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Opioid Central Nervous System Depression

Table of Contents

Opioids work by attaching to specific receptors in the brain, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract, so it may not come as a surprise that they can cause a decline in fundamental central nervous system responses. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord, and is sometimes referred to as the “control center” of the body, controlling vital functions like heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing. It also regulates fine motor movement, balance and posture, and is responsible for reasoning, intelligence, learning, and memory.
Opioids including morphine, codeine, oxycodone, Fentanyl, and Methadone are shown to produce several negative effects within the central nervous system. One such side effect is the “clouding” of various cognitive processes. Because opioids affect users’ mental clarity, patients may often feel anesthetized or unable to fully “wake up.”  For someone taking the medication for simple pain management while still carrying out normal daily activities, this can have serious repercussions. Mental “cloudiness” means patients are operating at subpar intellectual levels at all times, which can negatively impact both their professional and personal lives.  Use can also cause severe drowsiness, so users must take caution when driving or operating heavy machinery.
Constipation as well as suppressed coughing and swallowing reflexes are also reported amongst opioid users. Opioid-induced constipation is quite prevalent amongst patients and is caused by the slowing of the passage of stool through the intestinal tract. The constipation due to opioid abuse might become very severe that sometimes emergency surgery is required to remove the fecal impaction from the body.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids can depress breathing and when taken a large single dose can cause severe respiratory depression that can lead to death; what is sometimes called “Opioid central nervous system depression”. This risk is especially heightened amongst recreational users who may take the drugs without regard to proper dosage requirements.  High dosages also coincide with increased risks for coma and seizure, caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
The Waismann Method, a pioneering medical opiate detoxification procedure, provides an alternative option for treatment to prescription painkiller dependency. Performed in a hospital intensive care unit, the Waismann Method utilizes careful administration of medications to reverse the physiological dependence on opiates while the symptoms of withdrawal are addressed. During the procedure, the patient experiences minimal conscious withdrawal. Following treatment, patients are opiate-free and stay at the Domus Retreat where they are supervised by a team of professionals as part of the recovery and transition process.

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