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Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl Use
The long-term effects of fentanyl use can harm many parts of a person's life. Fentanyl, like many opioids, is a highly addictive drug and is only meant for severe, acute pain caused by things like cancer or accidents. Prolonged misuse of opioids can lead to various physical health issues, including addiction.
Using any potent drug outside of its prescribed purposes can be dangerous. Some people battle addiction and chronic health conditions inadvertently caused by opioid misuse. Recreational use can be especially hazardous because of its strength. Legal, medical fentanyl is 50 to 100 times as strong as morphine. The street version, however, can be even more potent and may have additives like xylazine, a horse tranquilizer.
Health Problems Long-Term Fentanyl Use May Cause
People who use opioids like fentanyl are often vulnerable to health problems caused by chronic use. This drug was never meant for regular use, and people addicted to it may use it in much larger quantities than medically tested. In some ways, this is unknown territory. However, different issues are widespread among opioid users. Chronic use often causes addictive and erratic behavior. However, there is a plethora of health issues it can also cause.
They often include:
- Respiratory problems: Opioids like fentanyl suppress the central nervous system, including the part that helps us breathe. Prolonged opioid abuse can lead to respiratory depression, where breathing becomes slow and shallow. This can result in decreased oxygen levels in the blood (also known as hypoxia.) Hypoxia can cause damage to vital organs, including the brain, and increase the risk of respiratory arrest. When someone has overdosed, time is of the essence. Some people may have lungs that don't fully inflate after an overdose, necessitating hospitalization.
- Gastrointestinal issues: Fentanyl use often leads to constipation due to the slowing down of the digestive system. Chronic constipation can cause discomfort, bloating, and, in severe cases, bowel obstruction. They may also experience a reduced appetite, leading to malnourishment and weight loss.
- Hormonal imbalances: Opioid abuse can disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system, which controls the production and release of hormones in the body. Prolonged opioid use can lead to hormonal imbalances, affecting the production of testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol.
- Immunity problems: Injection drug use, commonly associated with opioid abuse, carries a heightened risk of infections. Sharing needles or using unsterile equipment can lead to transmitting bloodborne infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Opioid use can also weaken the immune system.
- Cardiovascular complications: Opioids can affect the cardiovascular system, decreasing heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, this can strain the heart, potentially leading to heart damage.
Fentanyl use can also exacerbate conditions, especially those that cause chronic pain. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) can be used for people who need it, including people who experience chronic pain. Studies have shown that MAT and therapy can help people achieve sobriety.
Fentanyl's Long-Term Effects on Mental Health
Opioid misuse can have significant impacts on mental health and cognitive function. Many people who struggle with substance use also have a co-occurring mental health disorder such as PTSD, depression or bipolar disorder. While using fentanyl may temporarily alleviate mental health symptoms, using opioids can exacerbate symptoms of any disorder.
Chronic opioid usage can cause symptoms like depression, anxiety, and mood swings. It can also contribute to cognitive impairments, such as memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and decreased overall cognitive functioning.
Fentanyl, Addiction, and Dependence
Fentanyl misuse can cause dependence and addiction. Addiction is considered a disorder of the brain. Continued misuse changes the brain's reward and pleasure centers, reinforcing drug-seeking behaviors. This is what makes it challenging to quit without professional help. Withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using fentanyl can be physically and psychologically distressing.
Fentanyl is an extremely potent opioid, estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Too much can be deadly, which puts chronic users at risk of overdose. Opioid overdose can easily suppress breathing and lead to respiratory failure. Yet people can still build tolerance and think they need more of the drug to get high. Opioid use disorder can lead to many problems in a drug users life, including overdose.
Getting Help for Addiction
If you or somebody you love is struggling with opioid use disorder, we're here to help. Please reach out to learn more about our programs and how we can help North Carolinians get sober and begin to reclaim their lives.
If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.