There are several side effects associated with painkiller addiction, and none of them is pleasant. Here are some of them:
Intestines and Stomach: At a normal dosage, opiates cause constipation. However, when painkillers are abused the digestive system can become so damaged that having a bowel movement is impossible without using laxatives. This condition is referred to as “narcotic bowel syndrome.” Symptoms include constipation, abdominal distension, vomiting, bloating and nausea.
Liver: The liver breaks down and processes all drugs. When painkillers are abused, the liver is overworked and stores additional toxins due to the breakdown process. The majority of liver damage is caused by acetaminophen which is one of the chemicals in several prescription
painkillers. Common drugs such as Percocet, Lortab and Vicodin contain a high dosage of acetaminophen. The end result can be liver failure.
Kidneys: Excessive use of painkillers can severely damage the kidneys leading to a kidney transplant or dialysis treatment. Again, it is the high dosage of acetaminophen that causes the damage, and not the opiates.
Respiratory Depression: This is one of the most serious risks associated with opioid addiction. When addicts take high dosages, breathing can slow down to such an extent that the lungs cannot expand fully. Symptoms of respiratory depression include abnormal breathing sounds, such as a crackling or a high-pitched whistling sound. When the heart rate has completely slowed down it is a sign of cardiac arrest. This can lead to death, if not treated properly. Some other associated risks:
- Loss of cognitive function
- Brain damage affecting motor function