Opioid Addiction Epidemic Series 1

Drug overdose has become the leading cause
of accidental death in the US and opioids are usually involved. Opioids are a class of drugs that act on the
nervous system to relieve pain and can produce feelings of euphoria. Opioid chemicals attach to a small part of
the brain cell called an opioid receptor. There are billions tiny receptors that play
different roles on the surface of neurons. Some receptors that affect feelings of pleasure
and have the ability to relieve pain are naturally triggered by endogenous feel good chemicals
called endorphins. These receptors can be overwhelmed by the
synthetic opioids in prescription pain killers, or plant based opiates like heroine. Opioids act on many places in the brain and
nervous system, including: The limbic system, which controls emotions, where opioids can
create feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and contentment. The brainstem, which controls things your
body does automatically, where opioids can slow breathing, stop coughing, and reduce
feelings of pain. The spinal cord, which receives sensations
from the body before sending them to the brain, where opioids can decrease feelings of pain,
even after serious injuries. It is important to not take more opioids that
you are prescribed, don’t take other people’s prescriptions and never mix opioids with alcohol. Safer alternatives such as over-the-counter
pain medication, natural endorphin releasing activities like exercise as well as new developments
in non-chemical pain management may hold the key to a future with less pain and less risk
of chemical dependence.

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