Whether a person starts taking opiates to treat a pain-related condition or uses them for recreational purposes, the effects of these drugs work the same. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opiates work by altering the brain’s normal neurotransmitter outputs, increasing dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin production rates.
These effects offset the brain’s natural chemical environment, creating conditions where physical dependency can develop. Without needed treatment help, opiate abuse effects exert increasing control over a person’s will, thoughts and behavior.
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As a Pain Treatment
In the case of pain relief, the increase in neurotransmitter levels works to block incoming pain signals from reaching the brain. While effective, forcing brain cells to produce excess amounts of chemicals overworks cell structures and, over time, creates chemical imbalances throughout the brain.
When this happens, cells start to require increasingly larger dosage amounts in order to produce the amount of chemicals needed to block incoming pain signals. Subsequently, a person can easily exceed recommended dosage amounts in an effort to experience the desired effects of the drug. In essence, these developments set the stage for opiate abuse practices to begin.
As a Recreational Drug
Recreational opiate abuse exposes a person to the very worst of what these drugs have to offer. In effect, the same damaging effects to brain cell structures occur only at a much faster rate. Before long, the brain has difficulty managing other essential bodily functions as chemical imbalances take shape.
For these reasons, recreational users will likely start experiencing withdrawal effects much sooner than someone taking opiates for treatment purposes. However, opiate abuse practices in any form eventually cause withdrawal symptoms to develop, some of which include:
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
- Feelings of anxiety
- Confused thinking
Consequences of Ongoing Opiate Abuse
According to the Journal of Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, once opiate abuse practices start, the brain comes to require opiate effects in order to function normally. Under these conditions, users are inclined to keep abusing opiates to avoid experience withdrawal effects. As dosage amounts continue to increase, brain chemical imbalances become more pronounced, eventually impairing critical brain functions.
One area of the brain in particular, known as the reward system, undergoes considerable changes as dopamine chemical levels skew further off balance. This area compiles information from the brain’s cognitive, emotion and pleasure centers to determine a person’s overall belief systems, priorities and daily motivations.
Ultimately, changes to the brain reward system set the stage for opiate addiction to develop. Once the brain reward system becomes compromised, an opiate abuse problem evolves into addiction and essentially leaves a person psychologically dependent on the drug’s effects.
The Benefits of Getting Treatment Early On
After the brain enters a state of physical dependency, continued opiate abuse can snowball into a full-blown addiction within a fairly short period of time. With each day that passes, your ability to stop opiate abuse practices weakens as the drug’s hold over the brain strengthens. Getting needed treatment help early on can help avoid much of the difficulty and frustration that comes with breaking an opiate abuse habit and avoiding the inevitable destruction that addiction brings.
If you or someone you know struggles with opiate abuse and have questions about available treatment options, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-405-7172 to speak with one of our phone counselors.