How do Opioids Affect the Brain and Body?
As biological organisms, human beings are comprised of systems of cells that work together for the common benefit of the system. The term organism is rooted in the Greek word organon, meaning the organ of sense. How do opioids affect the brain and body is tied to the stimulation of these senses. Sensations of pleasure, relaxation, and contentment are usually associated with the taking of opioids by people.
The CNS is at the Center of Opioid Addiction
Two important parts of the central nervous system related to opioids are the limbic system and the autonomic nervous system. The limbic system resides inside the brain while the autonomic nervous system is located in the spine. Human’s emotions are controlled by the limbic system, which is why opioids produce emotions such as pleasure, joy, and excitement. Opioids are processed by these sensory systems, which dictate all of the responses of drug users under the influence of opioids. Sometimes these responses can be life threatening, especially after long term use of such stimulants.
The Reward Pathway
Inside the limbic system exists the brain reward circuits that lay the pathway to drug addiction. Many drugs – caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, and others stimulate this “reward pathway”, which is composed of the prefontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, and ventral tegmental area or “VTA”, which is the origin of the dopaminergic cell bodies of the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system. How do opioids affect the brain and body is what triggers these systems to release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that can be used by the nervous system to generate adrenaline and noradregaline.
Opioid Receptors Connection to Addiction
Each one of your nerve cells has receptors which opioids can attach to. Scientists have discovered three such opioid receptors named mu, delta, and kappa. The mu opioid receptor induces pain relief, but has many side effects that include nausea, sedation, and respiratory depression. The delta receptor is most heavily expressed in the basal ganglia and neocortical regions. Known for its analgesic potential, this opioid receptor’s true function is still open for debate. Similar to the mu and delta, the kappa receptor also has analgesic properties and is still being studied for applications.
The Autonomic Nervous System
As the name suggests, this part of nervous system operates automatically, controlling life affirming functions such as breathing. How do opioids affect the brain and body in these systems is very important to understand because of the danger. The sympathetic nervous system is the first half of the autonomic nervous system that starts in the spinal cord and runs to many areas of the body. Its main function is that of the “fight or flight” response, whether to run for your life or prepare to fight.
Sympathetic nervous system under opioids has the following effects:
- dilated pupils
- stimulated sweat glands
- dilated blood vessels in large muscles
- constriction of the blood vessels in the rest of the body
- increased heart rate
- inhibited secretions of the digestive system
The second part of the autonomic system is the parasympathetic nervous system. Rooted in the brainstem and in the lower back of the spinal cord, its main purpose is to bring the body back from the extreme state the sympathetic nervous system launches into. It acts as an equilibrium stabilizer, which is hindered by opioid usage.
Parasympathetic Opioid Interference:
- pupil dilation
- salivary gland activation
- stomach secretion
- intestinal activation
- lung secretions
- bronchial tube constriction
- heart rate regulation
These two systems work in tandem for the survival of the human organism. This is why opioid addiction is more serious than a simple habit. It alters and modifies the system that literally keeps human beings alive. Taking risks with the very systems that guarantee life functions is not something to be trivialized, but to be seriously monitored and stopped before it is too late.
Brain Opioid Withdrawal
After long term opioid abuse, the post-acute withdrawal symptoms are intense, as the altered brain chemistry remains volatile and unbalanced. A drug user’s brain will still show effects of the opioids long after they stop taking them. Symptoms of withdrawal include anxiety, wild mood swings, low energy and enthusiasm, sleep deprivation, sluggishness, depression, and irritability. These are some of the many challenges those face going through the recovery process. It is a long and length recovery as the brain tries to stabilize itself after being bombarded with opioid stimulants for extended periods of time.
Opioid Addiction Resources
As robust and adaptable as the human organism is, certain abuses, especially those involving drugs that rewire the brain and body, can have life altering and ending repercussions. All this information provided on the internal dysfunction caused by opioids should give further proof their effect on the brain and body is a very serious issue. Knowing that, we must help those in need whom are battling this disease of addiction. We must help them to the path of recovery by finding trained professionals that are experienced in pulling addicts back from the cliff. Please contact The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911 for help.