How Do Opiates Work in the Brain?

Developing physical tolerance and experiencing symptoms of withdrawal are only two of the signs associated with opiate abuse and addiction.

Opiate narcotics are a type of chemical substance that affects the central nervous system, acting as CNS depressants and offering effective and often immediate pain relief. Opiates are naturally derived and include prescription medications like morphine and codeine and illicit substances like heroin. Opiates work by binding to opiate receptors within the brain, and essentially blocking the perception of pain in its entirety. The body produces pain-relieving chemicals naturally – when these medications or illicit substances bind to opiate receptors within the brain, an even greater amount of these chemicals are produced, and feelings of euphoria and relaxation can result.

How Opioids Affect Brain Chemistry

However, opiates can also cause a wide range of uncomfortable side effects like nausea and vomiting, excessive drowsiness, and a lack of coordination. If the brain is repeatedly exposed to any type of opiate narcotic it will eventually develop a tolerance to the drug. This means that a greater amount of the substance will be required for the same effects to be produced. This is essentially how opioid addiction develops – an individual begins taking a higher dose of an opiate to achieve the same effects, and because if he or she does not achieve the desired effects then symptoms associated with withdrawal will begin to take hold. These symptoms can include severe stomach cramping, nausea and vomiting, intense anxiety, muscle aches and pains, insomnia and other sleep-related issues, and extreme agitation. 

How Do Opiates Work in the Brain?

Opiate Abuse and Addiction

Developing physical tolerance and experiencing symptoms of withdrawal are only two of the signs associated with opiate abuse and addiction. Some additional warning signs include:

  • Very small, restricted pupils
  • Constantly moving in and out of consciousness, also known as nodding off
  • Appearing very tired or drowsy
  • Shallow breathing and respiratory depression
  • Nausea, vomiting, and chronic constipation 
  • Excessively itchy skin
  • A lack of coordination
  • Track marks on the body, usually on the inner arms (when heroin is being used intravenously)
  • Experiencing sudden and noticeable mood swings
  • Avoiding friends and family members
  • An increased need for privacy
  • Experiencing legal issues and financial issues
  • A lack of motivation when it comes to fulfilling personal commitments and obligations
  • Problems at work or school
  • If an opiate medication is being abused, the individual will often attempt to obtain more than one prescription at a time, or steal prescriptions from friends or family members

Opiate addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease. While this specific chemical substance does take a major toll on the chemistry of the brain, neurological changes can be successfully reversed when sobriety is maintained. 

Opiate Addiction Recovery

Opiate addiction recovery is a multi-phased process, one that begins with medical detox and concludes with a long-term program of continuing care – recovery does not end simply because sobriety has been achieved. To stay clean and sober long-term, it is important to commit to a program of clinical care and continue in a 12-step program of your choosing. Like any other disease, addiction – a brain disease – must be consistently treated if symptoms are to be kept at bay. 

On-Call Treatment - Recovery When You Need It

At On-Call Treatment we offer a comprehensive and extremely unique program of addiction recovery to men and women in Waltham, Massachusetts, and all surrounding areas. What sets our program apart is our dedication to convenience – we understand that sometimes you or your loved one will need help immediately, and you cannot idly wait for a bed in a state-run detox center to open up. We make ourselves available in person, over the phone, and virtually, so that recovery-related resources are readily available 24-hours a day. Some of the programs of clinical care we offer include partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient treatment, and outpatient treatment.

We utilize a range of proven addiction recovery methods, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, and Motivational Interviewing. We also offer advice, insight, guidance, and support over the phone or in virtual sessions – for when you need help immediately, and you simply cannot wait. To learn more about the recovery-related services we provide or to learn more about opiate addiction recovery, call us today.