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How Opioids Change Your Brain

How Opioids Change Your Brain

The opioid epidemic in the United States has captured national headlines as a problem that cuts across economic, gender, and racial lines. Opioid addiction can happen to anyone, from the CEO in the corner office to the low-income teenager struggling in high school. The reason behind this level playing field is largely due to the effects that opioids have on your brain — and no one is immune.

At our practice, we understand the problem and provide compassionate and effective care for those in the Abilene, Texas, area who are struggling with opioids. Under the experienced guidance of Dr. Tim Martin, our goal is to provide the best road to recovery for our patients. As part of this effort, we believe that education is key, which is why we’ve pulled together the following information on how opioids can change the human brain.

Mixed messages

Your brain is largely made up of neurons that control how your brain and central nervous system function, as they regulate everything from pain to pleasure through neurotransmissions. In effect, they act as messengers and translators, sending and receiving messages through receptors. When one cell wants to communicate with another, it releases a neurotransmitter that attaches itself to the receptor of another cell, changing that cell.

The problem with opioids is that they attach themselves easily to the receptors in your neurons, thereby activating them, because their chemical structures are similar to natural neurotransmitters in your brain.

When you take an opioid, the substance essentially hijacks the receptors in your brain, but since they aren’t natural neurotransmitters, they end up garbling the messaging between your neurons.

Rewiring for pleasure

As you continue to take opioids, the receptors in your brain reorganize themselves to receive more of the “pleasurable” substance — and this can happen quickly, sometimes in a matter of weeks.

As the circuitry in your brain is rewired, you’re left with uncontrollable cravings for more of the drug. And, unfortunately, your brain becomes very hard to satisfy. This quickly leads people to take more of the drug to achieve the same effect, sending them into a vicious cycle of addiction and dependence.

Brain and behavior

While knowing about the chemical reactions inside your brain may help you to better understand why opioids can be so addictive, the effects of drug use on your behaviors are harder to pin down. Suffice it to say that as the opioids gain more control over the function of your brain, your behaviors will change. Everyone is different, and may react in their own ways, but opioids have a way of taking charge of your actions, with little regard for the consequences.

Fighting back

If you or a loved one is struggling with an opioid use disorder, we offer Suboxone®, which is a partial receptor agonist and antagonist. Suboxone works by quieting the receptors in your brain by supplying what they’re demanding, but they also block the brain from feeling the effects of the drug (getting high). This treatment is extremely helpful in negotiating withdrawal symptoms and providing a valuable leg up in the struggle against addiction.

If you’d like to learn more about the effects opioids have on your brain, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (325) 268-1230 or use the online scheduling tool to set up an appointment.

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