How do opioids affect the brain?

How do opioids affect the brain?
Author: Tulip Hill Recovery
Published: February 14, 2021

More than 191 million Americans have been prescribed opioids. This alone is concerning due to the addictive nature of opioids and the effects it has on the human body, but opioid use is more widespread than this because many people obtain opioids illicitly to misuse.

Whether you obtain opioids as part of a prescription or have bought them illicitly to seek a high, it is important that you understand the effects of opioids on the brain and what you are putting yourself at risk for when you misuse opioids.

How do opioids affect the brain?

Opioids are usually prescribed to help people manage pain. They work by binding to opioid receptors on the cells in your brain, spinal cord and other organs in your body. When they do this, they block pain signals sent from your body to the brain and trigger a large dopamine release, which induces a more euphoric state. 

The euphoric state that opioids create is so powerful that it often drives opioid users to want to use again. And, as the brain becomes accustomed to the intake of the opioid, it requires more to achieve the desired effect. At this stage, it may be difficult to quit using opioids without suffering withdrawal effects, and you may become addicted. 

Getting treatment for an addiction is important because of the short- and long-term effects opioids can have on your brain.

Short-term effects include:

  • Euphoria
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Numbness

Long-term effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Limited oxygen supply in your body (hypoxia)
  • Increased sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia)

Additionally, an addiction that grows out of control can end up taking over your life. Your daily routine revolves around the need to use opioids, which can affect your work, education and family life. 

Please don’t ever let stigma or shame keep you from seeking the treatment you need. When you’re facing an addiction to opioids, it can be extremely challenging to overcome it on your own because of the powerful effects opioids have on your brain. However, with a team of caring professionals by your side, recovery is within your reach.

Start your recovery journey at Tulip Hill Recovery

At Tulip Hill Recovery, we focus on discovering what factors in your life may be contributing to addiction in order to treat it at its main source. Our treatment model emphasizes the dual diagnosis approach, which means we treat addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders that might be fueling the addiction. This helps a person in recovery become better equipped for dealing with the challenges of mental health disorders without feeling like they need substances or alcohol to cope.

Are you ready to talk to someone about treatment for addiction for you or someone you love? Please contact us online or call us at 877-845-8192 to get in touch with our team and help start the recovery journey.

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Tulip Hill is a family-owned rehabilitation center with first-hand experience in addiction recovery. 

We believe a dual diagnosis approach that treats the mental health conditions underlying addiction is the best route to long-term sobriety.

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