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Opioid’s Effects on the Brain

woman comforts man who is learning about opioids and the brain

Opioids—a class of drugs that includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription—have been a topic of significant concern in public health due to their addictive nature and dangerous side effects. While they’re effective at relieving pain, opioids can also significantly affect the brain and its functions. Changes in brain chemistry and structure are some of the key effects opioids have on the brain, contributing to addiction and other serious health issues.

However, while using opioids can have severe consequences, treatment can help. Roaring Brook Recovery offers opioid addiction treatment in Lexington that supports lasting recovery from opioid use disorder. If you’re ready to take the first step towards a healthier and happier life, we’re here to help.

Call 855.590.9944 today to get started.

What Do Opioids Do to the Brain?

Opioids interact with the brain by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. When these drugs attach to their receptors, they reduce the perception of pain. However, opioids can also produce drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, and constipation, and, depending upon the amount of drug taken, can depress respiration.

These substances can cause chronic changes in the brain, creating an addictive cycle. As the brain becomes used to the feelings, it often takes more of the drug to produce the same levels of pain relief and well-being. This increase, in turn, can lead to dependence and, later, addiction.

Opioid use can also lead to brain damage due to respiratory depression. When taken in high doses or in combination with other substances, opioids can negatively impact the amount of oxygen reaching the brain, leading to hypoxia. Hypoxia can have short- and long-term mental effects and effects on the nervous system, including coma and permanent brain damage.

Long-Term Effects of Opioid Use on the Brain

Repeated use of opioids can result in changes to brain structure and function. These can include:

  • Tolerance – Over time, the brain becomes less responsive to opioids, requiring higher or more frequent doses of the drug to achieve the same effect. This can escalate the risk of overdose and other harmful consequences.
  • Dependence – Continued opioid use can lead to the brain relying on the presence of these drugs to function normally. This dependence may manifest physically and psychologically, characterized by withdrawal symptoms upon reduction or cessation of drug use.
  • Hyperalgesia – Chronic opioid use can paradoxically increase sensitivity to pain, a condition known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia. This can exacerbate the individual’s original pain problem, creating a vicious cycle of increased opioid use.
  • Neurological and cognitive impairment – Opioids can cause brain damage, leading to cognitive impairment, including difficulties with attention, memory, and decision-making. This can significantly interfere with daily life and functioning.
  • Mood disorders – Opioid use can result in changes to mood and emotional regulation, contributing to conditions like depression or anxiety, further complicating the recovery process.
  • Hypoxic brain injury – Persistent use of opioids, especially in high doses, can lead to hypoxia, a condition in which insufficient oxygen reaches the brain. This can result in potentially severe brain damage, with effects ranging from mild cognitive problems to coma.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, it’s crucial to seek professional help.

Call Roaring Brook Recovery Today for Effective Opioid Addiction Treatment.

At Roaring Brook Recovery, we provide effective outpatient treatment for opioid addiction, focusing on individualized care and evidence-based treatment methods. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to helping you achieve lasting recovery and a healthier life. Don’t let opioid addiction control your life any longer.

Call us today at 855.590.9944 or reach out online to get started.