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How Do Opiates Affect The Brain

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Why Are There So Many Different Opioid Drugs

How Do Opiates Affect The Brain?

Numerous drugs are classified as opioids, and the classification is based on the mechanism of action discussed above. Different opioids are developed to address different situations. Because of individual differences in body chemistry, some individuals may have a better response to one opioid compared to another.

Having a large array of opioids allows physicians to treat many levels of pain, to use opiates to treat other issues such as chronic coughing, and to offer variability in the treatment of pain for people who have very intense pain and people who have milder levels of chronic pain.

All opioid drugs are listed as controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration . They all require a physicians prescription to legally obtain and use them.

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment For Teenagers

As a result of the effects of opioids and opioid withdrawal, a supervised detox is needed to combat an opiate addiction. Such treatment for opioid withdrawal includes a medically monitored period of detoxification designed to ensure comfort and address any physical or psychological complications.

Most importantly, given the serious nature of teen opioid abuse, professional help by experienced addiction specialists is needed to make sure your teen is safe.

The Effects Of Opiates On The Liver

Because many opioid painkillers are combined with acetaminophen, excessive use of these drugs can cause liver damage from acetaminophen toxicity.

Damage to the liver from acetaminophen toxicity is an undeniable risk of taking excessive doses of many prescription painkillers such as Lortab, Norco and Vicodin. Adding alcohol to the mix as many opiate abusers do makes an already risky situation worse, as it further decreases the livers ability to process the toxic combination of ethanol and acetaminophen. Its safe to assume that no one embarks upon opiate abuse with the intention of experiencing painful and serious liver injury, but the risks are quite real. Dont wait for the potentially life-altering consequences of opiate abuse to mount call to speak with a compassionate treatment support specialist at Who Answers?, 24 hours a day, to hear more about opiate addiction rehabilitation.

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The Cns Is At The Center Of Opioid Addiction

Two important parts of the central nervous system related to opioids are the limbic system and the autonomic nervous system. The limbic system resides inside the brain while the autonomic nervous system is located in the spine. Humans emotions are controlled by the limbic system, which is why opioids produce emotions such as pleasure, joy, and excitement. Opioids are processed by these sensory systems, which dictate all of the responses of drug users under the influence of opioids. Sometimes these responses can be life threatening, especially after long term use of such stimulants.

What Do Opiates Do In Excess Amounts

How Do Opiates Affect the Brain?

When opiates are taken in higher doses than prescribed for pain-relieving effects, a different kind of feeling is achieved, one that is euphoric. The brain is flooded with neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which trigger a response from the pleasure and reward pathway of the brain. These sensations are much higher than natural feelings of pleasure. Opioids cause the brain to release between two to 10 times as much dopamine as natural brain receptors, and the body becomes accustomed to these higher dopamine levels.

Think of the difference between the two as listening to the radio at a normal level in the car versus hearing that same song live in concert standing next to a speaker. These feelings are so intense that they begin to train the brain they are superior to those that are naturally occurring, reinforcing to the brain that it should continue to seek this drug more and more. Slowly, the brain begins to prefer these effects to anything else, causing the cycle of addiction to spin out of control.

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How Do Opiates Change The Brain

Opiate effects modify the way that the brain processes stress and pain. When the body becomes dependent on opioids, it can lose its ability to tolerate pain on its own. Research suggests that prolonged opiate use can reduce the bodys innate pain-fighting abilities. As a result, the person using opioids needs to rely on them to relieve pain. Due to this phenomenon, a person undergoing withdrawal can have increased feelings of pain.

When a person with an opioid dependence receives the normal amount of opioids for relieving pain, they dont experience the intended effects. Their brain needs an increased number of opioids to occupy all its receptors. Since opioid receptors regulate mood and emotion, prolonged opiate use can have a negative effect on these functions. The reliance on opioids to manage mood can make opiate use disorder more difficult to experience.

Opioid use may also have a link to mental health symptoms. People who have mental health conditions without knowledge of healthy coping skills have a higher chance of developing an addiction. When someone has an opioid use disorder because of their mental health, they are victims of a disease not a moral failure. They have an increased risk that we can address during treatment.

How Do Opiates Act

Opiates or opioids act on the opioid receptors present in the brain and the body. These opioid receptors are of three types mu, delta, and kappa. Mu receptors are responsible for the pleasurable effects of opiates as well as to provide analgesia.

Opioids act on the limbic system that controls emotions and thus promoting the feelings of relaxation, contentment, and pleasure. These drugs also act on the brainstem reducing the respiratory rate, stopping cough and reducing pain and restlessness. Opioids also act on the spinal cord and reduce the transmission of pain signals from peripheral parts of the body to the brain.

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Opiates Rewire Your Brain Chemistry

Drugs are addictive because of how they affect brain chemistry. Opiates are prescription pain-relief drugs. They work by attaching to receptors in the brain. This can cause pain relief, but a big enough dose causes a powerful high.

