Narcotic pain-killers remain an effective treatment for people suffering from chronic pain conditions. These same pain-killing effects account for why illegal narcotic drug abuse has become so common. Narcotics effects make their way through the body’s central nervous system within a short period of time. Unfortunately, the beneficial effects of these drugs are short-lived. With ongoing use, the potential for addiction increases considerably.
The Central Nervous System
Narcotic drugs work as central nervous system (CNS) depressants by slowing down neural activity in both the brain and the body. The brain and spinal cord make up the two main organs in the CNS. These organs form a continuous line of neural communication that connects with the peripheral nervous system. Communications sent through the CNS are transferred over to the peripheral nervous system, which extends throughout the body’s organs and extremities. In effect, neural messages run back and forth between the brain, CNS and peripheral nervous system.
Since narcotics effects specifically target the CNS, once drugs enter the brain, their effects can spread quickly throughout the body. In addition to slowing down brain function in general, narcotics effects slow down overall communications between the brain and the body. This means respiratory, heart and digestive systems slow down accordingly. Should the supply of drugs stop as some point, the brain and body are left to “re-wire” the communications network, which can be a fairly uncomfortable experience for the user.
CNS Neurotransmitter Function
Communications within the brain travel via neurotransmitter chemicals. The brain naturally produces its own pain-killing neurotransmitters, known as endorphins. The word endorphin actually means “endogenous morphine” in the sense that the brain naturally produces chemicals that closely resemble narcotics. Not surprisingly, narcotics effects in the brain shut-down natural endorphin secretions and essentially take over vital brain functions, according to an Elmhurst College report.
Over time, the brain stops producing its own pain-killing endorphins since narcotics effects have taken over. Not only does the brain stop producing endorphins, but also starts to demand larger doses of drugs in order to function normally. Ultimately, the brain becomes dependent on narcotics effects to carry out necessary functions. During this time, the rest of the central nervous system remains at the mercy of narcotics effects and like the brain, requires increasingly larger doses to function normally.
As narcotic drugs slow down central nervous system communications, other prominent brain center functions, such as breathing, cough control and intestinal digestion slow down as well. This means if a person ingests more drugs than the CNS can handle, breathing processes can slow to the point of respiratory distress. This accounts for why the majority of narcotic overdose fatalities result from respiratory failure.
In cases where a person stops taking narcotics after long-term use, any withdrawal effects experienced are the result of the central nervous system trying to restore communications back to normal. Withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors, vomiting and fatigue are all indicators of the damage that’s taken place within the CNS. Permanent damage to the brain and body are likely in cases where a person has used narcotics for years at a time.