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Side Effects of Long-term Painkiller Use on the Body

A woman pauses her bike ride to take in the view of the lake and mountains.
Good health—and an active lifestyle—begins with what you put in your body.

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When painkillers are abused (which basically means taking way more of them than a doctor would ever prescribe) they can affect almost every part of the body.

The worst case scenario, of course, is overdose. In 2015, more than 15,000 people in the United States died from a prescription opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, some 1,000 people are treated every day in emergency departments after misusing prescription opioids.

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The Long-term Side Effects of Painkillers

Aside from overdose, there are many ways that the long-term effects of painkiller abuse can damage your body.

  • Lungs. Opiate painkillers suppress the body’s ability to breathe. This leads to an increased risk of pneumonia. Smoking painkillers can also lead to a buildup of fluids in the lungs.
  • Liver. The most significant liver damage to prescription pill abusers comes from the acetaminophen in the drug. In 2011, the FDA limited the amount of acetaminophen in a pill to 325 mg. While that did help, if you take enough pills you will still be putting your liver at risk.
  • Stomach and intestines. Prescription painkillers are well known for causing constipation, but many abusers suffer from what’s called narcotic bowel syndrome, which is basically the slowing down of the bowels. The result is constipation, nausea, bloating, vomiting and abdominal distention.
  • Heart and circulatory system. A 2016 study found that people who take prescription painkillers (even if they don’t abuse them) are at a greater risk for cardiovascular death. Smoking or injecting painkillers brings additional risk, such as infection of the heart lining and valves.
  • Infectious disease. Prescription painkiller abusers who inject the drug are at an increased risk of contracting HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

Those who are ready to get clean and launch a new life will face physical withdrawal symptoms like fever, sweating, body aches, nausea and insomnia. While certainly unpleasant, these symptoms fade after a week or so, leaving you free to pursue life without painkillers’ risk of overdose, liver failure or disease.

Healing at The Raleigh House

Painkiller addiction can be treated, giving you the opportunity to purse the adventures and challenges of life again. At The Raleigh House, located in Denver, we embrace a whole-person approach to healing that addresses physical, mental and emotional health. Interesting in learning more? Fill out our form or call today to learn more about our painkiller treatment program.

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