Your Brain On Opiates
Posted: July 17, 2005, 6:59 AM


Posts: 6235
Joined: May 31, 2005




I copied this,I thought it was insightful and could be very helpful in explaining why we go through PAWS.It was not written by a Doctor but obviously uses facts and a language easily understood.

Ok, get comfortable, this is going to be long. Please be patient as this may be hard to explain via this medium but I will do my best.
First and formost, most people, addicts included, either don't know or don't believe that addiction is a very real, very physcial disease. We are not addicts because we are weak and we don't have trouble quitting for that reason either. I'm going to attempt to explain what addiction truly is and why it is so hard to overcome so put your feet up and bear with me for a bit, k?
There is a natural chemical that our brain produces that is called Dopamine. This chemical is what stimulates our pleasure center and also what lets our brain inturperate what measures it needs to take for survival. So, picture if you will, the following. On one side of your brain you have a "sac" that contains the Dopamine, on the other side of your brain you have a receptor (For the rest of this post I'm going to refer to this receptor as a gate for easier explaination). Now, in a normal, non addicted brain, Dopamine is released naturally after say a good meal or sex. In the normal course of things for instance, if we eat a steak dinner, the sac will release the normal amount of Dopamine, let's say one squirt. The gate opens, receives the Dopamine, we feel good and everything is as it should be. Now, drugs also release Dopamine only at a much higher level, so while a candy bar might release one "squirt" of Dopamine, drugs release up to 100 times the normal amount of Dopamine. So, when we first begin to use, we swallow a pill or shoot some Heroin, 100 squirts of Dopamine gets released causing the Euphoric feeling that leads us to use again. The problem now though is that after a while, that one gate cannot open fast enough to accept the unusually high amount of Dopamine that is being supplied, so being the amazing organ that the human brain is, it simply grows another gate to help it accomodate. So, now we have 2 gates that are open and want to be fed. So instead of needing to only take 1 or 2 pills a day, suddenly we find that we need 3 or 4. Now 200 times the normal amount of Dopamine is being released and the process continues, these 2 gates need help so the brain grows another, and another and another........Now we find ourselves needing 6 or 7 pills a day. While this is happening our brain is led to believe that it now HAS to have this chemical to survive, just as it knows that it needs food and sex to live and to reproduce. It know thinks that without drugs it will die, for you see the brain doesn't know what we are giving it, just that it MUST have it or die. So, with continued use, our tolerance grows due to the extra gates that we have open, that need to be fed and fed on a consistant basis. So, as opposed to the normal brain that has it's one normal gate, an addict may have 20 or 30 gates now. This is why we can take drugs in a high enough dosage that it would kill a normal person but for us it is the amount that we need just to feed all those gates and keep ourselves normal.
So now, we deciede to quit. Easy enough, right?, I mean, just stop swallowing the pills and all will be well (ever been told that?). Well, as you know, it's not tht easy and the reason why is when we suddenly take that drug away,stop feeding those gates, our brain goes into panic mode, it thinks it is dying. So, what follows? 7 to 10 days of extreme sickness (WD). Our brain is sending out distress signals just like it would if we quit eating (think for a minute what a human will do if they get hungry enough and then you can see why addicts will do things they never thought themselves capable of to get what they need.) Now, after the first few days, the brain begins to realize that it is not going to die and we start to physcially feel better. But that is by no means the end of the problem. Think of those gates for a minute, wouldn't it be nice if when we quit they disappeared and everything went back to normal? Unfortunately, that is not the case, the addicts brain is forever altered. Those gates NEVER go away, we will always have all those extras. Now, this is where it is so difficult in early recovery. Ok, so we have quit taking drugs, we feel a little better, BUT now we eat a candy bar, the normal amount (that one squirt) of Doapmine is released, BUT ALL of those extra gates open to receive it and our brain starts to scream "IT'S NOT ENOUGH", which of course it is not, we have 30 gates opening, expecting to be fed and they get one little blast instead of what it is used to. This is why in early recovery anything that releases Dopamine needs to be reduced or eliminated if possible. Of course we have to eat, we can't eliminate that of course but have you ever noticed when you first got clean that you found yourself overeating or craving right after a good meal? We crave after we eat because those gates are open and we may overeat trying to satisfy the need for excess Dopamine. That is why it is a good idea to avoid sweets or products like NyQuil, because they contain sugar and alcohol, which "teases' those gates unnecessarily. Now, while those gates never go away, the good news is that after we are clean for awhile, they do become less sensitive. Eventually even though they are still there, fewer will open and things return to as close to normal as we will ever be able to get to. So, basically we have them, they are laying dormant and if we get say a good 6 months to a year clean time, they pretty much leave us alone. BUT, how many times have you heard an addict say that they were clean for a while and thought they could just use recreationally now and control it? Of course we can't control it, once we take that first pill (or whatever) again, the HUGE amount of Doapmine is released and ALL of those dormant gates are wakened and our tolerance is just as high as it always was. We don't have to build it back up, we pick right back up at the amounts that we are accustomed to. Or how many times have you seen someone who never had a drinking problem get clean from pills and then become an alcoholic? They think that if they are not taking their DOC they will be ok. But remember, our brain doesn't know if we are feeding it Vicodin, Heroin or whiskey. All it knows or cares about it is the end result that the substance produces.
Now, we are getting clean, the WD's are over, we are not using any other substance but yet we are miserable, can't sleep, are depressed, anxious, etc, etc....Now, why is this, it's not fair, right?, I mean, we did what we were supposed to and yet we feel so ABNORMAL and it seems to last forever. Well, the reason for this is simple, when we were growing all those extra gates and training our brain to rely on a unnatural chemical, we ACTUALLY, PHYSCIALLY altered the chemical makeup in the brain. So, now we may be clean but we are left with a bunch of synopsis (sic),and receptors that are in essence "misfiring". We feel the way we do because our brain in no longer functioning normally. This does eventually heal but it is not a quick process by any means. Our brains have to repair all the damage we did when we went in and rearranged it's furniture so to speak. Usually this takes anywhere from several months to a year. The longest time belonging to those whose DOC is opiated based, such as Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin and Heroin. This is why such extreme caution has to be use in early recovery and also why so many addicts relapse. It take so long to feel normal again that most of us give up and return to the drug induced normality that they are used to. The sad truth is that only 2 out of 10 addicts recover. And it again is not because they are weak people, but rather because it is such an enormous battle mentally that most lose. I mean, how long can you go through living everyday just not caring about anything? Most can't get through that. BUT, if your stay strong, have a support system and be patient, one day you discover that you can smile again and while it may only last a few seconds, it is a real feeling and you can being to hope. There is life after drugs, and I won't lie, it is NEVER the same as it was before the addiction takes us but it can be rewarding and meaningful.
So, as far as what to do to continue succesful recovery, A support system is key as is proper diet and Vitamins. Especially Zinc and Magnesium as these are two that we deplete with use and also the ones necessary to provide the quickest MENTAL recovery.



