The brain develops morphine, heroin, and other opioid dependence due to the changes that occur within its natural biochemistry as a result of frequent usage.
When the body adjusts to the regular presence of opioids, several important changes occur:
- Your brain produces less of its own natural opiate-like chemicals
- Your brain produces more of the enzymes and other chemicals that react to the presence of opioids and opiates
- Your body becomes less able to control how it reacts to pain, pleasure, imbalance, and stress
- You body exhibits signs of physical depression such a lowered heartbeat and shallow respiration
One of the side effects of producing fewer natural opiate-like chemicals and producing more of the enzymes that react with them is a growing dependence on morphine, heroin, and other opioids to feel normal. Dependence is also characterized by the onset of withdrawal symptoms whenever opioid use is stopped.
Why Dependence Occurs
Morphine, heroin, and other opioids stimulate the pleasure centers in your brain causing it to release endorphins that mask pain and create a powerful wave of euphoria. These sensations are temporary, however. When they fade the brain often demands to have them reapplied so it can return to this artificially happy state.
As you continue to take opioids, the brain responds by producing fewer endorphins of its own. This leads to opioid tolerance. If you respond to this by taking even larger doses, your brain will eventually become dependent on the presence of opioids to feel normal. Dependence occurs when withdrawal symptoms present themselves in the absence of opioids.
Dependence vs Addiction
The effects opioids have on the brain change its chemistry in such a way that continued use will always eventually lead to dependence, as the brain will require increasingly large amounts of opioids to trigger the desired response, and it will not feel “right” without the presence of opioids in its system.
This is not the same thing as addiction, which only occurs in a percentage of people who have become dependent. Addiction is characterized by compulsiveness and a powerful urge to continue to take the drug that supersedes the body’s other needs.
Risk Factors Associated with Opioid Dependence
The people with the greatest risk of developing opioid dependence are the same populations that are most at-risk of developing an opioid addiction. Common risk factors include:
- Those with a history of mental disorder including depression and anxiety
- Those with a history of legal trouble
- Those with a history of tobacco use or alcohol abuse
- Young people
- Unemployed people
- Anyone with chronic pain
How to Overcome Morphine, Heroin, and Opioid Dependence
Opioids are not a safe or effective way to treat long-term pain. It is important to seek out alternatives to opioids whenever possible, as there are many painkillers on the market that may be able to treat your condition with less risk of developing tolerance, dependence, or addiction afterward.
Fortunately, opioid dependence is treatable with a combination of specialized medicine and counseling services. Some examples of medication-assisted recovery include:
- Using full agonists like methadone, which stimulate opioid receptor cells to relieve withdrawal symptoms and reduce or prevent cravings
- Using partial agonists like buprenorphine, which partially stimulate opioid receptor cells to decrease cravings and lessen withdrawal symptoms
- Using antagonists like naltrexone, which inhibit the stimulation of opioid receptor cells to prevent relapses and potentially reduce the severity of cravings
All medication-assisted recovery methods require the oversight of medical professionals to be effective. They should also be paired with ongoing counseling and support networking to help guard against relapsing and further abuse.
We May Be Able to Help
If you or a loved one has developed a tolerance, dependence, or addiction to morphine, heroin, or other opioids, we may be able to help. Contact the team at Newsome | Melton today at 866-611-BASC for a free consultation.