The chemical structure of opioids is similar to that of a natural neurotransmitter. As a result, they mimic natural neurotransmitters attaching to receptors in the brain and activating nerve cells. When opioids travel through the bloodstream to the brain, the mu opioid receptors on the surfaces of opioate-sensitive neurons. This triggers the same biochemical process that gives people feelings of pleasure.
Repeated exposure to escalating dosages of opioids alters the brain so that if functions normally when the drugs are present and abnormally when they are not. The result of this alteration is the need to take higher dosages to achieve the same effect and drug dependence to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction arises after a person’s neurons adapt to the drug. At this point, the neurons fire extensively and the effect on the body changes. Blood pressure is raised and the brain stem triggers diarrhea. The feelings of euphoria are replaced with dysphoria and anxiety.
Patients are commonly treated with opioid replacement therapy, which involves replacing highly potent and addictive drugs with compounds such as methadone or buprenorphine. These substitutes bind to receptors but they do not activate receptors to the same degree. This reduces the chance of overdosing. They also stay on receptors longer, which curtails withdrawal symptoms.
Auricular neurostimulation has been shown to be an effective option to reduce withdrawal symptoms as a patient goes through detoxification. This process of eliminating drugs from the system, is the first part of a long-term treatment program. Once the drugs have been eliminated from a patients’ system, they can be treated with other medications and therapy.
Drug Relief is a percutaneous electrical nerve field stimulator (PNFS) that allows the administration of auricular therapy for up to five days. The wearable device provides patients with a high degree of comfort and mobility. The device is applied behind the patient’s ear and tiny needles are placed in the ear at nerve endings. The device sends continuous electrical pulses through nerves providing relief from the common withdrawal symptoms including stomach cramps, muscle aches, muscle spasms, pounding heart, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, depression and insomnia, along with drug cravings.
Studies have shown that neurostimulation impacts on the release of neurotransmitters. By changing the concentration of neurotransmitters in specific brain regions, neuromodulation may modify the intrinsic properties of neuron membrane thus altering the response to synaptic events.