We remain open and committed to providing critical addiction treatment. For information on Coronavirus (COVID-19), including symptoms, risks, ways to protect yourself and our commitment to patient & staff safety,  click here

What are Opioids and Opiates Doing to my Body?

In This Article

We are looking at a class of drugs that include heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and many others. Opiates are drugs made from opium, naturally derived from the poppy plant.  Opioids are made synthetically, but opioid is a bit more broad of a term. Opioids and opiates are highly addictive because of what they do to the brain. They are dangerous because of what they do to the body.

Opioids and opiates act the same in the brain. They attach to receptors in the brain. Once attached, the brain receives signals to block pain and slow breathing. These signals result in a calming effect. Opioids mimic the effects the brain produces naturally. However, after prolonged use the brain begins to depend on opioids. Abusing opioids changes the chemical balance in the brain. After just a few weeks, you may feel withdrawal symptoms if you just stop taking the drug.

These drugs are taxing on the whole body. Drugs like Vicodin contain acetaminophen. Large amounts of acetaminophen are horrible for the liver. There is no drug that can bypass the liver. The liver is the filter of the body. There are other organs that are affected. Opioids affect the lungs. These drugs change the frequency and depth of your breathing. Abusing opioids causes respiratory depression. When people smoke these drugs it causes fluid retention in the lungs. Injecting these drugs puts the vascular system in danger. Sometimes, people try to crush and dissolve pills so they can inject them. This is extremely dangerous because there can still be clumps of the pill in the ‘solution’. These pill particles can clump together in the veins causing major damage to vital tissues. The digestive system is also affected. Opioids affect the whole digestive system. This causes the digestive system to slow down. There are opioid receptors in the intestinal tract, too. Opioids typically lead to constipation. When chronically abusing opioids laxatives may be used to just have a bowel movement. After so much constipation the colon, anus, or sphincter become strained and damaged. Hemorrhoids become common because of continual strain to have a bowel movement.

Because of all the effects opioids have on the body and brain, withdrawal is extremely uncomfortable. Withdrawal is the body getting the drugs out of the system. Diarrhea is a common withdrawal symptom because of how these drugs affect the digestive system. With chronic use, the brain has adapted to the changes opioids have made. During withdrawal, the brain is still putting out increased chemicals causing feelings of anxiety, muscle cramps, or the jitters. The worst part of the withdrawal lasts about a week.

There is help for people looking to stop taking opioids. There are rehabilitation centers that help with the withdrawal symptoms. Opioid abuse has skyrocketed in the last 20 years. There are more places that can help with addiction that ever before. Protect your body and mind and kick those drugs!


If you do need help, please call. 888-380-0667

Let's Connect

🔒 Your information is safe & secure
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Just Believe Recovery White Logo
Causes of an Alcohol Relapse | Just Believe Recovery
Alcohol Addiction

Causes of an Alcohol Relapse

It may not matter how dedicated you are to being abstinent or how long you have been sober—there is always the possibility of having an

Read More »
Signs of Drug Abuse | Just Believe Recovery Center
Abused Substances

Signs of Drug Abuse

Broadly, the term “drug abuse” refers to the abuse of substances as a means to induce pleasant feelings or to self-medicate. However, drug abuse is

Read More »
Is Trazodone a Narcotic? | Just Believe Recovery Center
Abused Substances

Is Trazodone a Narcotic?

Trazodone is a prescription tetracyclic antidepressant that is not a narcotic (opioid) or classified as a controlled substance, but its use does come with some

Read More »