Why is Heroin so Addictive?
Opioid abuse, including heroin abuse, has rapidly increased over the past few decades. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the number of heroin overdose deaths increased from 2,399 in 2007 to 15,482 in 2017. During the same 10-year period, the number of overdose deaths involving any opioid increased from 18,515 in 2007 to 47,600 in 2017. While these statistics illustrate the dangers of opioid and heroin addiction, they do not explain why people choose to abuse them. Many people are left wondering heroin is so addictive?
The reason for the addictive potential of heroin and other opioids is how they work on the brain. Even if people are severely addicted to heroin, they can receive some help so they can break the grip that the drug has on them.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a naturally-occurring opiate that is derived from the opium poppy, which is a flower that grows in South America, Asia, and Mexico. Heroin is extremely addictive and has been banned in the U.S. since 1924. Heroin can come in the form of a powder that can be white or brown, or it comes in a tar-like substance that is blackish-brown in color.
Why is Heroin So Addictive?
When heroin is smoked, snorted, or injected, it impacts the central nervous system and travels to the brain. There are many opioid receptors in the human brain that are naturally occurring. These receptors are areas in the neural synapses, which are the spaces between the ends and beginnings of nerve fibers. Opiates, such as heroin, bind to the opioid receptors to cause the brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland and the central nervous system and have a morphine-like impact. When they are released, they reduce pain and cause a sensation of intense pleasure.
Why is heroin so addictive? Since heroin binds to the opioid receptors and causes intense feelings of pleasure, users may have intense cravings for it. People who try heroin do not do so to become addicted. However, a person can become addicted to heroin after using it only one or two times because of the effect that it has on the brain.
When people continue to use heroin, their bodies will develop a tolerance to it. This means that they will need to ingest increasing amounts of the drug to obtain the same effect as they received previously from heroin. Over time, people may require large amounts of heroin to be able to function while no longer deriving the same intense feelings of pleasure.
What Causes People to Try Heroin?
People may try heroin for several different reasons. Many heroin users start by using prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, or codeine. They may be prescribed these drugs after they have suffered injuries in accidents to help to relieve their pain. However, many people become addicted to their prescription pain medications and begin to abuse them. The cost of prescription opioids on the street is high. Some individuals who are abusing oxycodone or hydrocodone may turn to heroin because the street price is lower than it is for illicit prescription drugs.
Others may turn to heroin after they have become addicted to prescription drugs that they have taken from others. For example, teens may experiment with prescription opioids that they have taken from their parents or grandparents and become addicted to them. They may eventually turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative when they can no longer access enough of the pills to support their addictions.
Finally, some people think that they can try heroin just once without becoming addicted. Unfortunately, heroin is highly addictive. People can become addicted after using the drug a single time. Once someone is addicted to heroin, it is challenging for them to stop using it. The withdrawal symptoms can be severe and may include the following:
- Bone and muscle pain
- Cold flashes
- Involuntary leg movements
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
While heroin addiction is critical, it is treatable. If someone is overdosing on heroin, an injection of naloxone can be administered to reduce the effects. Naloxone can save people's lives. However, people need to seek treatment when they are addicted to heroin.
The treatment of heroin addiction may require people to go to an inpatient treatment center such as Springboard Recovery. They will initially go through a medically supervised detoxification where medical professionals will monitor them and work to reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms. After someone has detoxed from heroin, they will undergo focused treatment. When an individual completes inpatient treatment, they can find support by continuing treatment on an outpatient basis.
With treatment, individuals can conquer their addictions to heroin. Being surrounded by a supportive and trusted staff can make all the difference in recovery. Contact Springboard Recovery today to receive help if you or a loved one is addicted to heroin.