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What Does Using Opioids Do To Your Brain?

Many people who use opioids do so, at first, with a legal prescription for the drug. Most people start taking an opioid at a small dose. As a person begins to develop opioid use disorder, their brain and body go through changes. Opioids are highly addictive drugs.

The immediate effects on the brain caused by opioids include pain relief, euphoria, and a feeling of relaxation. Breathing is slowed, and a person may slur their words or begin “nodding out.” They may feel dizzy or unable to stand.

Short-term effects are just one side of the story. As a person uses drugs for a more extended period, their brain begins to change. Mental and physical withdrawal symptoms will occur when a person progresses to addiction. Recent research shows that eight to twelve percent of chronic pain patients develop an opioid use disorder.

The Brain: Opioids, Opiates, and Other Narcotics

There are several types of drugs that are considered opioids or opiates. Synthetic opioids are drugs such as fentanyl, methadone, or tramadol, all used for severe pain and sedation in some cases. Opiates are derived from the poppy plant and include street drugs like heroin and prescription medications like morphine.

There are also semisynthetic opioids that have both natural and synthetic elements. Oxycontin and Percocet are in this class of drugs and are known to be highly addictive.

Long-Term Effects On The Brain

Opioids are highly addictive and change the way the brain processes information. As a person uses more opioids and becomes addicted, their brain also changes. Longer-term opioid use can cause problems with memory. Some users become more sensitive to pain after longer-term opioid use, which can trick them into taking too much medication and cause an overdose.

Opioids also dim a person’s executive functions, which help them problem-solve and make good decisions day-to-day. People who use substances are often less inhibited when high, but the problems with making decisions outlast the high. People who are chronic opioid users also tend to have less impulse control. This may mean they may live dangerously and make poor decisions on a whim.

People with substance use disorder also often have trouble feeling good without the substance. Drugs can send serotonin, the feel-good drug, into overdrive. But when a person doesn’t use their substance, their body may have difficulty creating its feel-good chemicals, causing depression or anxiety, which is very common during detox.

Nearly 15% of people with opioid use disorder overdose when they are using. This can cause brain damage.

Get Help for Opioid Use Disorder

If you or a loved one in North Carolina need help with an opioid use disorder, we’re here for you! We offer in-person as well as telehealth sessions to people within the state. We can talk you through the process! Give us a call at 910-295-7646 to learn more about our programs.




If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.



Contact Solas Health

Our mission is to improve lives and help you get better.

Addiction, pain, and mental health challenges interfere with the joys of living, but we can help. Dr. Corrigan, and the whole team at Solas Health, will help.

If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.

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