By: Reilly Johnson
American Society of Addiction Medicine says…
“Addiction is not about drugs, it’s about brains. It is not the substances a person uses that make them an addict; it is not even the quantity or frequency of use. Addiction is about what happens in a person’s brain when they are exposed to rewarding substances or rewarding behaviors, and it is more about reward circuitry in the brain and related brain structures than it is about the external chemicals or behavior that “turn on” that reward circuitry.”
If you’ve used opiates for longer than a few weeks – there’s a good chance you’re lacking in natural “feel good” brain chemicals.
Your body and brain naturally create chemicals called neurotransmitters. Your brains four primary neurotransmitters are dopamine, serotonin, GABA, acetylcholine. Your body also produces chemicals called endorphins, which are the bodies own opiates and they are released under extreme pain. Below are the primary functions of your brain’s neurotransmitters.
- Serotonin regulates sleep and appetite
- Dopamine is the feel good chemical, plays an important role in mood, energy, attitude, motivation.
- GABA acts as your calming neurotransmitter, helping you relax
- Acetylcholine for processing information and memory
It’s important you understand EXACTLY what is happening in your BRAIN when you use drugs. Take a look at the picture below.
What do you do if the volume on the stereo is too loud? Turn it down, right? Well our brain does that same thing when it adjusts to the overwhelming surges of dopamine (and other neurotransmitters) sent as result of opiates or other drugs.
Drugs release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do.
Your brain responds to these surges from drugs by automatically producing less and less natural dopamine. So when you stop using drugs – your brain’s naturally occurring ”feel good” neurotransmitters, (namely serotonin and dopamine) are wayyyy below their normal levels. As a result you may feel flat, lifeless, depressed, nervous, anxious, queasy – unable to enjoy the things that use to bring you pleasure.
One common example of this is people who used to love going out on the weekends with friends and have a good time… after years of opiate abuse… they now prefer to stay in on weekends and watch TV at home. Relationships with people are often abandoned during addiction, and for no better reason than not wanting to go out.
Behavior like this is a common sign of a neurotransmitter deficiency or imbalance. Fortunately… there are number of natural ways to bring serotonin and dopamine levels back up after opioid abuse.
Dopamine, Serotonin and Endorphins: Simple ways to naturally increase these feel good mood-enhancers:
- MUSIC – Music is powerful and can move you emotionally. When you’re coming off opiates you’re body probably feels like it’s thawing out. Your bodies probably more sensitive to touch and sound. Good music can absolutely help your mood and get those brain chemicals working again. Try and listen to mostly upbeat music.
- MEDITATION – Meditation helps the nervous system operate at its best; when done properly this produces optimum levels of serotonin and endorphins. If you’re interested in learning meditation without all the hard work, check out Holosync here.
- LAUGHTER – Watch a good comedy movie or have a laugh with friends to release endorphins.
- SUNLIGHT – bright light increases the production of Serotonin in the body. Spending time in the sunlight can absolutely improve your mood and also soothe muscle aches. Tanning beds can be helpful if no sun is shinning.
- SEX – is a powerful producer of endorphins. A long session can dramatically increase endorphins. When you’re in withdrawal sex can be a very nice escape.
- ACUPUNCTURE – acupuncture increases circulation and stimulates the release of endorphins. If you haven’t looked into acupuncture while in withdrawal – you might want to try it out, it can be VERY helpful during healing.
- MASSAGE – stimulates the release of endorphins. Massaging your own scalp and shower massager’s can provide an affordable alternative to expensive treatments. Massage therapy can feel wonderful.
- HERBS/SUPPLEMENTS – St John’s Wort, 5-HTP and L Tyrosine all can increase serotonin, dopamine and in the brain. Thus easing withdrawal symptoms and shortening withdrawal duration.
- EXERCISE – is one of the best natural ways to produce both serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. Vigorous exercise is best because the stronger the physical demand you place on your body, the greater the release of endorphins. You should try weight training and high and low intensity exercises. Work out as long as you can.
- Eat carbohydrate rich meals and lots of vegetables. Healthy choices include whole grain breads, whole grain pasta, rice, brocolli, spinach lettuce, etc. Eating fat processed foods will do the opposite. Eat better and improve how you feel. (now to contradict myself)
- Eat sweet foods like chocolate, only a couple squares of good quality chocolate with a high percentage of Cocoa in it can raise these chemicals.
- Serotonin is naturally occurring in foods like pineapples, bananas, nuts and plums.
- Get an adequate supply of B vitamins, folic acid and vitamin C because these vitamins play a role in transmitting brain chemicals.
- Spicy foods like Chile’s, peppers and jalapenos. The heat triggers the release of endorphins, so the spicier the better.
Improving serotonin, dopamine and endorphins levels are important for shortening and recovering quickly from opioid withdrawal symptoms. So remember laughing, eating chocolate, getting a massage can release feel good brain chemicals and help you feel better, faster. Be sure to add these activities to your withdrawal recovery game plan.
- Get Off Opiates Fast At-Home (without rehab)
- Feel ZERO Withdrawal Symptoms (if you have the patience)
- Shorten Your Withdrawal Length (with unique vitamins)
- Repair Your Body and Re-Energize Your Mind (what to take today)
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