NFL Players Chronic Pain

Dr Rick Sponaugle Explains To NFL Players Why Their Opiate Pain Pills Are Causing More Physical Pain

© Copyright 2011, Marvin “Rick” Sponaugle, M.D.

Dr. Rick Sponaugle recently spoke at the NFL retired players conference in Las Vegas. He explained why the NFL players were feeling more physical pain on opiate pain medication than they felt immediately following their initial football injury. The medical term for this is hyperalgesia – increased pain.

Dr. Sponaugle explained that over time, opiate pain medications like Roxycodone and OxyContin change Brain Chemistry patterns in a manner that make the brain more sensitive to incoming electrical pain signals from injured nerves.

Dr. Sponaugle demonstrated Florida Detox® research that proves opiate medications cause deficiencies of calming brain chemicals like serotonin and taurine.

Opiate-induced serotonin and taurine deficiency cause the brain’s emotional center or deep limbic system, a walnut sized brain region in the mid-brain, to become severely overactive.  An overactive deep

limbic system makes the brain more sensitive to emotional and physical pain.

These opiate-induced changes in brain chemistry produce excessive electrical activity in the brain which amplifies incoming electrical pain signals. University professors call this phenomenon, hyperalgesia.

Dr. Sponaugle prefers the term “Brain Pain” – Why? Because, in addition to increasing the patient’s perception of  physical pain, the opiate-induced imbalance of brain chemistry also causes anxiety and insomnia.

Multiple Hormonal Deficiencies Caused by Opiate Addiction

Dr. Sponaugle’s addiction research at Florida Detox & Wellness Institute proves that opiate pain medications suppress the brain’s pituitary gland causing:

  • Growth Hormone deficiency
  • MSH deficiency, hypothyroidism
  • adrenal insufficiency [adrenals make “get up and go” chemicals, adrenaline, cortisol ,DHEA ]
  • shut down of testicles and ovaries thus…
  • deficiencies of the sex hormones testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.

GH – Growth Hormone Deficiency

Without adequate growth hormone, we age much faster because we cannot repair any body or brain cells, our skin looks older, our muscles can’t repair after a workout, we can’t repair injured nerves etc. GH deficiency causes more physical pain, muscle stiffness and depression as well as excessive “belly fat.”

MSH – Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone

MSH is not just for skin pigmentation as we were taught in Medical School. It turns out that MSH has 22 other functions and recent research has proven that MSH is a “mother modulating hormone” that controls the activity of all hormones. Regarding increased physical pain, it turns out we cannot manufacture our natural opiates, endorphins without MSH. This explains why patients on opiates have no endorphin production.

If your MSH production has been shut down by opiate pain mediation, you probably notice that you sunburn more easily in the same amount of sun exposure that used to give you a nice tan!


Thyroid Hormone activates every cell in your body – opiate-induced hypothyroidism causes every cell in your body to become underactive.

Our Brain’s Pleasure or Reward Center runs on dopamine, dopamine cannot activate our reward centers “happy receptors” the Dopamine D2 receptors, when thyroid levels are in the basement – opiate-induced hypothyroidism causes decreased activity in our reward center – this causes depression and increased brain sensitivity to incoming electrical pain signals.

Adrenal Insufficiency or “Shut Down”

The adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys. They make Adrenaline [Epinephrine] Cortisol and DHEA.

Epinephrine Deficiency

Epinephrine or pure adrenaline is one of your primary “get up and go” chemicals. If you suffer opiate-induced epinephrine deficiency, you may notice that you get dizzy for half of a second when you get up quickly from a chair. Epinephrine deficiency causes fatigue, depression and lack of motivation.

Cortisol Deficiency

Adrenaline cannot activate adrenaline receptors without cortisol. The obvious “double whammy” from opiate-induced adrenal shutdown is that your adrenaline and cortisol, the hormone that enhances activation of adrenaline receptors are both in the basement.

DHEA Deficiency

Opiate-induced DHEA deficiency – you can’t manufacture endorphins without DHEA -thus DHEA deficiency causes Increased Physical Pain!

DHEA is called the grace hormone in Europe. It is the strongest anti-inflammatory hormone. Your brain uses 6 times more DHEA than any other hormone. DHEA becomes testosterone or estrogen. DHEA increases production of natural killer cells, the white blood cells that attack and kill cancer cells, bacteria and viruses.

