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How Opiates Work In The Brain

Opioids stick to the brain receptors, once attached they send a signal to the brain to block pain. The reaction is referred to as “opioid effect”. These drugs can slow down breathing and creates a calming and anti-depressing effect.

The body cannot produce enough opioids to stop severe pain.

The drug can activate brain receptors because of their chemical structure. Opioids acts like the body’s natural neurotransmitter. Even though opioids can imitate the brain chemical, they don’t activate nerve cells normally. These lead them to abnormal messages in the central nervous system.

Opioids main target

The drugs target the reward system in the brain and overloading it with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter found in the brain area that controls emotion. It also controls movement, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Over stimulation of this system can produce euphoric effects which serve as the main reason why people abuse these drugs.

How opiates relieve pain in the body

Doctors prescribe opiates as a treatment for moderate to severe pain. Pain can happen when nerves are hit by trauma. It then carries the pain message to the spinal cord and to the brain. Opiates block the transmission of these pain messages inside the spinal cord. The drugs can effectively block pain but can produce other unwanted effects in the mind and body.

How opiates produces feelings of euphoria

Opioids affect other systems aside from the nervous system, these include:

  • Limbic system (controls emotions or feelings of relaxation, pleasure, and contentment)
  • Brainstem (controls the normal automatic function of the body like breathing)
  • Spinal cord (receives sensation from all over the body before passing the pain signal to the brain)

When a person takes opiates, the drugs attach themselves to the brain receptors. It then activates the reward system which produces the feeling of euphoria.

The body then releases an excessive amount of dopamine which can cause intense euphoria. The sensation of contentment and relaxation followed afterward for the duration of the drug’s effect in the body.

Furthermore, the effects of opioid depend on dosage and how the drug was administered. Opioids can rapidly act and more intensely when injected. If a person takes the pills orally, it can take longer to act in the brain.

How opiates can trigger addiction

Once opiates change the chemical in the brain, the body will eventually adjust its performance to accommodate the existence of the drug.  Prolonged heavy intake of the drug can lead to physical dependency.

This means the body compulsively need and seek the existence of opiates. The users will experience painful withdrawal symptoms if they had not taken any drugs.  However, dependence is not considered as addiction. Nevertheless, dependency is the initial sign of addiction.

Opiates cause a physical effect in the body. Since the brain and body are closely connected with each other, the drugs can also cause a psychological effect.

These drugs can ease anxiety and produces a ‘high’ feeling. Users seek these sensations as a way to cope with problems.

Addiction can fully develop when users consider that their drug of choice plays an important part for them to function ‘normally’.

Opiate addiction is both very dangerous and powerful urge and users believe they cannot live without consuming their drug.

However, it is still possible to recover from addiction with the help of a proper medical care and support from family and friends. Several programs are now available to help users regain their lives back.

How Opiates Work In The Brain
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