Opioids such as heroin, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, or fentanyl, if misused for long periods of time, will cause physical alterations to the brain.

Because areas of the brain are no longer normal or healthy in people addicted to opioids, scientists consider opioid addiction a disease. But just like cancer, meningitis, or diabetes, opioid addiction is treatable.


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Tolerance

When a person experiences a satisfying experience like exercising, running or eating a favorite food, the brain produces a chemical called dopamine which causes the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.

The healthy body regulates dopamine production so that feelings of extreme happiness or extreme sadness are avoided, and balance is maintained.

Opioids interfere with and interrupt the body’s normal production of dopamine and cause extremely high levels of dopamine to be released.

This causes the euphoria, or “high”, that opioid users desire. Over time, the brain is less easily tricked into producing high levels of dopamine, so the person needs more and more opioids to obtain the same results.

This is called tolerance.

The body learns to tolerate the opioid over time, and increasingly higher doses are needed to get the same effect.

Addiction

Tolerance is not the same as addiction. At this point, gradual weaning off the opioid use could be done.

The body is still capable of producing dopamine in appropriate levels.

However, with the continued use of large quantities of opioids, the brain adapts and changes and can no longer produce appropriate levels of dopamine without the opioids.

The physical changes in the brain cause the person to compulsively and repeatedly seek and use opioids just to feel normal.

This is called addiction.

Treatment of opioid addiction can take a long time, up to a year or more. Each person is unique and no estimates for recovery time can be made accurately.

Misuse of opioids over a long period of time is the cause of the addiction and it will take time to change the behavior and heal the brain.

How Can You Tell if You’re Addicted?

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that there are two main symptoms that will help you determine if you’re addicted.

The first is that if you have tried to stop and cannot stay stopped, you are probably addicted. Usually, this occurs after a big consequence, for example, a divorce, DWI, car wreck, or trouble at work.

After these consequences, we emerge remorseful with a strong resolution to never use again. But then we use again.

The second symptom is that when you start using, you do way more than you intended to do. You cannot control the amount you take.

The big book says that if either of these occurs, you are probably an addict or alcoholic. Only a spiritual experience will solve your addiction problem and nothing else will be able to solve the problem of drinking.

Get Help

If you need help with opioids or other mind-altering substances, then call Renewal Lodge to determine which program is right for you.

We have 30, 60, 90-day programs for you. Or call our admissions line.

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