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Posted: July 17, 2005, 7:06 AM


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Very informative Tim. I've heard it all before, but not put in terms so easy to understand. Good news and bad news, eh? Beck

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Posted: July 17, 2005, 7:31 AM


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Tim,

Good post. It's always helpful to be reminded that there is a real physical component to this disease. Thank you for explaining it.

At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, no, life's never going to be the same as it was before we started using, but with a comprehensive program of recovery, it can be better. As I've addressed the issues that led me to use in the first place, I find I've become "whole" in a way I never was before. Could I have come to this knowledge other than through addiction? I don't know. Who cares? I can't change the past.

I need a dopamine hit. Where's that swimsuit photo?

Cheers,
Gina
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Posted: July 17, 2005, 7:41 AM


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Gina,I totally agree.My addiction was the catalyst for my finding some peace.It sounds ironic but If I wasnt an addict,I might still be in some black hole looking for life to happen.As a result of finding recovery,it opened the door for so many great opportunites.Being able to come on a forum like this and immediately connect with a bunch of guys I dont even know?? Thats pretty awesome................Ive never owned a pair of speedos.I wasnt very cool in the 80's,I still wore a pair of cut off jeans.LOL

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Posted: July 17, 2005, 7:43 AM


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Great post Tim, and put into words that I can understand!! Thanxx

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Today I am a new person and forgive ALL faults and transgressions of yesterdays life
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Posted: July 17, 2005, 7:55 AM


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Tim,

You are right on the mark. I work in research, in this specific area. The dopamine receptors can be destroyed. Either chemically, or by "lesioning" that area of the brain. Unfortunatly, it is not selective, and destroys all of the receptors, which do not regenerate. However, studies have shown that certain cells ( I won't go into what type of cells, because even for me in is very controversial), when transplanted to that area of the brain, have shown an ability to re-pair the destroyed area, to restore normal dopamine production, and reception. This research of course is in its infancy, but it has so much potential to help addicts regain a normal life, with a normal brain. More research needs to be done, its time to government wakes up and realizes that for every person who is suffering from aids....there are 5 who suffer from addiction. Funding for programs like this are vital. I salute people like my boss, who cares so much for people like us, that he has devoted his life to finding a cure.
He sees us as people who suffering from a disease, not some freaks on a street corner begging for drugs.

Oh and when I saw this thread....I thought for sure I was going to see an egg or something in a frying pan...LOL

michelle

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Posted: July 17, 2005, 7:56 AM


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Eric Cartman is my hero,Gabbi.I never miss South Park.Thanks

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Posted: July 17, 2005, 7:58 AM


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great post tim,made it very easy to explain to my girlfriend,thanks.ruprect

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Posted: July 17, 2005, 7:59 AM


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thats why I changed him LOL cos I know you think he rocks Tim (as do I )

great info everyone!!

have a TOP day x x x

Yeah I'm gonna show this post to my mum and maybe she'll get a better understanding of why I can be mental!!!

This post has been edited by Gabbi on July 17, 2005, 8:00 AM

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Today I am a new person and forgive ALL faults and transgressions of yesterdays life
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Posted: July 17, 2005, 8:09 AM


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Michelle,

Explain something to me. I'm trying to look for the upside to this. If we have say 30 dopamine receptors starved for a hit so it's harder to feel pleasure, doesn't it follow that when we do find pleasure in something, we feel it more than the average person with only the normal five dopamine receptors? Does this make sense? I know it's overly simplistic but I don't have coffee (I'm on this detox diet, LOX!!! goddammit).