Testosterone Deficiency – Both Sexes

Opiate-induced Testosterone deficiency causes increased pain via decreased dopamine activity in the Brain’s Reward Center. Dopamine cannot activate the Brain’s dopamine receptors in the Reward Center without adequate testosterone! As with Thyroid Hormone deficiency, Testosterone deficiency down regulates activity in our Brain’s Reward Center causing depression and increased brain sensitivity to incoming electrical pain signals.

Estradiol Deficiency

Opiate-induced Estradiol deficiency causes depression, anxiety and insomnia and increased brain sensitivity to incoming pain signals.

In the female brain, serotonin receptors close and are unavailable for activation by serotonin molecules when estradiol levels fall below 80 pg/ml.

This means women with normal serotonin levels but estradiol levels below 80 pg/ml, suffer serotonin deficiency symptom including an overactive emotional center [deep limbic system]. As stated above, an overactive emotional center makes the brain more sensitive to incoming electrical pain signals.

Progesterone Deficiency – Increased Electrical Current

Women make progesterone in their ovaries until peri-menopause which occurs around age 40 to 45. Men and women make progesterone in their adrenal glands. Progesterone converts to another hormone, allopregnanolone which activates the brain’s Xanax receptor, the GABA receptor.

Females should think of Progesterone as their Xanax hormone. Opiate-induced Progesterone deficiency obviously causes increased electrical current throughout the brain and body – thus any electrical pain signal, for example, a pinched sciatic nerve, will be amplified before it comes into the brain and after it enters the brain.

The ultimate result of everyday opiate consumption, even when prescribed by pain doctors, is a myriad of detrimental biochemical changes that make the brain more sensitive to physical pain and cause the patient to suffer the following symptoms  – depression, anxiety, insomnia, memory loss, chronic fatigue, weakness, lethargy, bone loss, muscle loss, weakened immune function, elevated cholesterol, insulin resistance with diabetes, metabolic syndrome and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Opioid pain medications like Vicodin, Roxycodone and OxyContin ultimately cause a deficiency of the brain chemicals “dopamine” and “serotonin“. These deficiencies disrupt the normal electrical activity in the brain. Specific brain regions such as the brain’s pleasure center [nucleus accumbens] and the brain’s emotional center [limbic system] influence our brain’s sensitivity to incoming pain signals.

Reward Deficiency Syndrome

The brain’s pleasure center resides in the mid-brain and “runs on dopamine.” Some patients inherit less than normal Dopamine D2 receptors, the “happy receptors” in the brain’s pleasure center. Their pleasure centers are underactive and they normally suffer a mild depression. They don’t get as excited as others, and often appear less motivated. They are also more sensitive to physical pain. Scientists have recently labeled this Reward Deficiency Syndrome.

These patients don’t get excited about high school graduation – they can’t feel the joy because they can’t get the dopamine hit. Patients with Reward Deficiency Syndrome easily succumb to opiate addiction because opiate medications stimulate a temporary “dopamine hit” from brain storage units. The “dopamine hit”  makes them “feel more normal” when they take Roxycodone or Oxycontin.

Long term use of opiate medication depletes the brain dopamine storage units causing a more severe dopamine deficiency. Without proper diagnosis and aggressive treatment during detox, these patients fall into a “black hole” after opiate detox. This causes immediate post detox relapse.

Dopamine receptivity is compromised in patients with opiate-induced hypothyroidism and testosterone deficiency. The inactive thyroid hormone, T4, cannot convert to the active thyroid hormone, T3, when testosterone is suboptimal. Furthermore, both testosterone and T3 thyroid enhance dopamine receptivity, the ability of dopamine to activate brain receptors.

Serotonin deficiency caused by opiate addiction can be severe in patients taking OxyContin and Methadone. Opiate-induced serotonin deficiency produces excessive electrical activity in two distinct brain regions,  the emotional center (deep limbic system) and the anterior cingulate gyrus.

An overactive deep limbic system makes the brain more sensitive to incoming pain signals. Patients who suffer from opiate-induced serotonin deficiency, become more sensitive to physical pain and emotional pain. Their personality changes from happy and spontaneous to moody, irritable, stubborn and argumentative. They become more easily offended and lose desire to socialize.

