Research continues to show us the science behind highly-addictive drugs like opiates. This research has allowed us to better understand the relationship between addiction and the human brain. Addiction is a disease of the brain, working both chronically and progressively. It is caused by an alteration of brain functioning, which can be due to a variety of factors, such as genetics, chemical imbalance, or injury and trauma. When this alteration in functioning occurs, a person often engages in impulsive, compulsive, and destructive behaviors. When opiates get involved, it is particularly dangerous and more difficult to kick the habit. Opiate addiction is one the most challenging to overcome, and the United States is currently experiencing an epidemic of opiate abuse.
What are Opiates?
Opiates are a particularly dangerous breed of drug due to the fact that they molecularly mimic the natural painkillers produced in the brain. Opium is derived from the poppy plant and can then be modified into many different forms, from patches and pills to powder and injectable fluid. Many opiates are legal, as they are used in medicine to treat pain. Morphine is one such example, as are many prescription painkillers.
Prescription painkillers work by bonding with the opiate receptors present in the brain, triggering pain-relieving effects within the nervous system. In small doses and when used only as necessary, they are not bad for the body. However, when opiates are taken in high doses, a different, euphoric effect is produced. The brain is triggered to release large amounts of neurochemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, flooding the brain and body with a pleasure response. When individuals take high doses for prolonged periods of time, the body becomes chemically reliant on the substance and people become dependent on the effect. The sensation caused by this flooding of neurochemicals is much more more intense than the effect produced by small doses of painkillers, which are meant to relieve pain but not overwhelm the senses. The intensity is so strong that the brain is tricked into believing that these outside substances are superior to the naturally-occurring painkillers, which in turn reinforces the drug-seeking behavior and, eventually, addiction.
Long-Term Effects of Opiate Addiction
Long-term abuse of opiates has profoundly negative effects on both the body and the brain. They fundamentally alter the internal structure and functioning of neurons and other components of the brain and change a person’s ability to cope with stress and pain. Extended opiate use inhibits the body’s ability to tolerate pain and discomfort, reducing its ability to fight pain naturally. This explains why many people, who begin by taking prescription painkillers after an illness or surgery, become dependent upon the pills and need them more and more. When a person stops taking the medicine after the body has become dependent on it, they can experience pain more intensely. Furthermore, when someone is given a normal dose after becoming accustomed to higher doses, the medicine can fail to be effective, as there are not enough chemicals to attach to all of the brain’s available receptors In addition to causing a sick person to feel pain again, the lack of available neurochemicals can play a nasty role in mood and emotional function, causing the person to feel sad, hopeless, and powerless without the higher levels of opiates.
Unfortunately, these negative effects are long-lasting and can remain even after a person has begun the process of recovery. The psychological effects in particular can last for many years after addiction treatment, and each day is another battle in the struggle. This reason, in particular, is why it is best to seek medically-assisted treatment when deciding to try to get clean and begin recovery.
How Going to Rehab Can Help
Choosing to enter rehabilitation is the first step in the long process of recovery. At an opiate addiction treatment facility, individuals are given medical attention and assistance with detox and withdrawal and throughout recovery. The psychological components of opiate addiction are addressed through individual counseling and group therapy sessions. These are necessary elements for treating this disease. Just like a person suffering from a chronic illness needs support, so, too, do people struggling with opiate addiction. With the proper methodology and social and medical support systems, the cycle of opiate addiction can be broken, and the goal of achieving long-lasting recovery can be seen as attainable.
Don’t let your life be destroyed by opiate dependence. Our counselors are ready and waiting to help you help yourself now. Call us today at 800-737-0933 to start your journey to recovery.