Opioids are drugs sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat severe and/ or persistent pain such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and others. This classification of drugs also includes illegal forms such as heroin and lab-made fentanyl. This drug works by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain to block out the sensation of pain. Opioid drugs are also extremely strong, dangerous, and highly addictive. According to a graph shown on CDC, 128 people die every day from opioid overdose in America and over 67,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2018. This number has only risen since then.
Why the Opioid Epidemic is Growing
If you know anything surrounding the opioid epidemic in the United States, you may be wondering what it is about opioids that make people fall so quickly into addiction with them. This question can be answered by understanding how an opioid affects a person’s brain and creates the sought after feeling of euphoria that gets people hooked so easily. When someone takes an opioid drug, legal or illegal, they will experience an intense rush of pleasure or euphoria. Opioids attach to a certain receptor in the brain called an opioid receptor, which is responsible for pleasure and reward. Opioids do their job by blocking out feelings of pain while also creating calming effects. When an opioid is taken, it creates a sense of euphoria because its chemical structure replicates a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that turns on certain nerve cells. Your brain is then flooded with the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is what is responsible for creating feelings of pleasure. This causes your body’s natural reward system to be overestimated unnaturally. This is what causes euphoria. When you go through that type of high, your brain wants to repeat the behavior that created it in the first place, thus creating dependency and ultimately addiction. Your brain is designed to keep repeating any activities that are linked to reward and pleasure, so your brain then rewires itself which pushed you to keep taking opioids.
How Opioids Work on the Brain
It’s very important to not only understand how opioids work on the brain, but to also know how great the impact can be on your brain, body, and life. When opioids are taken, endorphins are released at a higher level than from normally pleasurable activities, creating the addictive euphoria. The problem is, as use continues, the pleasure center in the brain stops generating such a strong response to the opioids. Your body will become physically tolerant to the opioids as your brain starts replying to the dopamine flood in such a way that it lessens the feelings of euphoria. This means you build a tolerance, so the amount it once took for you to feel goodwill no longer be enough, causing you to have to take more and more to produce the same effect. When you can understand how opioids make you feel good and their effect on the body over time, it makes it easier to understand why so many people overdose so easily. As that tolerance increases, a person will continue chasing that initial high by taking larger and larger amounts of the same drug or graduate to a stronger version. As an example, someone may start out abusing prescription pain medications but then move up to taking heroin. This is because it is not only more potent but also a cheaper option.
You’re Not Alone in Fighting Opioid Addiction
If opioid addiction is left untreated, the chances of fatality continuously increase. If you or someone you love has been struggling with opioid addiction, please feel free to give us a call today. We will discuss treatment options, and do our best to point you in the right direction. Now is the time to turn your life around. Let Evoke Wellness at Cohasset help you do it.