Posted By Admin - Blog Contributor on 10/11/2018 in Opioid Treatment

How Opiates hack and Rewire your Brain

How Opiates hack and Rewire your Brain

Opioid use is at an all-time high throughout the US. In 2015 alone, over 33,000 Americans lost their lives due to opioid overdoses. Despite these staggering numbers, many people still are unaware of how drastically these silent killers change our brain chemistry and enslave us.

Shedding light on the extent of damage to the human brain they cause may compel teenagers and adults using Heroin and other dangerous opioids to reconsider their choices.

How Opiates Alter the Brain

How Opiates Change the Brain Even After Short-Term Use

Yes, Opiates can cause acute changes in the brain within a few weeks.

Many studies have corroborated this claim. MRIs revealed that people who used Morphine for only a few weeks had their grey matter volume reduced. Many other parts also experienced a reduction in size and volume, especially parts of the brain that were associated with pain, emotions, and cravings.

One surprising change that scientists observed was the increase in the volume of gray matter responsible for regulating long-term memory and learning. A detailed research is underway on this finding.

Opiates also make the central nervous system sluggish. This leads to depressed respiration, which in turn, increases the chances of an overdose. In some cases, the lungs completely collapse and shut down altogether.  

The Long-term Changes in the Brain due to Opioid Use

This is just a part of the bigger picture. Opiates have chronic effects on the human psyche as well. Even after the user musters the resolve to discontinue the use of opioids, he still has to endure the ensuing withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms make him feel depressed, lost, anxious and exhausted. He loses the will to live or pursue happiness in his life.

Due to these challenging obstacles, the recovery process requires professional help, evidence-backed medication, such as Suboxone, and cognitive and behavioral therapies.

So what really happens when a naïve teenager takes an opioid for the very first time?

The opioid molecules travel to a region inside the human brain that has a network of opioid receptors. These receptors already receive endogenous opioids like Dopamine that bring about sensations of pleasure and reward. However, when you take synthetic opioids from illicit sources, an alarming rush of dopamine floods these receptors and creates an intense feeling of pleasure also referred to as the “high.”

So How Do Opiates make one physically dependent?

Our brain has been programmed to repeat the actions that it has learned in the past. In the absence of opioids, it still wants to stimulate feelings of pleasure and reward. When it fails to do so, it coerces you to get access to an opioid really quick by bringing forth a deeply unsettling “opioid craving”. And you being a slave to your mind are forced to honor its commands.

With time, the pleasurable feelings diminish. The opioid receptors in the brain become less sensitive. And a higher dosage of an opioid is needed to make them more receptive and produce the same intense desirable effects that manifested itself in the initial stages of opioid use. This creates a physical dependency that is extremely hard to break free from.

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