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The Opiate Abuse Cycle and When to Consider Getting Professional Help

Opiate drugs work wonders at relieving pain symptoms of all kinds. Their therapeutic effects work quickly and effectively. Unfortunately, these drugs produce certain unintended side effects that pave the way for opiate abuse to take shape.

The opiate abuse cycle takes root within the way opiates interact with the brain and body. While the potential for opiate abuse drops considerably when taking these drugs as prescribed, the risk never really goes away until a person stops taking the drug. For these reasons, someone who’s used opiates for an extended period of time may well want to consider getting treatment help, if only to avoid the oncoming pitfalls of addiction.

Opiate Interactions in the Brain

Most all opiate drugs have a chemical makeup that’s similar to a few of the brain’s own neurotransmitter chemicals. According to University of Texas Health Science Center, when ingested, the brain interacts with opiate substances in the same way it does its own natural chemicals.

With each drug dose, the brain secretes high levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin chemicals. This release of chemicals accounts for how opiates reduce or eliminate pain symptoms as these chemicals work to block pain signals from reaching the brain.

The Opiate Abuse Cycle

opiate abuse cycle

Opiate withdrawal can make one feel irritable, anxious, and depressed.

Brain Tolerance Increases

As effective as opiates can be at blocking pain, certain adverse effects create a cycle of diminishing turns over time. Opiate abuse overexerts the brain cells responsible for producing neurotransmitter supplies. Before long, these cells start to show signs of damage.

These damaging effects weaken cells structures making them less sensitive to opiates. In effect, a person has to keep increasing dosage amounts in order to experience the drug’s intended effects. Ultimately, brain tolerance levels continue to increase for as long as opiate abuse continues. These developments mark the start of the opiate abuse cycle.

Withdrawal Effects

Opiate effects on brain chemical processes not only cause damage to cells, but also create a state of chemical imbalance in the brain. These conditions leave the brain unable to manage the body’s functions as normal. Drug users experience this as withdrawal effects, which ultimately reflect the brain’s state of dysfunction at any given time.

Withdrawal effects typically take the form of:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of depression
  • Bouts of anxiety

The discomfort that comes with withdrawal becomes a driving force behind continued opiate abuse as users attempt to self-medicate withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological Dependence

After so many months of drug use, the opiate abuse cycle comes full circle as psychological dependence takes hold. According to Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, psychological dependence takes root within the brain’s reward system, an area that undergoes considerable impairment as the brain’s chemical state skews further and further off balance. By the time psychological dependence sets in, a full-blown addiction is at work. At this point, everything in a person’s life revolves around getting and using opiates.

Why is it So Easy to Get Addicted to Opiates?

Getting Professional Help

Ideally, the best time to get treatment help is at the first sign of opiate abuse. Unfortunately, the pleasing effects of the drug on one’s mood make it difficult to acknowledge the problem. Since the effects of opiate abuse only worsen with time, the sooner a person gets treatment help the better.

If you or someone you know struggles with opiate abuse and have further questions about drug abuse or need help finding a treatment program in your area, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-405-7172 for more information.

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