opioid use speed brain aging

Does Opioid Use Speed Brain Aging?

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It’s no secret that there is a growing opioid problem in the United States. Statistics show[1] that more than 130 people die every day in the U.S. after overdosing on opioids. The impact opioids have on the body, including the brain, are dramatic for those addicted. The impact can be seen in nearly all brain functions, leading many to ask does opioid speed brain aging? Let’s take a look at the effects opioids have on the brain.

How Does Opioid Use Affect the Brain?

Scientifically speaking[2], opiates work by attaching to certain receptors in the brain and mimic the effects of pain-relieving chemicals that the body produces naturally. They relieve pain and work their way through the nervous system. Taken as a prescription to relieve pain, these drugs may not be dangerous. But, when they are taken differently than prescribed, illegally and/or in high doses, the body begins to react differently.

Opioids lead the brain to release much higher levels of dopamine, the chemical that makes the body feel good. Opioids affect the brain and its functions by producing a feeling of euphoria and making the body crave more to keep that feeling. As someone uses opioids, they need more of the drug to maintain that same high.

As the brain begins to think it needs these drugs to maintain that feeling, addiction occurs. When a person uses opioids, short-term effects on the brain include:

  • Confusion
  • Poor-decision making skills
  • Memory problems
  • Attention problems

Long-term effects on the brain include:

  • The brain loses its ability to control pain on its own
  • Anxiety and feelings of depression because the body becomes addicted to the drug and nothing else can give them the same high as using opioids
  • Brain damage[3]
  • Speed of completing tasks

Signs of Brain Aging

Researchers have found[4] that when people continue to abuse opioids, the front part of their brain is affected. This impacts how well the brain operates and how well it comprehends things. They have also found volume loss in the brain associated with long-term use of opioids.

While getting help in a recovery program can save your life, studies show that the effects of opioid use on the brain can last a lifetime. Researchers found that people who abused opioids continued to have cognitive impairments even after they stopped using the drug. This can include:

  • Memory loss
  • Trouble finding the right words to speak
  • Anxiety
  • Slow speech
  • Hearing loss

Another interesting aspect when asking does opioid use speed brain aging is to look at the effects depression can have on the brain. Many people who begin to use opioids may be depressed when they start using or become depressed as a result. Researchers are looking into[5] how depression can make the brain age faster. It has to do with synapses in the brain. They discovered that people who are depressed have a lower density of synapses than people who are not depressed. Since a greater amount of synapses is generally linked to better cognition, they are lead to believe that depression is making people age faster. The exact rate remains unknown as the research and studies continue in this area.

Is Opioid Use Affecting Your Brain Aging?

If you are experiencing any of the signs of brain aging and are using opioids there is a very good chance that your drug use is to blame, especially if you were generally healthy before you started using. If you’ve used in the past and have been sober, you may also be still dealing with the effects your drug use has had on your brain.

For those who are seeking help with their opioid abuse, there is plenty of help out there. Realizing you have a problem and need help is the first step. This is often the hardest part for many people.

Getting Help for Opioid Addiction

At Ocean Hills Recovery we have counselors on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your call and begin your recovery process. The staff at Ocean Hills Recovery is fully trained and experienced in dealing with opioid abuse.

After speaking to a staff member, the team will develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Detox is often the first and most important step in dealing with an opioid addiction. A trained medical team will be on hand to monitor you as you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Once detox is complete, the rest of your treatment plan will begin. This often consists of therapy sessions, both one-on-one and in a group, to help determine what triggered the addiction. This is vital so that you can avoid the people and places that lead to your addiction.

At Ocean Hills Recovery, you will also learn how to take on new hobbies to activate the pleasure points in your brain that are no longer being triggered by opioids. It is during this time that may patients find new passions and meet new people who share the same interests. The length of each program varies from patient to patient, as everyone’s addiction is different. Many patients also continue with outpatient therapy once their program is complete.

If you’re ready to take the first step in your recovery contact Ocean Hills Recovery today to speak to a counselor or fill out our online form. We are here to help you live the sober life you deserve.



[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

[2] https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-opiates-2795406

[3] https://www.biausa.org/public-affairs/media/persistent-and-abusive-use-of-opioids

[4] https://www.biausa.org/public-affairs/media/persistent-and-abusive-use-of-opioids

[5] https://apnews.com/cb359e6042844cff90ff4a12cb68f273

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