Addiction Science and Clinical Practice reports: The linkage of these chemicals with the receptors triggers the same biochemical brain processes that reward people with feelings of pleasure when they engage in activities that promote basic life functions.1

These drugs work because they change brain chemistry to mask pain at the same time they reward people with even stronger versions of the good feelings that eating, sex and sleeping produce. Pleasurable feelings can come as a side effect of prescribed use, or it can be the reason someone abuses a prescription or takes opiates without a prescription.

Over time, the highand the pain relief opiates provide begin to fade. Your brain chemistry adjusts to the presence of these drugs. Users may be tempted to take larger doses, but brain chemistry will continue to adjust so that this new, larger dose gradually becomes less effective as well. This is when dependence, abuse and addiction begin.

Treatment For Opioid Dependency

How Opioids And Heroin Affect The Brain

Our bodies will never produce enough natural opioids to stop severe or chronic pain or will it produce enough to cause an overdose, but taking more opiates than our bodies can handle will.

Our brains are wired to make sure we will repeat life-sustaining activities by associating those activities with pleasure or reward. Whenever this reward circuit is activated, the brain remembers that something important is happening that needs to be remembered and teaches us to do it again and again, without thinking about it. Because drugs of abuse stimulate the same circuit, we learn to abuse drugs in the same way. This is what leads to dependency and addiction.

If you or a loved one are struggling with opiate addiction, Allure Detox can help. We have wonderful news for anyone addicted to painkillers: opiate detox at Allure is a safe and comfortable process, one that will get you drug-free, sane, and healthy again.

Begin Healing Safely From Addiction

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Cognitive Emotional & Social Issues

Chronic opioid abuse leads to damage that will affect other areas of life.

  • Potential cognitive issues can occur associated with the effects of the drug and the alterations occurring in the CNS. These can include problems with attention, memory, judgment, and even physical movement due to brain damage.
  • Individuals with opioid use disorders are often diagnosed with some other co-occurring mental health disorder, such as major depressive disorder, trauma- and stressor-related disorders, and anxiety disorders.
  • Issues with relationships, employment, school, finances, and freedom can result from chronic opioid use.

Research has suggested that individuals who have chronic opioid use disorders:

  • Demonstrate lower levels of achievement in life
  • Report lower levels of overall life satisfaction
  • Have far lower life expectancies
  • Have higher rates of criminal convictions and incarceration
  • Demonstrate significantly higher rates of serious medical problems
  • Have higher rates of divorce, unemployment, and suicide attempts

Opiate Treatment And Recovery

Treatment for opiate addiction typically begins with medically assisted detoxification. Professional oversight in the first 5-7 days is essential to avoid more serious conditions that are byproducts of the physical symptoms, like severe dehydration, insomnia, and pain.

A healing environment with ongoing recovery support is crucial to long-term success. Recovery from opiate addiction is much more than simply ceasing taking opiates there are substantial changes to the brain and body which require longer-term care and support. Without this support, the rate of relapse for opiate abuse can be 40-60% higher than with other substances.

The outlook for recovery from opiate addiction is good if you can have an honest conversation with yourself about your drug use and how it is negatively impacting your life and the people you care about.

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What Type Of Treatment Can People Get For Addiction To Prescription Opioids

A range of treatments including medicines and behavioral therapies are effective in helping people with opioid addiction.

Two medicines, buprenorphine and methadone, work by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as the opioid medicines, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Another medicine, naltrexone, blocks opioid receptors and prevents opioid drugs from having an effect.

Behavioral therapies for addiction to prescription opioids help people modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use, increase healthy life skills, and persist with other forms of treatment, such as medication. Some examples include, cognitive behavioral therapy which helps modify the patient’s drug use expectations and behaviors, and also effectively manage triggers and stress. Multidimensional family therapy, developed for adolescents with drug use problems, addresses a range of personal and family influences on one’s drug use patterns and is designed to improve overall functioning. These behavioral treatment approaches have proven effective, especially when used along with medicines. Read more about drug addiction treatment in our Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.

The Effects Of Opiates On The Brain

the pain takes over and its torture inside the search

Opiate painkillers are known to have side effects such as daytime sleepiness, which could consequently require additional stimulant medication to counteract. Heroin use can elicit profound drowsiness as well, with abusers frequently experiencing intermittent bouts of nodding off as they slip in and out of consciousness. The long-term use of painkillers was also found to be associated with a heightened risk of developing major depression: Patients using painkillers in excess of six months had more than a 50 percent greater chance of developing a depressive episode.

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Could Opioid Addiction Be Driven In Part By Peoples Moods

Chronic pain patients have a very high risk of becoming addicted to opioids if they are also coping with a mood disorder. Photo by Roy Morsch/via Getty

Cathy Cahill, a pain and addiction researcher at UCLA, said these big swings in emotions likely factor into the learned behaviors of opioid addiction, especially with those with chronic pain. A person with opioid use disorder becomes preoccupied with the search for the drugs. Certain contexts become triggers for their cravings, and those triggers start overlapping in their minds.

