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Does Colder Weather Affect the Risk of Opioid Misuse?

Does Colder Weather Affect the Risk of Opioid Misuse?

Pennsylvania winters can quickly become unbearably cold, with temperatures dropping and sudden severe winter weather rolling through areas at a moment’s notice. While most people will warm up in their cozy homes, start their fireplace, and make a cup of hot cocoa, some may resort to overindulging in their vices. People suffering from substance use disorders such as opioid addiction can fall into their self-destructive habits in these situations, but is the colder weather to blame? Does colder weather affect the risk of opioid misuse?

Defining Opioid Misuse and Addiction

When it comes to opioid misuse and addictions, knowing that prescription opioid medication is just as likely to cause a dependency as using it without one is vital. People taking these types of physician-prescribed narcotics can develop dangerous levels of addiction in patients only looking for some pain relief.
As continued use rewrites the reward centers in our brains, someone misusing the drug once can transform into a full-blown addiction.  The increasingly addictive nature of these drugs can quickly lead to someone taking more than the recommended amount and falling victim to an overdose. But what does it seem like the colder winter months can see a spike in opioid overdoses?

Physical Reactions to Cold Weather

It’s been documented that opioids have a depressant effect on how we breathe. As a result, our lung capacity decreases, distressed breathing becomes more likely, and in some cases, it can affect how our bodies regulate temperature. Coupling these bodily reactions to opioids, colder weather introduces new wrinkles into how our bodies react.  Colder air can make breathing more difficult, reducing how quickly we can draw air into our lungs. In addition, the lowered ambient temperatures can bring down our natural body heat and, in extreme cases, shut down vital bodily functions. Coupling these side effects with opioids can create a devastating cascade effect on their body.

Does Cold Weather Affect People’s Behaviors?

Colloquially, people have been known to become more sheltered, less likely to venture outside, and do less with their free time during the winter. A combination of colder temperatures, unpredictable weather, and shorter days means that people stay indoors more often and try to find something to do with their time. For people struggling with opioid addiction, it can become a prime excuse for them to indulge in their more self-destructive habits. As a result, they spend more time isolating themselves from their loved ones and focusing on their next fix. However, these situations often prove the most dangerous if they accidentally overdose.

Struggling With Homelessness and Finding a Warm Place to Sleep

Some people may be down on their luck and lack a stable roof over their heads. People living in these conditions and struggling with opioid addiction may be at a higher risk of overdosing than others. These living situations mean they’re often more susceptible to the extreme weather and are using the drug to feel a sense of escape. However, in pursuing these temporary reprieves, they put themselves in greater danger.
For people looking for help with their opioid addiction before the mixture of their condition and colder weather takes its toll, Silver Pines Treatment Center can help. Our expertly trained therapists work with our patients throughout the year to identify their triggers and provide a clear and personalized treatment plan that helps them focus on their long-term recovery.  If you or someone you love struggles with opioid addiction, don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact our compassionate team at 267.719.8689 and learn more about our substance abuse treatment programs in Mahanoy City, PA, and our admissions process today.

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