Opioid Addiction Begins in the Brain

Addiction to opioids is a very complex disease process, involving many different variables. Opioids have a high likelihood of abuse, primarily because they impact key areas of the brain responsible for positive reinforcement and reward.

Why Opioid Drugs Are So Addictive
Opioids are powerful drugs that act on the central nervous system to provide pain relief. When a person takes an opioid, the drug enters the central nervous system in the brain and binds to receptors known as opioid receptors or mu receptors. These receptors are located in areas of the brain known as the reward pathway and pain pathway.

How Opioids Affect the Brain
When binding to the pain pathway, opioids provide pain relief. However, when they bind to the reward pathway, opioids cause euphoria and release dopamine — a key neurotransmitter that signals the neurons of the body to create a pleasurable feeling or “high.”

Even with short-term use, opioids change the actual chemistry of the brain whether a person develops addiction to the opioid or not.

Increasing Use to Achieve the Same Effects
Taking opioids over time leads to drug tolerance. Changes in the receptors and enzymes acting in the reward pathway of the brain cause alterations in the firing of the neurons so that the brain no longer functions normally. A minimized response to the drug is developed — ensuring the next time the opioid is taken will never be the same as the first. It will take more of the drug to achieve a response; be it pain relief (the pain pathway) or euphoria (the reward pathway).

Rapid Road to Opioid Dependence
Drug dependence occurs when the neurons of the brain adapt as a result of repeated drug exposure and cannot function normally without the drug. Dependence occurs in as few as 5 days and in areas of the brain not involved in the reward pathway. Therefore, it happens to anyone with extended or repeated use of opioids.

Anyone taking opioids will become dependent over time and will go through withdrawal when they stop taking them.

S.T. Genesis— A New Path for Withdrawal Symptom Management
S.T. Genesis is a revolutionary Percutaneous Nerve Field Stimulator (PNFS) device that
supports reduction of opioid withdrawal symptoms through application to branches of the cranial (V, VII, IX, and X) and occipital nerves of the brain. The FDA-cleared PNFS device targets specific areas associated with pain and anxiety.

Electrical neuromodulation has been shown to influence the development of new neuronal circuits in the brain and to reshape the outputs of existing circuits. This process exploits neuroplasticity to rewire and reprogram the brain in order to achieve specific therapeutic goals such as detoxification.

After application of S.T. Genesis, patients may experience results in as few as 20 minutes with the majority of patients reporting reduced withdrawal symptoms in 60 minutes. Learn more.