Opioid Use Causes Serious Side Effects on the Brain (And What You Can Do About It)

Have you been taking prescription painkillers or has someone you love been using these drugs? While you may think this is perfectly safe as long as you are taking the medications the way your doctor told you to, there are actually many serious side effects associated with the long-term use of these drugs, especially ones that can affect the brain. According to research by Addictions.com, here are 5 effects opioid use can have on the brain (and the ways you can avoid them).

The first potential issue is depression. Sadly, those who take painkillers for more than 180 days significantly increase their chances of experiencing depression, a risk that becomes 53 percent more likely when use hits this milestone. This includes all use of opioids, even for those who take the drugs as prescribed. The best way to avoid this problem is to never take opioids for this long or to discuss with your doctor a way that you can be weaned off these drugs safely while also being checked for any signs of depressive symptoms.

Another possible effect of long-term opioid use is an inability to control feelings of pleasure, pain, stress, and anxiety. This occurs because those who take opioids frequently for a long period of time will experience a change in the way their brains work. The brain will no longer produce the neurotransmitters necessary to regulate these feelings, and instead, will rely on the drug to do so. This can be reversed with the help of detox treatment, but it often takes years to see a full improvement. To avoid this issue, talk to your doctor about making sure you do not take painkillers any longer than necessary.

People can experience a decrease in cognitive functions like learning, memory, and understanding after taking opioids often for a long period of time. This occurs because these drugs actually cut off the brain’s blood supply in small increments, which, over time, leads to impairments in these functions. Severe cases can even see an increase in cognitive disorders like dementia. Treatment can help minimize the problem, but the longer one stays on opioids, the more likely it will be to occur.

Naturally, most people realize there is a risk of addiction and dependence when one abuses painkillers. Unfortunately, though, individuals who take these drugs for longer than a week will experience an increased risk of addiction, even if they are taking them under a doctor’s care. To avoid this potential side effect, you must NEVER take your pills in any way other than prescribed and discuss with your doctor the possibility of going off the medication after a week.

There are a number of other treatment options for pain, including yoga, meditation, massage therapy, acupuncture, etc. Make sure you always discuss any treatment with your doctor before utilizing it, though. After all, you must never suddenly stop taking prescription painkillers after you have been taking them for a prolonged amount of time, as this could lead to other severe side effects.