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How Do Opioids Affect the Nervous System?

How do opioids affect the nervous system?

Whether opioids are prescribed or used illegally, they directly affect the nervous system. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly assume that even when their doctor prescribes opioids to help with painful conditions, they are safe to use. However, taking the time to learn how do opioids affect the nervous system can help you better understand the effects the drugs have on your body.  

What Does the Nervous System Do?

The nervous system is the body’s control center. It takes in information from our surroundings through our senses, processes it, and sends signals to muscles and other parts of the body to respond. The nervous system helps us think, feel emotions, move around, breathe, digest food, and regulate organ functions – basically, anything that involves a response or action.

How Is the Nervous System Related to Pain?

Pain is a signal from the nervous system that something is wrong. Pain receptors are located throughout our body, and when they detect an injury or abnormal condition, they send signals to the brain through peripheral nerves. The brain then interprets these signals as pain and sends out instructions to the rest of the body in response.

How Are the Nervous System and Brain Connected?

The brain and nervous system are intricately connected. The brain is the body’s command center, responsible for interpreting sensory information and sending out instructions to the rest of our body in response. The nervous system consists of nerves that carry electrical signals from the brain to other body parts, allowing communication between different areas.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a type of drug derived from opium poppy plants. They bind to opioid receptors in the brain, mimicking natural endorphins and blocking pain signals. Common opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and methadone. While doctors may prescribe them for severe or chronic pain relief, they can also be extremely addictive if misused.

How Do Opioids Affect the Nervous System?

When opioids block pain signals, they can cause feelings of euphoria and relaxation, as well as reduce feelings of physical pain. However, long-term use or misuse of opioids can cause changes in the nervous system that increase tolerance, leading to dependence and addiction.

What Are Opioid Receptors?

Opioid receptors are special proteins found on nerve cells that bind to opioids and help transmit their effects throughout the nervous system. They are located in areas of the brain associated with pain, pleasure, reward, and addiction. When opioids bind to these receptors, they block pain signals and can create feelings of euphoria or relaxation.

How Do Opioids Increase Pleasure?

Opioids increase pleasure by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and other organs, blocking pain signals, and releasing neurotransmitters like dopamine that create feelings of pleasure and reward. This can lead to an initial feeling of euphoria, relaxation, and reduced physical pain.

How Do Opioids Affect Neurotransmitter Functioning?

Long-term use or misuse of opioids causes changes in neurotransmitter functioning. Instead of the body being able to release neurotransmitters naturally, it becomes reliant on opioids to cause the release of neurotransmitters. 

In addition, the longer opioids are used, the more the body tolerates their effects. As a result, the body requires large doses of opioids to achieve the desired effects. Unfortunately, as dosage levels increase, so too does the body’s tolerance. 

Furthermore, when someone attempts to stop using opioids, they can experience severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms because the body cannot naturally regulate the release of neurotransmitters. 

What Are the Long-Term Effects on the Nervous System?

The long-term effects of opioids on the nervous system depend on how they are used. Prolonged use of opioids can lead to changes in the brain’s reward system, and cause physical dependence, tolerance, and addiction. Opioids can also interfere with neurotransmitter functioning and disrupt communication between nerve cells. This can lead to impaired cognitive function, memory loss, confusion, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

How Are Opioids Misused?

Opioids are commonly misused in several ways:

  • Taking more than the prescribed dose or taking opioids without a prescription. 
  • Using opioids for non-medical reasons, such as to get high or cope with stress. 
  • Mixing opioid drugs with alcohol or other substances to increase their effects. 
  • Taking opioids in different ways than intended, such as crushing pills and snorting them or injecting them into the bloodstream.

What Are the Dangers of Quitting Opioids “Cold Turkey?”

Quitting opioids “cold turkey” can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening. When a person stops taking opioids suddenly, they may experience intense withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and pains, insomnia, anxiety, depression, agitation, restlessness, and cravings for the drug. As a result, most people that attempt to stop on their own are rarely successful. 

What Is the Safest Way To Stop Using Opioids?

The safest way to stop using opioids is to do so gradually, with medical supervision. Tapering off opioids slowly over several weeks can help lessen withdrawal symptoms and allow your body to adjust. In some cases, medications can be prescribed to ease cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms during detox

Safely Quit Using Opioids at Our Medical Detox Center in Pompano Beach, FL  

DCF and Joint Commission-accredited Retreat of Broward in Pompano Beach, FL, offer customizable opioid detox treatment programs to help you safely stop using opioids. We provide a caring, safe, and supportive environment for you to start your recovery. Contact us to begin your opioid detox today.

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