Opiate addiction affects users differently, but one of the most troubling problems is the way it damages memory, especially short-term memory. You may struggle to process information if you abuse opiates, but you can recover if you seek professional help to get and stay clean.
How Opiate Abuse Affects Memory
The reason that scores of people have turned to opiates both for relief and recreation is because of how opiates affect neural dopamine receptors. Dopamine is the brain’s pleasure chemical, so the more of it that docks within the brain, the happier and more relaxed an individual may feel. Eating, laughing and reuniting with friends are a few activities that ignite the brain’s dopamine levels, but opiates artificially boost this dopamine, which is an immediately gratifying side effect if someone uses opiates to deal with pain.
However, when people use opiates either at higher levels or for longer time periods than prescribed, the brain gets used to living with this heightened sense of pleasure. Also, the brain soon produces less dopamine of its own, so it comes to rely solely upon the drug to feel pleasure. This is the root of opiate dependence. In addition, the dopamine overload hyper stimulates the brain’s capacity for memory, causing such mnemonic difficulties as mild amnesia and short-term blackout.
This is often one of the biggest struggles that opiate users face. This side effect will continue for some time even after the individual stops using these drugs. Withdrawal from opiates occurs in stages. Memory loss is one side effect that occurs even in post-acute withdrawal. In other words, a person in opiate recovery will need time for his or her brain to completely heal and return to normal.
Basically, opiate use will eventually damage the central nervous system. It takes time for this tissue to repair itself. That is why effective opiate treatment is so important. The opiate user’s brain and body need time to heal, and this process can take up to a couple of years. But do not lose heart. The best course of action is to remain as active as possible, and consult with addiction treatment providers about assistance with brain-stimulating activities or healthy diet changes that may help the body better heal.
Other Side Effects of Opiate Abuse
Abusing opiates such as morphine, codeine, thebaine and heroin also damage the body and brain in the following ways:
- Physical and psychological dependence
- Severe constipation
- Overactive allergies
- Respiratory depression
- Abnormally lowered heart rate
- Gastrointestinal pain
- Heightened pain sensitivity
- Changes in temperament or cognitions
- Death by overdose
Because the addictive nature of opiates is so well documented, widespread fear of dependency leads many hospital patients to request alternative methods of pain relief, even if they are in severe pain, because they do not want to risk addiction. Their fears indeed have merit, but awareness of addiction and a close accountability system of family and friends can make medical opiate use much safer.
Recovering from Opiate Abuse
If you or someone you know has abused opiates in the past or even misuses any drug now, then please call our toll-free helpline. Our recovery specialists are available 24 hours a day to hear your concerns in complete confidentiality, and they can offer you hope for recovery. Call us today to ask about interventions, treatment centers, payment plans and any other aspects of recovery that you’re interested in learning about.