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About opioids

Your whole body, especially your nervous system, is filled with millions of pain receptors. These receptors send messages to your brain when you’re in any sort of physical pain. The chemicals in opioids seek out these pain receptors, latch on, and help dull or remove painful feelings completely.

When do opioids become a problem?

Opioids become a problem when you take too many. Let’s break this down:

When you feel physical pain, your brain produces endorphins, which are naturally-created pain relievers. 

Opioids, in their man-made form, are full of chemicals like endorphins; chemicals created to serve as pain relievers. 

When you take too many opioids, you’re adding a significantly larger amount of pain relievers to your body than what it naturally produces and is used to. This creates an “endorphin overload” in your nervous system, which raises a red flag in your body. Your body is left wondering, “What happens next?

So, what DOES happen next? What happens on an ‘endorphin overload’?

Once your nervous system becomes overwhelmed with endorphins, it creates a “rush” or “high” feeling.  It also tells your body it wants more. This is when your body has to adjust and opioid use often leads to a habit, cravings, abuse, dependency or addiction, all of which are out of your control. 

How else can opioids be harmful?

Opioids also slow down your heart rate and breathing. If you take too many opioids or if you mix opioids with other medications or alcohol, the combination could stop your heart completely, leading to death.

What is an opiate?

An opiate is a chemical removed from the opium poppy plant. It is the main ingredient in heroin.

What is an opioid?

An opioid is like an opiate, but it is man-made. The prescription pain pills you’ve heard of, like hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine, are all opioids and affect your brain chemistry a lot. 

How do opioids work?

Opioids work by chemically changing the way your brain and nervous system identify pain. 
What is an opiate
The above image shows the similarities of chemical structures between pain medications and heroin. 

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