• How Does Addiction Even Begin?

    The road to addiction is often subtle, but the road to recovery is multifactorial.  Each individual’s road to recovery following addiction can be extremely hard if the steps needed for recovery are not fully understood.  At New Life Medical Group in Jackson, TN, serving Nashville, we understand the neurobiology of dependence and addiction, and will provide a safe environment for recovery.    We understand it is not as simple as to stop taking a pill, but includes lifestyle changes, identifying triggers, and a nonjudgemental environment.  We will help the patient be informed about the effects of addiction on the brain, develop realistic goals of treatment, and offer hope as their illness is better understood.

     

    With chronic use of opiate medication, science has documented the biological effects opiates have on the brain.  When a patient takes an opiate, the chemicals attach to mu opioid receptors, thus triggering a biochemical reaction that leaves people with a feeling of “euphoria”.  These same brain processes are the same that reward people with feelings of pleasure.  Opioids are prescribed for relieving pain, but patients soon begin to crave the euphoric feeling that they experience.  The slippery slope of addiction begins.

     

    Tolerance

    After the initial euphoria, patients soon begin to experience tolerance.  This occurs because the brain receptors that responsive to a dosage of opioids become less responsive, thus requiring a higher dose of opioids to generate the same response.  Soon patients find that 2 hydrocodone a day does not give them the same level of euphoria so they begin to crave higher doses.  Two hydrocodone becomes two oxycodone which begins four morphine in a short amount of time.

     

    Dependence

    Following the initial euphoria and the tolerance, opioid dependence soon begins to develop.  Dependence occurs due to the brain’s biochemical processes become oversaturated, and then lead to the brain’s neuronal system, the locus ceruleus, to become dependent on the opioids.  The locus ceruleus is the part of the brain responsible to stimulate wakefullness, breathing and blood pressure.  When an opioid is taken, it suppresses the locus cerulues causing drowsiness, slowed respiration and low blood pressure because of this effect.  This part of the brain is also responsible in the distressing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, muscle cramps, diarrhea and shaking.

     

    Withdrawal

    The distressing withdrawal symptoms are what drive most individuals to relapse when trying to overcome narcotics.  The withdrawal symptoms are most likely non-life threatening, but can become extremely uncomfortable.  Symptoms include anxiety, muscle cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, and a sensation of being “out of control”.

     

    How can a person begin with a single pill and then find themselves in an addictive lifestyle?  Research has shown “further prolonged use produces more long-lasting changes in the brain that may underlie the compulsive drug-seeking behavior and related adverse consequences that are the hallmarks of addiction.”

     

    NLMG understands addiction is multifactorial, and difficult to overcome alone.  The medical professionals are trained in addiction, and will provide a safe environment for recovery.   We understand the many factors that are involved in the addiction recovery process.  We will help identify triggers and overcome stress factors that increase cravings.  We will develop a “teamwork” approach with the patient to develop realistic goals and treatment plans.

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