Opioids are often recommended as one of the best options for treating pain. However, they come with a list of side effects, which become even more severe when a person takes these drugs for a prolonged period of time. Even those who take prescription painkillers as their doctor recommends can experience these side effects. This is why Addictions.com has created a study urging you to avoid the long-term use of opioids.
The first reason for refraining from opioid use—even under a doctor’s care—is that these drugs are potentially addictive. Those who take opioids for more than 7 days will experience a significantly higher risk of addiction than those who take them for a shorter period of time. Unfortunately, this does include individuals who only take the drug for legal reasons.
Also, someone who takes opioids for more than 30 days will become dependent. This is often waved away as a normal side effect, but if it is not treated correctly, the individual may experience a severe withdrawal syndrome, causing intense muscle and bone pain and flu-like symptoms. Being dependent on opioids highly increases one’s chance of becoming addicted to them, as many people will abuse these drugs in order to cope with their dependence.
Anyone who takes prescription painkillers for longer than 180 days will intensify their chance of suffering from depression. At a 53 percent increase, this is a serious jump. Part of the reason it occurs is because substance use disorders often go hand-in-hand with comorbid mental disorders.
Taking painkillers, even as prescribed by a doctor, can lead to a severe reliance on these particular drugs to regulate issues like pain and stress. The brain may even come to a point where it completely relies on the drug to do these things, making it less and less likely to create and release the neurotransmitters normally responsible for this regulation. Over time, this problem can be reversed, but it can often take months, even years, and it can cause serious side effects before the patient gets better, including an inability to control feelings of pain, pleasure, stress, and sadness without the use of these drugs.
Opioids can deeply affect one’s cognitive functions as well, including one’s ability to learn new things, reason out problems, and concentrate. This is because the use of prescription painkillers minimizes the amount of blood sent to the brain just enough to cause a decrease in cognitive function over time. Sometimes, this effect can be remedied, but sometimes, it cannot.
If you are still not convinced that the long-term use of prescription painkillers is dangerous, consider this: more than 15,000 people died of overdoses associated with prescription opioids in 2015, and this problem has even lowered the life expectancy in the U.S. Avoiding painkiller use at all costs is a good way to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe in the face of this epidemic, and taking these drugs for any longer than 7 days carries a number of inherent risks.