The basic view is some people start with the pain trigger , but it gets partially substituted with the negative reinforcement of the opioid withdrawal, Cahill said.

Thats why Cahill, Evans and other scientists think the opioid addiction epidemic might be driven, in part, by our moods.

Chronic pain patients have a very high risk of becoming addicted to opioids if they are also coping with a mood disorder. A 2017 study found most patients 81 percent whose addiction started with a chronic pain problem also had a mental health disorder. Another study found patients on morphine experience 40 percent less pain relief from the drug if they have mood disorder. They need more drugs to get the same benefits.

People with mood disorders alone are also more likely to abuse opioids. A 2012 survey found patients with depression were twice as likely to misuse their opioid medications.

How A Brain Gets Hooked On Opioids

Pain and pleasure rank among natures strongest motivators, but when mixed, the two can become irresistible. This is how opioids brew a potent and deadly addiction in the brain.

READ MORE: America Addicted

Less than 100 years later, a German chemist purified morphine from poppies, creating the go-to pain reliever for anxiety and respiratory conditions. But the Civil War and its many wounds spawned mass addiction to the drugs, a syndrome dubbed Soldiers Disease. A cough syrup was concocted in the late 1800s called heroin to remedy these morphine addictions.

Today, prescription and synthetic opioids crowd Americas medicine cabinets and streets, driving a modern crisis that may kill half a million people over the next decade. Image by Lead Pipe Productions Pty Ltd

Doctors thought the syrup would be non-addictive. Instead, it turned into a low-cost habit that spread internationally. More than 70 percent of the worlds opium 3,410 tons goes to heroin production, a number that has more than doubled since 1985. Approximately 17 million people around the globe used heroin, opium or morphine in 2016.

Today, prescription and synthetic opioids crowd Americas medicine cabinets and streets, driving a modern crisis that may kill half a million people over the next decade. Opioids claimed 53,000 lives in the U.S. last year, according to preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than those killed in motor vehicle accidents.

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Contact Your Local Medmark Treatment Center

At MedMark Treatment Centers, we specialize in MAT for opioid use disorder. We can help you or a loved one recover from addiction and live a more fulfilling life. Contact us using our online form or by calling 866.840.6658 to schedule an intake appointment.

Medically Reviewed By:

The Clinical Team at MedMark Treatment Centers is our team of medical directors, physicians, and marketing staff within the organization. MedMark Treatment Centers are a CARF accredited organization and has been providing addiction treatment services accross the United States since 2006.

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Key Points: Opiates And The Brain

How Opioids Work

Opiates can affect the brain following short- and long-term use. Here are a few key points to remember when thinking of how opiates affect the brain:

  • Addiction can develop from both short- and long-term opiate use
  • Opiates cause a release of dopamine and activate the rewards system of the brain
  • Positive effects of opiate use include:
  • Pain reduction
  • Negative effects of opiate use include:
  • The destruction of brain cells and brain mass
  • Difficulty thinking or reasoning
  • Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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    Why Opiates Are Addictive

    Over time, opiates trick the brain into stopping the production of endorphins naturally. When opiates are ceased, there is a sudden and extreme decrease in endorphins. Since the body can no longer produce its own endorphins , this drop causes extreme physical and mental discomfort. People in withdrawal from opiates experience body pain, depression, suicidal thoughts, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, muscle twitches, and more. These symptoms are very uncomfortable, and the person perceives that the only way to experience positive feelings again and alleviate withdrawal symptoms is through continued opiate use. This creates a vicious cycle that perpetuates opiate addiction.

    While opiate withdrawal is very unpleasant it is not fatal and physical symptoms pass after several days, but only if no more opiates are consumed. Many people need professional assistance detoxing from opiates, and often require longer-term treatment to prevent slipping back into an opiate habit. It can take weeks or months for the body to begin to generate endorphins naturally, and so further treatment is essential during this risky time.

    Repeated Administration Of Opiates:

    Opiates attach to the same opioid receptors as endorphins, that is to say, opiates exert their drug effects by mimicking endorphins. Your bodys endorphins are your private stock of narcotics. Endorphins are released by the pituitary gland in response to stress or pain. However, opiates are much stronger than endorphins, and therefore produce much greater drug effects.

    One of the side effects of repeated opiate use is suppression of endorphin production. Consequently you become depleted of endorphins. In time, you will not have an adequate supply of natural painkillers, if and when you need them. Another common side effect of opiate use is the development of hyperalgesia, which is a greater sensitivity to pain. Things that normally never caused you pain, suddenly do cause you pain. This is the paradox of opiate drug use. At first everything is great, then suddenly, youre miserable without them.

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