Opiate Addiction and the Brain

 In General

Addiction is a powerful force with very dangerous side effects.

Understanding how addiction changes the brain and the detrimental effects of drugs on the brain help addiction specialists develop treatment programs designed for lasting recovery.

How Opiate Addiction Begins

According to DrugAbuse.Gov, opioids in particular act by attaching to and activating opioid receptor proteins, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body.

This attachment can inhibit the transmission of pain signals, explaining why it is prescribed to those with chronic pain. However, it also acts on the ‘reward system’ in the brain which can trigger feelings of euphoria.

The effects of drugs on the brain

How Opiate Addiction Changes the Brain 

According to AddictionCenter, the abuse of addictive substances activates the brain’s reward system. Throughout development, the brain has come to associate feelings of pleasure with survival. As an addict triggers their brain’s pleasure center with drug abuse, the brain becomes convinced that the drug use is needed to survive.

The system initially developed to ensure the consumption of things such as water and food, becomes manipulated into believing it needs something that is actually very dangerous. Frequently activating this system with drugs can lead to addiction.

How addiction changes the brain

The Effects of Drugs on the Brain 

Once the addiction has formed, addicts can struggle with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if they do not maintain use. Opioid withdrawal includes flu-like symptoms lasting 24-48 hours, AmericanAddictionCenters.Org

However, addicts can also develop a tolerance to their opiate intake. This means they have to begin increasing the amount of opiates they consume to achieve the same effect. Since opiates are prescribed to help manage pain, physicians are trained to screen for a patient’s legitimate need for a dosage increase or if opiate abuse is developing.

Drug abuse and the brain are a dangerous combination. Since opioids remain the most common treatment for chronic pain since the late 1990’s, *link to drugabuse.gov, the need to provide affordable and effective treatment is crucial.

At Opiate Treatment Centers of America our outpatient programs offer the most scientifically advanced treatments available. Our addiction specialists combine behavioral therapies with medication assisted treatments to develop a unique treatment plan for each individual.

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