can Become More Sensitive to Pain 

Opioids function by attaching to particular receptors found in the brain and spinal cord. These are referred to as opioid receptors. They play a central role in regulating pain perception, along with various other functions. When opioids bind to these receptors, they inhibit the transmission of pain signals and alter the brain’s response to painful stimuli.

Initially, this can result in profound pain relief, making opioids a valuable tool for managing conditions such as post-operative pain, cancer-related pain, and severe injuries. However, with continued use, the body adapts to the presence of opioids, leading to the development of tolerance. 

As tolerance to opioids develops, individuals may find themselves needing increasingly larger doses to alleviate their pain adequately. Paradoxically, studies have found that if you have been taking opioids on a long-term basis, you might develop a condition known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia. In this condition, you become more sensitive to painful stimuli, rather than less. 

This phenomenon is thought to occur due to neuroadaptive changes in the central nervous system.. The brain becomes rewired in a way that amplifies the perception of pain, making it more difficult to achieve adequate pain relief even with high doses of opioids.

In conclusion, opioids are far more dangerous than people think. Their side effects go beyond the expected instances of confusion, drowsiness, or nausea. There’s a reason why opioid-related deaths are so high. The CDC states that there were over 106,699 deaths in 2021, and 75.4% of all drug overdose deaths were opioid-related. 

Hopefully, this should give anyone pause if they feel like dabbling in opioids is something worth trying. If you know someone who is going down this path, try your best to give them an intervention and the help they need to quit.