Opioid Epidemic and Mental Illness

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When a human being is struggling from pain caused by bodily or mental illness, the first normal thought that crosses the idea is how to get medication and relive the pain. There are many painkillers which can relive pain such as paracetamol and opioid.
The study of opioid dependancy is interesting because of eye-opening explanations as pertains the reason for the addiction, the signs, and signs and symptoms of an addicted person and the way addicted brain works can be explained. What causes an opioid addiction? To reply the question appropriately, one ought to consider delving deeper into the use of opioid and how the addiction occurs.
This paper seeks to provide an explanation for the concept of opioid addiction with a close view to the definition of the opioid medicine, the causes of the addiction, the symptoms, and signs of the addicted person, the treatment of the condition and the way the brain uses opioid to reduce pain.

Definition of Opioid addiction

Opioid addiction is the customization of the brain to relieve pain only under the influence of the opioid medication. Opioid medication is the kind of a painkiller which signals the body to send signals to the brain which then change how the brain responds to pain. Opioid drugs include heroin, codeine, heroin, methadone, morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl (Ailes, Elizabeth C., et al. 37).

Cause of an opioid addiction

Opioid addiction is no different from other addictions such as alcohol addiction in as far as changing the addict’s behavior is concerned. According to Ailes, Elizabeth C. et al. (39), the limbic system of the brain is responsible for the production of endorphins which reduces pain. An opioid addiction happens when the brain stops producing the endorphins and starts relying on the artificial drugs

The addicted brain

The brain of an addict operates differently from the brain of a normal person. The brain has receptors, transporters, neurotransmitters and neurons which work in a coordinated manner to respond to pain. The neurons are nerve cells which send and receive messages in the body through the axons in the form of an electric impulse.

Neurotransmitters act as chemical messengers by sending the electric impulse messages from one neuron to another. Receptors are attached to the neurotransmitters as they approach a receptor hence the receptors help in receiving and sending of information to and from the neurons through the synapse. Finally, the transporters shut the signal between the neurons once the neurotransmitters have communicated (Fudala, Paul J., et al. 530).

The brain uses natural chemicals to produce dopamine and endorphins which then relieve pain in the body. When one is addicted to pain-killers such as the opioid drugs, then the limbic system gets hacked and no longer produces enough of the endorphins. When the reward pathway in the limbic system is interfered with by the opioid systems, the limbic system begins to confuse the opioid chemicals with the natural chemicals. As a result, an insufficient amount of endorphins is produced in the body and therefore unable to relive pain. The addicted person must, therefore, take more opioid drugs to facilitate production of endorphins resulting to the addiction.

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction

An addicted person will show many signs and symptoms which can point to the level of the opioid drug addiction. The common signs and symptoms of an opioid-addicted person include vomiting, passing out, having small or constricted pupils, having a slow and erratic pulse, and being unresponsive. The other symptoms may include chills, shaking, pain, depression, insomnia, fatigue, sweating and consistent pain without the medication.

Treatment of the opioid addiction

Opioid addiction can be treated using either medication or the psychological treatments. The medications that can be used to treat opioid include methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. The drugs would work by returning the normal production of endorphins by the limbic system (Fudala, Paul J., et al. 527).

The medications work by eliminating the chemicals produced by the opioid drugs to allow the use of the natural chemicals to produce the endorphins and dopamine. Psychological treatments such as physiotherapy can also be used to treat the addiction. There are many professional organizations which can offer psychological services such as informing an addict on the negative effects of the opioid addiction and helping him or her in the post-treatment relapse. Relapse is the opioid addict’s health deterioration after successful treatment.

The neurological changes in the mind of an addict after treatment

According to Kalivas, Peter W., and Nora D. Volkow (1403), treatment done through medication would return the limbic system to normalcy. As a result, the brain would be able to the natural chemicals in producing the endorphins which then makes the body system able to arrest pain without the need for medication. The pain and pleasure pathway would also be restored to normalcy and apart from pain arrest; the brain would be able to produce the dopamine which is responsible for pleasure as it is linked to the thalamus part of the brain. The coordination of the transporters, receptors, neurons, and neurotransmitters would make it possible for body system to sustain future pains and help the addicted person in managing relapse by producing enough endorphin.


The research has delved into the opioid addiction as a topic of interest with discussions on the meaning, causes, signs and symptoms and treatment of the addiction. The research paper has also analyzed how the addiction affects the brain and how a relapse arising from the treatment of the addiction can be treated. From the research, it has been established that opioid addiction arises from many drugs such as opium, codeine, fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, methadone, hydromorphone, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, paregoric, sufentanil, and tramadol.

In as much as many people are addicted to the opioid drugs to relive pain, the addicts and non-addicts should learn that the body system is capable of arresting such pains trough the natural mechanisms. The doctors do advice that natural vegetables and fruits should be taken to boost the immune system since the failure of the body to relieve pain is linked to a weak immune system.

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Works Cited

Ailes, Elizabeth C., et al. "Opioid prescription claims among women of reproductive age--United States, 2008-2012."MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report 64.2 (2015): 37-41.

Fudala, Paul J., et al. "Use of buprenorphine in the treatment of opioid addiction. II. Physiologic and behavioral effects of daily and alternate‐day administration and abrupt withdrawal."Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics 47.4 (1990): 525-534.

Kalivas, Peter W., and Nora D. Volkow. "The neural basis of addiction: a pathology of motivation and choice." American Journal of Psychiatry 162.8 (2005): 1403-1413.

August 09, 2021

Health Science

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