You may have noticed that an OxyContin-addicted family member has become more defensive and over-sensitive to things you say – remarks that normally would not have offended them before they started taking pain medicine. They may not share their inner most feelings with you, but they begin to feel more hopeless and suffer excessive guilt. They lose interest in things they used to consider fun.

Opiate-induced serotonin deficiency also causes excessive electrical activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus. A calm cingulate serves as the brain’s ‘gear shifter’ – it says forgive, forget, move on, today is a new day. An overactive cingulate prevents patients from “shifting gears” and they become over-focused on all the negative aspects of their life, especially their chronic pain.

Patients who suffer from an overactive anterior cingulate become stubborn, they develop an attitude of “my way or the highway.” They become more argumentative and easily disgruntled if someone “moves their cheese” or “messes with their stuff.” They also develop an obsessive worry syndrome.

As patients develop an overactive deep limbic system, they lose their desire to socialize. They can even begin experiencing social anxiety. After a few years of using OxyContin or methadone, the patient who once enjoyed socializing on weekends, prefers the security of their home. Addiction doctors who lack this intricate knowledge of brain physiology, including many university professors, suggest these patients are hiding from their friends because they don’t want them to know they are addicted. The truth is, these patients no longer enjoy socializing.

Serotonin inhibits the release of norepinephrine from the A5 nucleus, a factory in the brain that manufactures 90 percent of our noradrenaline or norepinephrine. Opiate-induced serotonin deficiency allows the A5 nucleus to release excessive norepinephrine.

Excessive Norepinephrine increases electrical current throughout the brain and body. This amplifies the electric pain signals from injured nerves in the body.

Elevated norepinephrine levels caused by opiate-induced serotonin deficiency, cause vasoconstriction increasing blood pressure, norepinephrine is a powerful vasoconstrictor. When Dr. Sponaugle optimize brain chemistry after opiate detox, many patients can often stop taking blood pressure medication.

Excessive Norepinephrine causes excessive electrical current in the brain producing anxiety and insomnia disorders – in severe cases fibromyalgia disorders. When we treat these patients with our Brain Wellness Program, they no longer suffer anxiety,  insomnia, or fibromyalgia.


Fibromyalgia is derived from excessive electrical current running throughout the nerves in the body. Unknowing physicians treat it with opiate pain medication, they remain unaware that fibromyalgia pain is ultimately worsened by the opiate induced changes in brain chemistry.

Women develop fibromyalgia more often than men when taking opiate pain medication. OxyContin, Actiq and methadone shut down pituitary output of both, LH and FSH – the hormones that stimulate ovarian production of progesterone and estradiol, respectively. Both female hormones are powerful modulators of the brain’s electrical circuitry as noted above.

Opiate induced Estradiol deficiency decreases the activity of the calming brain chemical serotonin, thus, increasing electrical firing in nerves. Opiate induced progesterone deficiency causes decreased GABA activity. As stated above, Progesterone decreases electrical current in the brain and body by activating the Xanax or GABA receptor. GABA is the primary calming neurotransmitter in the brain and body.

Dr. Sponaugle presented an alarming study at the 2009 American Academy of Anti-aging Medicine conference which demonstrated that 100 percent of the 20 to 29 year old females prescribed methadone (80 mg per day) suffered complete shut down of their ovarian production, the young twenty something women were suffering opiate-induced menopause! Their post menopausal ovarian production was that of their grandmothers!

These young women no longer produced any estradiol, progesterone or testosterone because methadone had suppressed their pituitary production of the hormones LH and FSH, hormones that stimulate the ovaries to produce sex hormones.Opiate-induced pituitary suppression is a triple whammy for female patients with chronic pain. They suffer opiate-induced estradiol deficiency, opiate-induced progesterone deficiency and opiate-induced testosterone deficiency.

Florida Detox Brain Wellness Program – Stops Opiate Craving – Heals Opiate-Induced Brain Damage

Dr. Sponaugle emphasized to the NFL players at the Las Vegas conference, “When we detox the opiate addicted chronic pain patient, we  immediately begin the restoration of more than 100 biochemicals, this optimizes brain function in our patients and prevents the amplification of incoming electrical pain signals. Most of our patients report an 80 to 90 percent reduction of their physical pain in the immediate post detox period.”

CALL NOW (727) 945-9198  Make an appointment to end your pain and opiate addiction today.