Take a Visual Journey Through Opioid Addiction

Take a Visual Journey Through Opioid Addiction

The opioid epidemic’s devastation is clear and well-documented, both for the individuals and families who experience addiction first hand and the cities, public resources, and government agencies which must confront its many repercussions. Though warnings about opioids and their powerful potential for destruction have become louder and more boisterous in recent years, the problem still persists – and the numbers along make that all too clear:

  • Opioid overdoses now surpass car accidents and gun violence as the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 55.
  • The opioid epidemic is responsible for more deaths than the HIV epidemic at its peak, and the number of casualties it’s claimed exceeds the death toll of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars combined.
  • In the U.S. today, another life is lost to opioids every 11 minutes.

With statistics like these, many people struggle with the question of why. Why are opioids still causing such overwhelming problems in America, and how do they do it? Why would people ever begin using opioids, and why can’t they just stop?

To provide answers that aren’t saturated with scientific terms but avoid oversimplification, The New York Times set out to create a visual representation of how opioid drugs and medications can hijack the human brain. Through interviews with users, family members, researchers, and addiction specialists, the Times works to answer the core questions raised by opioid addiction in a new and interesting way.

What Opioid Addiction Looks Like

Developing a serious addiction is never anyone’s plan, especially for the numerous Americans who turn to heroin and other powerful opioids after using prescription painkillers. As the Times notes, nobody is immune from addiction, though some may be more susceptible than others. For many, opioids offer immediate relief from pain and an immediate sense of tranquility. That’s an enticing trade-off, but it only serves to trap users in a vicious cycle that rewires the brain.

The Times’ visual journey, which you can view here, goes on to depict and discuss the stages of opioid addiction. These include:

  • Gateway – Opioids like heroin harness the body’s own familiarity with endorphins, which are produced naturally and which act in the brain’s reward circuits to make you feel good after things like eating a favorite meal, hugging a friend, or working out. However, opioids flood the brain’s reward circuits with tremendous amounts of dopamine, making users feel almost inexplicably content and immune from pain. That high wears off and the brain regains balance, but not always; the trap of opioid addiction means that many don’t experience apparent ill effects of use in the early stages, all while the brain is being rewired bit by bit with every use.
  • Tolerance – The cycle of opioid addiction begins to form through tolerance, often as users attempt to chase the initial high by taking more, only to discover that even a thousand more doses won’t recreate that first experience. While the brain can balance its own endorphins in ways similar to a thermostat, the constant flood of an external source throws that system off balance, tricking users with surges of dopamine to tell the brain that “this is good, repeat it.” That response rewires the brain over time and through increasing tolerance, and can make everyday activities difficult without the drug.
  • Withdrawal – The biggest trap of opioids is withdrawal. Though it may stem from many outside factors, including health, legal, or interpersonal problems, or even simply running out of one’s stash, it often results from a desire to stop. Unfortunately, opioids’ rewiring of the brain can make even the strongest individuals succumb to throws of withdrawal, including the crippling pain, insomnia, vomiting, depression, anxiety and other ill effects which accompany it, that make quitting seem impossible, and which cause many to relapse.
  • Addiction – The cycle continues when using becomes less about enjoyment, and more about ensuring avoidance of withdrawal. For some, this becomes a race against the clock, a need to ensure the next fix, and allowing their compulsion to consume any reasonable logic, judgment, and concern about one’s personal well-being. It is at this stage users can experience the most devastating effects of opioid addiction, and where friends and family members can suffer as well.
  • Treatment – Whether it’s prompted by hitting rock bottom or making the decision to fight back against opioids’ powerful ability to rewire the brain, body, and soul, some users end the cycle through treatment, often because the know the only other alternative is not much of an alternative at all. Because of the changes opioids have made in users, willpower alone isn’t always enough, and quitting cold turkey can be dangerous. As such, medically supervised detoxification and addiction treatment can provide much more in terms of safety and success. Though everyone is different, initial medication to ease cravings and help from proven specialists can begin to reset the brain’s thermostat, and help users on the road to recovery.

Novus Detox®: Recovery Realized, Sobriety Sustained

Novus Detox has extensive experience helping individuals dependent and addicted to drugs or alcohol break the cycle of addiction and relapse. This includes our detox programs for opioids such as:

Through personalized withdrawal and detox plans, specially compounded medicines, the latest technology, and a comfortable environment staffed by caring professionals, you too can find the support system you need to break free and find your path to sustained sobriety. At Novus, we focus on comprehensive treatment to provide the right start in your journey.

To speak with an experienced detox advisor about our Tampa Bay and West Palm Beach detox facilities, call (855) 464-8550 or contact us online today. We’re available 24/7 to help.

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