Biology of Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid Use Disorder is a disease, not a moral choice. Prolonged misuse of opioids can physically change the brain. Let’s take a quick look at the biology of addiction.


You begin to take opioids, such as painkillers or fentanyl. In response, your brain begins to decrease production of its own endorphins (natural pain relievers) and a number of opioid receptors.


Due to these brain changes, you now require more opioids just to feel normal, and they’re becoming more expensive and harder to get. Behaviors associated with getting medication become dangerous and time-consuming. It becomes increasingly difficult to hide the time and money spent on opioids.


You want to stop, but we are all born with natural endorphins and opioid receptors that are tied into our survival pathways. Your brain responds to the loss of opioids just as if you had stopped eating or drinking. Your brain signals that this is a life-or-death situation.


Without a continuous supply of opioids, your body and mind go into withdrawal. You start to experience severe anxiety, agitation, insomnia, cramping, diarrhea, nausea, sweating, muscle aches and vomiting. Without more opioids, these debilitating symptoms can continue for days to weeks.


Without the right professional help and treatment, the signals from your body and mind will continue to pull you back to using opioids.

The good news? Recovery is possible, and Crossroads is here to guide you or your loved one on that path. You can take the first step today by calling or texting 855.694.8288 to get help now. You can also learn more about the biology of recovery and the path to a life free of addiction.