If you’ve been wondering why is heroin so addictive, we’ll break down the reasons today.
Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from morphine found in the seed pods of opium poppies. This substance is then processed into partially refined morphine at the source. The resultant heroin is then trafficked worldwide.
Street-level heroin comes in powdered form. In powdered form, heroin is quite pure, while brown powder and Mexican tar heroin are heavily diluted.
Heroin is snorted, smoked, or injected intravenously. Regardless of where it comes from or how pure it is, heroin is a strongly addictive substance.
What Is Heroin And Why Is It So Addictive?
Heroin is an opioid narcotic drug. It’s made from morphine and has a compelling force upon the brain. Since it’s an opioid, it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, which creates a euphoric state and eliminates pain. In other words, people feel really good when they use it. The effects of the drug are very fast-acting because people usually inject or smoke it.
Heroin changes the way the brain thinks about the drug. Because it boosts the chemicals in your brain that reward you with euphoria and the effects are so rapid, heroin is very addictive.
How Does Heroin Addiction Start?
Using heroin for the first time may be a choice, but people do not choose to become addicted to heroin. Instead, addiction can quickly take hold.
Even the first use of heroin is not always voluntary. During the ongoing opioid epidemic, many people use heroin when unable to refill prescriptions for opioid painkillers.
Heroin modifies how pain signals travel between your nerves and brain. Some of the targets for heroin involve pain relief, and other targets involve mood-altering properties. When heroin attaches itself to the opioid receptors in your CNS (central nervous system), this triggers a euphoric state, the primary driver for the recreational use of heroin.
Like the majority of addictive drugs, heroin increases levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain. These properties of heroin mean it can to some extent soothe depressive and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, but at a ruinous cost. The way in which the production of these neurotransmitters is disrupted is one of the reasons for heroin addiction developing, in the same way as addiction to other narcotics develops.
Short-term effects of heroin use include:
- Euphoric rush
- Heavy limbs
- Slowed heart rate as rush subsides
- Reduced anxiety
- Elated mood
- Absence of pain
As heroin binds to your brain’s opioid receptors, the resultant release of dopamine and other similar neurotransmitters induces a feeling of relaxation, painlessness, and general wellbeing. With the sustained use of opioids, your brain stops producing these neurotransmitters, becoming completely reliant on the drug.
This decreased production of neurotransmitters impacts both your opioid receptors and the risk/reward area of your brain. If this substance abuse continues, the reward system of the brain undergoes changes to structure and functioning, resulting in heroin addiction.
If you suspect a loved one is addicted to heroin, or in any way involved with the drug, look out for the following red flags:
- Track marks on arms
- Drug apparatus like needles
- Changes in behavior
- Burned spoons
- Small baggies with powdered residue
- Aluminum foil
- Ball-pen stems
- Straws with burn marks
- Missing shoelaces
- Sporadic heroin use
Is heroin really that addictive, though?
How Addictive is Heroin?
It is widely accepted that heroin is extremely addictive.
If you use heroin, you’ll rapidly develop a tolerance, meaning you’ll need more of the drug to achieve the same effect, or you’ll need more frequent doses.
When the sustained use of heroin starts causing problems at home, work, or school, you may already be addicted to heroin. Heroin use disorder is diagnosed using the criteria for substance use disorder laid down in the APA’s DSM-5 (the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
Heroin addiction is diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on how many of the 11 criteria for SUD you satisfy.
If you are addicted to heroin and you attempt to abruptly discontinue use, you are liable to experience severe withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can manifest as little as a few hours after last use. Symptoms include:
- Cold flashes
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Severe muscle aches
- Bone pain
- Uncontrollable leg movements
- Severe cravings for heroin
How Quickly Do You Get Addicted to Heroin?
According to NIDA estimates, 23% of those who try heroin become addicted.
The same data showed that 4 million people in the United States had tried heroin at least once.
While by no means everyone who uses heroin becomes addicted after the first use, addiction can take hold in weeks rather than months. While functional alcoholics are relatively commonplace, there are few people who manage to control and maintain a recreational heroin habit.
What can you do if you’ve already been using heroin to the point of addiction?
Fortunately, help is at hand, and it’s available right here in Huntington Beach.
Heroin Addiction Treatment at The District in Huntington Beach
Current research shows that the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for heroin use disorder and opioid use disorder brings benefits while minimizing some dangers. Not only does MAT improve retention in treatment programs, but it also helps reduce criminal activity, drug use, and the transmission of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Here at The District Recovery Community, we specialize in providing outpatient treatment for heroin addiction, using FDA-approved medications to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings for heroin.
As long as you do not have severe heroin use disorder, you may find our IOP (intensive outpatient program) or PHP (partial hospitalization program) beneficial. These are both intensive outpatient programs offering you access to similar services as residential rehab, but without the restrictions or the cost.
If you’re ready to stop using heroin and commit to sustained recovery, here at TDRC you’ll find all the support you need to take you from detox through the early stages of recovery in our sober living homes. We’ll also ensure you have appropriate aftercare so you can complete your treatment program with the foundation laid for long-term recovery.
Learn more about why is heroin so addictive and get started on your recovery, just reach out to our friendly admissions team right now at 844.287.8506.