Opiates Effects on the Teenager’s Brain Chemistry

What Are Opiates? 

Opiates are narcotic analgesic substances derived from the poppy plant. Although similar to opioids, the active ingredients in opiates occur freely in nature, making them organically derived. Some common examples of opiates include morphine and codeine.

Opioids, on the other hand, are synthetically produced in laboratory conditions (OxyContin, Fentanyl, etc.). Nevertheless, both categories of substances affect the body in very similar ways. Doctors primarily prescribe these substances to patients suffering from chronic pain or ongoing illness and are extremely detrimental to physical and mental wellbeing when used indiscriminately.

The Teen Brain on Opiates

In order to fully comprehend the health hazard that opiates pose, it is important to analyze their effect on brain chemistry. Opiates are narcotics that act as depressants on the human central nervous system. Many animals, including humans, are born with opiate receptors naturally present in their brains. These receptors exist due to endogenous neurotransmitters that react with the receptors to create responses similar to those driven by opiates naturally in the body. Externally introduced opiates essentially bind themselves to particular receptors in the brain, spinal cord, etc., thereby mimicking these endogenous neurotransmitters’ pain-relieving effects. The ultimate effect is a ‘high’ that completely blocks the brain’s ability to process pain, creating a pleasurable numbness and causing side effects such as nausea, fatigue, confusion, and reduced cognitive perception.

Why Are Opiates So Addictive?

Opiates create clinical bonds with endogenous receptors in the central nervous system, simulating a feeling of comfort, numbness, and sometimes euphoria. However, the body quickly develops a tolerance for these chemical compounds, causing the user to increase their intake. This tolerance buildup is the primary reason for opiate addiction. 

Once tolerance buildup occurs and the body cannot receive the required amount, withdrawal symptoms set in, and teen opioid addiction is in full effect. The intensity of these symptoms depends completely on the amount of tolerance the body has built. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression, muscle cramps, sweating, high blood pressure, and irritability, an inability to sleep, low cognition, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and so forth. People have also become addicted to these substances when ingesting them at the prescribed dosage. The chances of addiction increases with higher amounts of ingestion, as well as the mixing of opiates with other drugs. If your teen is struggling with opioid abuse, speak with a professional at Key Transitions about our Los Angeles teen opioid abuse treatment program.

How Opiates Affect Teenage Brains:

The primary characteristic difference between an adult’s nervous system and that of a teenager pertains to the process of ‘myelination.’ Each nerve cell in the human body is covered with a layer of a fat-like substance known as myelin. This substance is not fully developed yet in the teenage brain cell. Therefore, to compensate, the nerves must send louder, more jarring electrical signals to each other in order to communicate. A good analogy to understand this phenomenon is a song playing through a cheap set of speakers compared to a sophisticated, state-of-the-art sound system. Because of these less refined, ‘louder’ communication channels, teenagers’ brains experience both positive and negative emotions and external stimuli with far greater intensity than adults do. This aspect of heightened feelings combined with the alienation young adulthood brings makes teenagers far more susceptible to addictions than adults. Further, neural pathways, which dictate behavioral patterns, form more quickly in teenagers, causing them to adopt addictive habits more easily. 

How Key Transitions Intervenes:

Experts at Key Transitions use evidence based adolescent opiate addiction treatment intervention strategies to efficiently and holistically approach teenage opiate addiction. We use a unique approach, where the solution offered to our clients covers every aspect of their recovery journey to make it seamless and comfortable. We have multiple interventions designed to tackle various levels of opiate addiction in teenagers. Below are some comprehensive teen treatment programs that Keytransitions offers:

Teenage Intensive Outpatient Program

The Los Angeles Teen IOP is ideal for adolescents between the ages of 14-17 who have begun to face physical, mental, emotional, and social struggles due to opiate abuse. Candidates opting for this program receive treatment from the comfort of their own homes and benefit from the support of their communities but at the same time require more support on their recovery journey than a weekly therapy session. The program aims to restore physical wellbeing by reversing the bodily damage caused by opiates while imparting essential information, skills, and resources required by neural pathways in the brain, solidifying the path to sobriety. A multidisciplinary team equipped to handle all facets of the recovery process is dispatched to the candidate to provide holistic support. Individual, group, and family therapy sessions are also included. 

Teen Partial Hospitalization Program: 

The Los Angeles Teen PHP is a structured treatment program that runs for 8 hours each day for 4 days each week. Unlike hospital residents, PHP candidates are free to return to their own homes at the end of each treatment session, thereby benefiting from family, home comfort, and community support. This kind of familiar support is essential to remove feelings of alienation, which may cause teens to fall into relapse.

Teen Residential Treatment Program: 

A Los Angeles Teen Residential Treatment Program is ideal for candidates who require around-the-clock support on their recovery journey through teen opioid addiction treatment. Adolescents who may pose a threat to themselves or those around them are recommended for this program. It is clinically intensive and focuses on restoring physical wellbeing and functioning. Graduates of this program usually join the Teen outpatient program afterward to facilitate their journey towards gradually controlling their recovery.

Key Transitions staff members understand the intensity of emotions experienced during the adolescent period and are committed to treating their clients with gentle care and the utmost respect. Addicts are not hopeless; they simply require streamlined guidance and encouragement to rediscover their inner light. Key Transitions professionals are passionately driven to bring as many teenagers out of the opiate addiction shadow as possible.