Any one drug’s ability to alter the brain’s chemical makeup is what most characterizes its addiction potential. As one of the most addictive substances in existence, opium effects greatly disrupt the brain’s chemical equilibrium.
The brain’s delicate balance of chemicals dictates all facets of a person’s life experience, including the way he or she feels and thinks. For someone living with opium addiction, the drug’s effects have all but taken over his or her life experience.
Where Opium Addiction Begins: The Brain Reward System
Within any given day, a person’s priorities and motivations develop out of the brain reward system’s regulatory functions. This reward system works in conjunction with the brain’s learning, memory and emotion-based centers, determining which experiences and behaviors best promote a person’s daily survival.
Positive reinforcing experiences for the most part dictate how the brain reward system determines a person’s priorities. Not surprisingly, this system relies heavily on a normal chemical balance in the brain to function at optimal levels. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opium, be it in the form of prescription pain medications or heroin, compromises the brain’s reward system functions.
Opium Addiction Effects
Opium produces pain-relief as well as feelings of calm and euphoria through its effects on the brain’s chemical processes. When ingested, opium forces chemical-producing brain cells to secrete high levels of neurotransmitter chemicals, one of which being dopamine. Once opium addiction takes hold, these effects on the brain’s chemical environment create a state of perpetual imbalance that inevitably throws off reward system functions.
Dopamine, one of the brain’s primary neurotransmitter chemicals, acts as the sole chemical involved in coordinating reward system functions, according to the Journal of Addiction Science & Clinical Practice. Over time, the repeated surges in dopamine levels that result from opium abuse essentially warp the reward system. Ultimately, this system comes to view behaviors associated with opium abuse as positive reinforcing experiences that are necessary for survival. These conditions drive the opium addiction cycle.
Ways Opium Changes Your Thinking
The responsibilities a person assumes from day to day reflect his or her priorities in life. In turn, past conditioning and learning becomes the basis upon which the brain reward system assigns priorities. During the course of daily life, each time a positive experience occurs, the brain naturally secretes dopamine chemicals.
With each dose of opium, dopamine floods the brain, and in the process teaches the brain reward system to assign importance to the behaviors that led up to taking the drug. By the time a person develops opium addiction, drug-using behaviors have taken on top priority in his or her life.
Belief systems define a person’s outlook on life as well as determine how he or she views self and interacts with others. They develop out of experiences had from day to day in terms of how the brain reward system interprets each experience.
Over time, the thoughts, emotions and behaviors associated with opium abuse gradually overhaul the mind’s belief systems. Once opium addiction sets in, a person has developed the type of mindset and lifestyle that reflects opium’s influence over his or her core belief systems.
While opium addiction no doubt has a physical component, the addiction aspect lives inside the mind of the addict. These effects account for how someone who’s maintained abstinence for years can suffer a relapse episode and resume old drug-using behaviors.
If you or someone you know struggles with opium abuse in any form and have questions about addiction or addiction treatment, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-429-5210 (Who Answers?) for more information.