According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), opioid addiction has several different effects on your brain. Opioids impact the way your brain receives, processes, and sends information through your nervous system. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable because their brains are still developing. People with an opioid addiction gradually need larger and more frequent doses of the drug to function. This vicious cycle of addiction continues until the person overdoses or decides to seek recovery.
Opioid Addiction Can Lead to Mental Illness and Brain Damage
Your brain is like a three-pound human computer that fires off special cells called neurons. Neurons regulate basic life functions, like breathing and keeping a normal body temperature. Neurons also help us with challenging physical and cognitive activities, such as riding a bike or solving a math problem.
Opioids disrupt the way neurons work in a healthy person. Opioids interfere with normal brain functions so that the person is more depressed and anxious. This sensitivity to negative feelings increases as the addiction grows more intense. At the same time, an opioid addict becomes more dependent on the drug for an “up” mood. Opioid addiction can also affect memory, reasoning, and other cognitive functions.
Even Short-Term Opioid Use Affects Your Brain
Opioid addiction alters brain function and even short-term use can affect your brain. It is common to experience the following sensations:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Feeling numb
- Absence of pain
- Lethargy and drowsiness
Potential for Overdose Is the Most Dangerous Affect Opioid Addiction Has on Your Brain
Not only does opioid addiction affect your reasoning and emotional stability, it also increases the risk of overdose. Opioids affect the brainstem. The brainstem controls critical life functions, like sleeping, breathing, and heart rate. Opioid addiction slows breathing patterns that can lead to brain damage and death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the most common symptoms of an opioid overdose as:
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Gurgling or choking sounds
- Loss of consciousness or falling asleep
- Constricted “pinpoint” pupils
- Cold, pale, or bluish skin
- Limp body
Opioid overdoses can cause death in a matter of minutes. If you suspect that someone is overdosing, call 9-1-1.
Dopamine and the Impact of Opioid Addiction on Your Brain
Scientists believe that a neurotransmitter called dopamineis a reward that your body generates when you do something pleasant and healthy, such as laughing with your friends. You may also feel a sense of euphoria after aerobic exercise. Opioid addiction intensifies both the feeling of euphoria and the pleasant sensation. A user needs more and more opioids to fuel these intense emotions.
Opioid addicts slowly lose interest and motivation in daily activities. Their sole focus is keeping a constant source of the drug.
Opioid Addiction Is a National Health Crisis
Each year, a record number of Americans lose their lives to both legal and illegal opioids. There were 47,000 opioid overdoses in 2017, according to the CDC.
Some people are more vulnerable to opioid addiction than others. According to the CDC, these groups of people are more likely to get hooked on opioids:
- Patients age 65 and older
- People with sleep apnea, impaired kidney or liver functions, and other medical conditions
- Patients who take more than the recommended dose or are inconsistent with dosage
- People who combine opioids with alcohol and other drugs, both prescribed and illegal
- Patients with a history of drug abuse or misuse
Healthcare Professionals Must Be Vigilant When Prescribing Opioids
Because of the many negative factors that opioid addiction has on the brain, doctors and other medical professionals must be cautious and follow guidelines when prescribing opioids. Opioids are often a useful part of post-surgery pain management. However, the highly addictive nature of these drugs requires that doctors keep a careful watch for misuse or overdose.
Despite knowing the risk for addiction and overdose, some doctors are careless about opioid prescriptions. The most common errors that medical professionals make include:
- Dosage is too potent for patient with consideration to their age, weight, and tolerance
- Not prescribing non-narcotic pain relievers that are more suitable for a patient’s health conditions
- Failing to check patients while he or she is taking opioids
- Failing to discuss treatment options with someone showing the signs of opioid addiction
Please Call to Learn More About the Affect Opioid Addiction Has on Your Brain
If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid addiction that may be the result of a medical error, please call Newsome | Melton. You may be able to sue your doctor for your opioid addiction. For a free consultation, please call (866) 611-BASC.