Tim,

Cut offs, lose the tie, jacket and shirt. Works for me. Okay, you can wear the Vans, too.

Oink,
Gina

Hey Gabbi!

How are you today?

This post has been edited by soccermom1 on July 17, 2005, 8:10 AM
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Posted: July 17, 2005, 8:10 AM


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Tim wrote:
My addiction was the catalyst for my finding some peace.It sounds ironic but If I wasnt an addict,I might still be in some black hole looking for life to happen.

If that isn't the truth! I went looking for the cause of my addiction and found it, now I'm dealing with that and I see that my addiction is just part and parcel of a wider problem. I'm taking steps to find out what to do about it, and I feel like I'm truly on my way to a new life. My biggest fear was going into orbit around my addiction without ever reaching escape velocity.

There IS life after drugs. A better one.
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Posted: July 17, 2005, 8:21 AM


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Dear Patriarch........Great response to Tim's post........and Tim thank you for posting this.......Before using drugs I knew I had issues to deal with........My recovery from those drugs is allowing me to deal with those issues....Things I may never have resolved if it was not for this addiction........Working the steps has provided the ground work for me to understand, accept, and resolve problems I kept buried deep inside.......For this I am grateful I became that messed up to begin with.......Who would have known!

God Bless, Rus

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The joy we seek lies less in something new happening and more in our opening our hearts more fully to the love in our lives already. Only love can make us happy, and only we ourselves can determine its presence or absence inside our hearts. To acknowledge love is to increase its capacity to heal us; to ignore love is to let it slip away.



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Posted: July 17, 2005, 8:24 AM


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Gina,

It would seem logical that we would get happier about something more so than the average joe, because we have more receptors. But unfortunatly, once we come off the opiates are brains are producing the normal amount of Dopamine, that the average joe is, its all the receptors that are like not getting what they want. So it is possible the opposite happens. The happy news is that these extra receptors do become dormant....which leaves us alway at risk of relasping and spiraling back to where we were in prior to coming clean. That is why taking opiates again is so very dangerous. It does not take much to re-awaken these receptors, and once their awake and needing a hit, the s*** starts all over. Did I make any sense? My coffee receptors are not firing very good this morning.

michelle

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Posted: July 17, 2005, 8:30 AM


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Great post Tim, Thanks.
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Posted: July 17, 2005, 8:45 AM


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Micelle-Exactly.That is what happens.Your body doesnt know the difference if you are taking opiates to get high or for legitimate medical reasons once you cross that line.Thats why its stressed over and over again to find alternate sources to deal with your pain.Even under medical supervision in a hospital, if you have surgery and they give you IV morphine you have those receptors all opening up wanting to be fed again.It only takes one time.There is an erroneous belief with addicts that"Oh,I will use a couple of days,stop and be fine"...once the chemicals activate,it may be 2 days or a week but you will find yourself in a state where you have to use at any cost.Ive been there a thousand times and couldnt understand what happened.I had every intention of staying clean.
I guess the bottom line is.....avoid using any mind altering drugs because your life depends upon it.If you are having real and legitimate pain,you better exhaust every possible way to deal with it before you even consider opiates........Jesus,I sound like somebodys mother.I better not have another cappucino,speaking of dopamine.LOL

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Posted: July 17, 2005, 9:08 AM


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right on the money Tim

There is no such thing as a casual opiate user post addiction. It is both physically and mentally impossible. Glad I caught on the first go around. Now don't ge me wrong, my addictive brain does romance the idea from time to time, but the logical reasoning area of my brain knows. Knowing that I am at risk, is the biggest step forward that I could have made. It never goes away. Never. Those receptors will always be there....waiting. That is why we must be on guard, and one step ahead of our addiction at all times.

michelle

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Posted: July 17, 2005, 9:50 AM


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this piece explains addiction so well, tim. thanks for sharing this.

would you please email me at dsam2u@comcast.net

i have something i want to ask you offlist.

hugs -

sammy
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Posted: July 17, 2005, 10:03 AM


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Yes that was a great post........Jessica
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Posted: July 17, 2005, 10:14 AM


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Sammy-Just e-mailed you.Im leaving in about an hour so if I dont get back with you sooner,thats why.
Have a good one.

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Posted: July 17, 2005, 10:33 AM


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So...if you take an antidepressant after getting off the opiates doesn't it help with putting your dopamine, serotonin,etc.......in normal patterns..can you fix it..or just wait it out and feel like a piece of the puzzle is missing..I want to enjoy life, but I do not have the same ability to experience pleasure as before..I realize also that the "pursuit of pleasure" is also dangerous..the pusuit of peace would be healthier and longer lasting as pleasure is a passing ,fleeting experience. I do want to feel and experience the reality of life, but the depressed thing..such a drag when you've struggled to get clean..never mind the physical pain some of us have to endure.Great post.Thanks, S.

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