Dangers of Having an Opioid Use Disorder

There are actually many dangerous consequences of having an opioid use disorder. When someone abuses opioid drugs, there is a possibility that they can become tolerance, dependent, and even addicted to these drugs. If you know someone who has or is in danger of developing an opioid use disorder, it is important to know the possible complications and how dangerous the situation could become to the person’s physical and mental well-being.

What is an Opioid Use Disorder?

According to the NLM, “Substance use disorder occurs when a person needs alcohol or another substance [in this case, opioids] to function normally. Abruptly stopping the substance leads to withdrawal symptoms.” Though these issues can occur when someone is taking opioids as prescribed, an opioid use disorder is usually associated with abuse of the drug which is why it is also called substance abuse.

Why Is It Dangerous to Have an Opioid Use Disorder?

There are many issues that can arise for someone who has an opioid use disorder. Some can be psychological issues while others can be physical ones. Either way, they can become very dangerous, and sometimes lead to the need for hospitalization and serious treatment. A person could also experience problems in their daily life including work, school, family, relationship, legal, and financial issues.

It is dangerous for a person to have an opioid use disorder because, after a while, the individual can experience many issues that are “not easy to treat” and some that are even life-threatening. While opioids can be beneficial to those who need medicinal pain relief in a supervised and prescribed manner, the abuse of these drugs can cause many dangerous issues.

Overdose & Death

opiate abuse

An opioid addiction puts a person at high risk for death by overdose.

One of the most dangerous effects of an opioid use disorder is the possibility for severe respiratory depression, often ending in coma and death. According to CESAR, “Overdose death due to cardiac arrest or slowed breathing” is one of the most dangerous side effects of oxycodone tablet abuse, as well as the abuse of any other opioid.

This condition can often end in death, especially if the individual has recently withdrawn from opioids and relapses. Their lowered tolerance will cause them to take more of the drug than they should, leading to overdose. The signs and symptoms of opioid overdose are:

  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Coma
  • Slow, shallow, or no breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Bluish tint to the skin

This condition is especially dangerous because the individual will often not be able to help themselves if they are alone, as overdose on these drugs can cause extreme drowsiness and even loss of consciousness. If you notice someone overdosing on any type of opioid drug, make sure to call 911 and get them to the hospital right away.

Also many individuals abuse alcohol along with opioids to heighten the effects of both. This is extremely common in those with opioid use disorders but can also intensify the respiratory depression caused by both substances to a dangerous degree, making death from overdose more likely.


All opioids can become addictive if a person is abusing them and doing so regularly. If you abuse prescription opioid drugs for several months or more, you will be begin to feel that the effects caused by the same dosage are not as strong as they once were. This causes many individuals to take more of the drug each time or even to start abusing illicit opioids like heroin.

Other consequences of opioid addiction are:

  • According to Harvard Medical School, “Some [addicts] cannot hold jobs and turn to crime to pay for illegal drugs.”
  • Addiction can ruin long-term and family relationships, isolating you from the people you care about most.
  • Legal issues can occur based on selling or buying illegal opioids, driving under the influence, or other effects of the drugs that can cause actionable behaviors.
  • Reckless and dangerous behaviors like violence, having unsafe sex, or sharing needles can occur because the individual will do anything, even actions harmful to themselves and others, in order to get more of the drug.

Opioid addiction is extremely dangerous, and it will occur as the final stage of an untreated opioid use disorder.

Dangerous Physical Effects

There are many dangerous physical effects aside from respiratory depression and overdose death caused by opioid use disorders. For example, according to the NIDA, “researchers are studying the long-term effects on brain function” caused by opioid abuse. Because respiratory depression can cause hypoxia, or a condition where enough oxygen does not reach the brain, there is a possibility that the individual could sustain brain damage as a result of opioid abuse.

Other possible dangerous physical effects of an opioid use disorder are:

  • Contracting HIV or Hepatitis C from sharing needles
    • This is especially common among heroin abusers, but other opioid abusers could experience this result as well if they abuse the drug intravenously.
  • “Increased pressure of cerebral and spinal fluid” (CESAR)
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Heart failure
  • Dangerously low blood pressure
  • Intense headaches or migraines
  • Abscesses or “infection of the heart lining and valves” (NIDA)
    • These are also associated with heroin abuse.

Physical and psychological withdrawal also occur when a person abuses opioids and suddenly stops. While this condition is not usually life-threatening, it can be dangerous because many people will continue to take the drug instead of going through the often painful withdrawal syndrome.

Withdrawal from opioids can lead to relapse if not properly treated and even if the detox treatment is not followed by proper addiction treatment. This syndrome can also cause severe depression, depending on the intensity of the dependence on and addiction to opioids, which can be dangerous for the individual’s mental health as well.

The Dangers of an Opioid Use Disorder

Understanding the dangers of this disorder might help you see that continuing down the path of abuse can only cause more issues and result in more effects that are hazardous to your health and life in general. If you are struggling with an opioid use disorder, seek treatment before any more of these effects occur in your life.


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