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How Do Opioids Affect the Brain?

How Do Opioids Affect the Brain?

Opioids are potent substances capable of harming the body and the brain. Like cocaine and other stimulants, opioids alter the brain’s chemical structure and affect our cognition. Once the substance is consumed, the person may develop tolerance and become dependent on the drug. This is called opioid use disorder.

Opioid addiction has become a global health problem, with overdose deaths hitting high numbers in some parts of the world. According to a SAMHSA report, about 400,000 overdose deaths occurred between 1999 and 2017. This has called on the attention of world governing bodies and leaders to address the issue. Read on to learn more about opioids, their types, their effects on the brain, and the various treatment options available.

DetoxLA is a Los Angeles drug and alcohol detox center that can help you overcome addiction.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are drugs derived from the opium poppy plant or synthesized to produce various effects on the brain. These drugs are chemically produced to alleviate pain but have become one of the world’s most abused drugs.

Opioids come into three types – natural, synthetic, and semisynthetic opioids. Natural opioids are produced from the opium plant. This includes morphine and codeine.

Pharmaceutical companies manufacture synthetic opioids. Commonly prescribed ones include; fentanyl, methadone, and tramadol.

Semisynthetic opioids are a combo of natural and synthetic opioids. This class is derived from natural opioids and synthesized in the laboratory for pharmaceutical companies. Examples are; hydrocodone,

oxycodone, and oxymorphone.

Opioids work by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain. When they bind to these receptors, they alleviate pain and produce euphoria and pleasure. Because of these effects, opioids have become popular to-go drugs for relaxation, which has led to addiction. When taken in massive quantities, the person will become physically dependent, and the body won’t be able to function without them.

How Do Opioids Affect the Brain?

The opioid effect on the brain is quite enormous. As mentioned, the substance binds to the opioid receptors in the brain to induce relief and euphoria. In the process, it intercepts pain messages sent to the brain and disrupts the production of dopamine and endorphins.

Opioids activate brain reward arcs, which lead to arousal and pleasure. In the long run, the body will become tolerant of the drug. That’s when the user will need higher doses to achieve the same effect level. However, they cause reverse effects, such as respiratory failure and slow breathing.

Effects of Opioids Use Disorder

The significant effect of long-term opioid use is the changes in the brain’s structure. It reduces the amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for emotions. It changes the prefrontal cortex, the component responsible for decision-making and control.

Other effects of opioids include; hypoxia, coma, permanent brain damage, and death.

Symptoms of Opioids Use Disorder

A person is diagnosed with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) if they become dependent on opioids. The symptoms of OUD include;

  • Compulsive use
  • Intense cravings
  • High tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and agitation
  • Difficult concentrating at work
  • Withdrawal from social functions
  • Difficulty forming relationships
  • Respiratory issues
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Cardiac problems
  • Continued use despite the negative consequences

Note that these symptoms can vary in severity and may not entirely indicate the person has OUD. Further tests are needed to diagnose the person with OUD.

Treating Opioid Use Disorder

Opioids can be treated using opiate detoxification, medication-assisted treatment, and behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Medication-assisted treatment is usually the first step in treating opioid use disorder, especially in managing withdrawal symptoms.

Commonly used medications include; methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. These drugs help to minimize cravings and withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse.

Counseling and CBT are effective at treating opioid addiction. They can help individuals to learn coping skills and pinpoint triggers that may lead to addiction. CBT can help individuals alter negative thought patterns and behaviors that may lead to continuous use.

Other therapies, such as motivational interviewing and contingency management, can help treat opioid misuse. It involves working with experts to strengthen the individual’s motivation to change. On the other hand, contingency management is rewarding the individual for positive behavior, such as completing all counseling sessions.

Although these methods are effective, their success rate will depend on the severity of the addiction and the circumstances. Therefore, you should work with a healthcare professional to provide a personalized treatment plan.

DetoxLA Offers Opioids Detox Programs in Los Angeles

Finding the ideal treatment center for opioid detox can make a tremendous difference in your journey to recovery. Los Angeles addiction treatment for drug addiction, including opioid use disorder, takes time. Treatment facilities that provide various treatment options and support, like DetoxLA, can help you achieve your recovery objective.