APR 25, 2018 10:32 AM PDT

Your brain on opioids

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With the opioid crisis still storming strong, it's important to understand just how opioids affect your brain. Though there are many different types of opioids, they all share a similar chemcial composition to our body's natural endorphins, which allows them to bind to these receptors and stop pain signals. This painkilling trait is the reason why doctors prescribe the drugs.

But the drugs also bind to the ventral tegmental area, which is the part of your brain that releases dopamine. Dopamine is the brain's neurotransmitter that regulates movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. It is often called the reward center of the brain. The problem with opioids is that they flood the brain with too much dopamine, and teach users to associate the drugs with that "feel-good" state. That encourages people to continue taking opioids in order to keep feeling that feeling. Want to learn more about how opioids affect the brain? Watch the movie!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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