Natural Ways to Replenish the Pain Receptors Lost From Opiate Addiction
If you are no longer taking opiate painkillers after taking them addictively, it is normal to feel depressed, anxious and more sensitive to pain. These are not only common symptoms of opiate withdrawal, but also a natural byproduct of the reduced levels of neurotransmitters, including endorphins, in your brain, caused by taking opiates repeatedly. Fortunately, natural substances and healthy activities can boost your level of endorphins and elevate your mood.
Endorphins and Opiate Addiction
Endorphins are neurotransmitters in the brain that bind to neuroreceptors to relieve pain and lift mood.Your body produces at least 20 different endorphins, with beta-endorphin–formed mainly by an amino acid called tyrosine–appearing to have the strongest effect. The introduction of opiate drugs into the neurological system causes a flood of endorphins–and other neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin–into the pleasure center of the brain. When this happens repeatedly over time–as with habitual opiate use–your brain loses some of its ability to release and replenish its supply of neurotransmitters on its own. When the supply of drugs is abruptly cut off, depleted neurotransmitter levels cause you to experience discomfort, anxiety and depression.
Natural Endorphin Boosters
Increase endorphins naturally by engaging in cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, cycling or swimming; it is endorphins, after all, that cause the surge of calm and well-being known as the runner’s high.
After exercising, try a small amount of chocolate to lift your mood–it contains phenylalanine, which stops the breakdown of endorphins and lets the body benefit from pain-relieving neurotransmitters–as well as anandamide, a chemical that has been found to mimic some of marijuana’s effects on the brain. Because of its sugar content, however, chocolate can leave you in an energy slump, so beware of overindulging.
Eating spicy foods is another way to elevate well-being; the capsaicinoids in hot peppers cause a mood boost from the endorphins your body releases as a response to the burning effect on tissues of your mouth. Ancho chilies have the lowest level of spiciness, with cayenne peppers in the middle and habanero peppers at the top.
Eat animal proteins, such as turkey, beef and chicken. They contain not only phenylalanine, but also tryptophan, a natural sedative, and tyrosine, a building block of beta-endorphins.
Help your body manufacture more endorphins by taking vitamin C, which promotes endorphin production, and by eating citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits.
The simple act of laughing triggers the release of endorphins, as well. Now is the time to rent those comedies you’ve been meaning to see.
Never embark on any regimen of supplemental vitamins without discussing it with your doctor first; these can interfere with prescription medicines. You should also discuss your exercise program with your doctor if you have been sedentary for a while. If you are troubled by depression that does not lift, consult your doctor; he may prescribe anti-depressants or therapy. If you are having suicidal thoughts, consult your doctor or a mental-health professional immediately.