When I started using opioids I thought that they were not “hard drugs.” There is a common misconception that prescription drugs are practically harmless. People assume, including me, that because they are prescribed by a doctor then that must mean that are safe. This couldn’t be more false. In fact, most illicit drugs are related to some form of prescription drug.
My gateway to heroin was actually drugs prescribed by a doctor. I got in an accident on my bicycle that left me missing multiple teeth and a sore jaw. I was prescribed Vicodin. The drug helped the pain, but it also made me feel a sense of calm that I had not felt before. I continued to take the Vicodin, which led to stronger drugs. My jaw pain persisted, which resulted in stronger pain meds.
Eventually, a doctor prescribed me with oxycodone. This was my demise. I had no anticipation that these drugs would have any significant effect on my life. As the years went one, my tolerance grew. It took a long time to realize the psychological effects these drugs had on me. The most prominent effect was the physical problems, which I ignored the entire time. It was easy to ignore physical problems because I was so numb, in yet these prescription drugs take a permanent toll on the body.
Digestive System and Bladder
Opioid painkillers have a strong effect on the bladder as well as the colon. It may not be obvious at first, but when abusing opioids it is very difficult to urinate as well as defecate. Sorry for the excessive information, but it’s true. Going to the bathroom, in any manner, becomes extremely difficult. Even achieving orgasm becomes an extreme feat.
Opioids naturally numb nerves in the body, this means all nerves. Though rarely noticed, going to the bathroom, coughing, sneezing, and any other natural reaction is significantly depressed. This is why people tend to feel that they never get sick when they are regularly using opioids.
OIC, or opioid-induced constipation, is extremely common among opioid users and heroin addicts alike. OIC can be anywhere from uncomfortable to life-threatening. OIC numbs the nerves in the digestive tract and essentially gives the illusion that you don’t need to go the bathroom. This extremely unhealthy and can even cause buildup in the digestive tract.
Opioids cause a rush of several different types of neurotransmitters in the brain. The most significant type is the constant rush of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical associated with ‘reward.’ This means if you complete an important task, score a hot date, or your favorite team wins a game, then dopamine naturally flushes the brain.
When dopamine flows too often then the brain runs out of natural “reward.” This means it becomes harder and harder to become satisfied in life. Dopamine is also associated with having children, getting married, or graduating college. This is why it is hard for former heroin addicts to feel joy out of life.
Opioid drugs take a significant toll on the liver. The liver is responsible for clearing toxins from the body. Opioids are a natural toxin, therefore the more they are consumed, the more the liver is put into overdrive. The liver is mostly responsible for clearing toxins from meat and other food. When the liver is exposed to opioid drugs over and over again it creates great stress. This can lead to several different types of liver ailments
If using opioids intravenously, then the risk for liver dysfunction is significantly increased. Hepatitis C, HIV, and cirrhosis of the liver are extremely common among IV drug users. Liver dysfunction is also common among people who use opioid drugs that contain acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is extremely toxic to the liver especially when it is used in high doses.
As mentioned above, opioids numb all parts of the body. This includes the part of the body that is responsible for breathing. When too many opioids are consumed, it paralyzes the part of the brain that is responsible for natural breathing. Breathing becomes extremely shallow and can even stop altogether. If breathing stops, the pain from lack of oxygen is non-existent. The body is unaware that it is lacking oxygen. This can easily lead to death.
How to Be Safer
If not prescribed by a doctor, opioid painkillers are never safe. Though, we understand that people chose to use drugs regardless of the dangers associated with it. That is why we have assembled a harm reduction guide for nearly every type of drug. Please refer to the complete guide to understand the risks of prescription drugs. Always verify prescription drugs before use. Prescription drugs have been the result of a trend of “pill pressing,” this mean that stronger, and cheaper, drugs are used to mimic pills.