A Little about Opioids Themselves
June 5, 2018

A Little About Opioids Themselves

We all know that the opioid epidemic is flooding every corner of the world, and there are many reasons that contribute to why it is spreading so quickly. What many do not look into is the science behind it though. What actually makes you dependent on opioids? What do opioids do to your body? How do you go from wanting to experience the euphoria from opioid use to your body trapping itself in an ongoing cycle of addiction? What makes opioid addiction such a growing issue? Some of the answers to these questions lay in the science behind opioids, and we are here to break it down for you.


Addiction comes after something is done for enjoyment or pleasure and carries over into something that feels needed or necessary. “Doctors define drug addiction as an irresistible craving for a drug, out-of-control and compulsive use of the drug, and continued use of the drug despite repeated, harmful consequences” (Mayo Clinic).


Addiction is a manifestation of brain changes caused by chronic opioid use. When opiates travel through “the bloodstream to the brain, the chemicals attach to specialized proteins, called mu opioid receptors, on the surfaces of opiate-sensitive neurons (brain cells) [and] the linkage of these chemicals with the receptors triggers the same biochemical brain processes that reward people with feelings of pleasure when they engage in activities that promote basic life functions, such as eating and sex” (NCBI).

To put it more plainly, opioids reach receptors on the surface of brain cells and trigger the same feelings one might get when engaging in pleasurable or necessary activities. “Opioids are prescribed therapeutically to relive pain, but when opioids activate these reward processes in the absence of significant pain, they can motivate repeated use of the drug simply for pleasure”, turning the misuse into addiction (NCBI).


There are many reasons for relapse, but scientifically speaking, abnormalities that produce addiction are long-lasting. The abnormalities can be affected by “stress, the social context of initial opiate use, and psychological condition” (NCBI). These can produce cravings that ultimately lead to the addict experiencing a relapse, and this can happen months or even years after the addict is no longer considered dependent on opioids.


Because opioid addiction is so much more than behavior and is a result of the brain and the brain creating memories associated with opioids, addiction is hard to overcome. When an addict is experiencing a certain stressor or trigger, they may turn to the opioid; therefore, when the addict experiences that same stressor or trigger down the road, his/her brain associates it with opioids, leading them to continue the use over and over again.


The easiest way that you can help is to closely monitor family or friends that you think may be developing addiction or dependence on opioids. Be sure to refer to experts in these cases, but often time, addicts will not to turn to help on their own, which means we have to help.

Another way you can help is by pulling opioids out of the equation completely and BEFORE addiction is ever an issue. By using proper medication disposal methods, you can keep your family, friends, and community safe from the temptations of opioid experimentation, misuse, and addiction. Be part of the solution and call us today (303) 434-1630.





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