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Can Taking Opioids Weaken Your Immune System?

John Templeton Jr. - April 15, 2020

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Taking opioids was never part of your plan. After an injury or surgery, they started off as a way for you to recover. But you didn’t expect them to give you intense feelings of pleasure. Before you knew it, opioids evolved into a way to cope with the stressors in your life. From that point on, you didn’t feel complete without them.

But you’ve realized there’s a cost for taking opioids. And it’s one that your body usually ends up paying. You’ve noticed that ever since you started abusing opioids, you’ve been getting sick more often. Can opioids actually weaken your immune system and leave you susceptible to illnesses like the coronavirus (COVID-19)? In this post, we’re going to explore the effects opioids can have on your immune system.

Immune System Basics

Before we dive into how opioid addiction impacts your immune system, we have to know some basics. Your immune system is broken down into two parts:

  • The Innate Immune System: Think of this as the first line of defense of the immune system. Like a paramedic, the innate immune system acts as a first responder to prevent germs, bacteria and viruses from diving deeper into the body and doing more damage.
  • The Adaptive Immune System: If anything gets past the innate immune system, it’s up to the adaptive immune system to get rid of it. But the response isn’t immediate. The adaptive immune system studies the germs and can take days or weeks to create cells to help out.

How Opioids Impact the Different Parts of the Immune System

Opioids Weaken the Innate Immune System

When you abuse opioids, they can make your innate immune system much less effective. This is because opioids make it so the cells responsible for recognizing threats are less effective at their job. Think about your body as a castle, and the guards are your innate immune system. How good would those guards be at keeping enemies out if they couldn’t recognize germs and bacteria as threats?

Opioids Make the Adaptive Immune System Less Effective

We mentioned earlier that the adaptive immune system studies germs, bacteria and viruses, so it can create cells to fight them. Unfortunately, opioid abuse can throw a wrench into that process. Opioid abuse can make the process of creating those cells take longer. And that’s not all – some of the cells created might not be as strong as they need to be. The result? Your body’s natural ability to fight off infections is weakened, leaving you more vulnerable to illnesses and diseases.

Opioid Addiction and Immune Health

The truth is opioid addiction has a large indirect impact on your immune system. Abusing opioids makes it more likely for you to engage in destructive behaviors that don’t do your immune system any favors. Some of the most common behaviors include:

  • Loss of sleep: Without a regular sleep schedule, your body has less resources to keep your immune system healthy.
  • Lack of physical activity: It’s common for opioid abuse to cause people to neglect exercise. The problem is that exercise plays a direct role in helping your body produce white blood cells, which are the main force that fights off infections in your body.
  • Poor Diet: When you’re abusing opioids, they become the top priority. This prevents you from eating a healthy, balanced diet needed to keep your immune system strong.

COVID-19 and Opioid Addiction Treatment

You might have already been thinking about opioid addiction treatment before you learned about how opioids impact your immune system. But COVID-19 might have you wondering if it’s the right time for treatment. In reality, COVID-19 makes opioid addiction treatment that much more essential.

With a weakened immune system due to opioid abuse, you could be at a higher risk of getting sick. Until the current unprecedented situation of COVID-19, you probably didn’t think about your immune health too often. There have been few times when having a strong immune system was this important. If you’re abusing opioids, there is hope for recovery. But in order to heal, you have to quit.

No Judgement, No Lectures, Only Healing at Footprints Beachside Recovery

If you’re looking for opioid addiction treatment, Footprints Beachside Recovery can help you rebuild a healthy life you can be proud of. Our luxury addiction treatment center in Florida offers a peaceful and safe environment for healing.

While it may feel like it at times, you’re not alone. We’ve been through addiction ourselves and know that recovery is possible. To heal your whole self from opioid addiction, we use an evidence-based approach. After getting to know your story and struggles, we’ll create a personalized and well-rounded program for you to heal.

If you’re ready to make the choice to overcome addiction and regain a healthy life, we’re here to walk alongside you. Contact our expert addiction staff today to start your journey.

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