why is heroin so addictive

Why is Heroin So Addictive?

The resurgence of heroin over the past decade has taken the nation completely off guard.  Once considered a passé drug of the 1970s, out of nowhere heroin returned to the drug scene, plowing through all social strata—from impoverished rural communities to affluence suburban enclaves.  No state or county in the U.S. has been left unscathed by the fury of this current heroin epidemic.

The statistics are truly sobering.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, heroin use has more than doubled in the past ten years among young adults.  Sadly, heroin-related deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010.  Given the skyrocketing number of heroin-related deaths—especially among young adults—one has to wonder why is heroin so addictive?  Even with the drumbeat of news of peers dying from heroin, why is it so difficult to break free from this drug?

What is Heroin?

Heroin is derived from morphine, which comes from opium, a substance found in the seedpod of the poppy flower.  This particular type of poppy plant is indigenous to Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, Columbia, and Mexico.  Heroin in pure form is white, but on the street is usually a brown or off-white powder, or black sticky substance referred to as black tar.

Heroin is delivered into the body in several ways, usually snorted, smoked, or injected. On the street heroin is commonly cut with other substances or drugs, making it either diluted, as when cut with sugar or caffeine powder, or extremely deadly, as when cut with fentanyl.  Heroin is an illegal narcotic, a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S.

What are the Effects of Using Heroin?

The effects of heroin are virtually instantaneous, with an immediate surge, or rush, of euphoria and sense of pleasure.  Common short-term effects include:

  • Warm flushing of the skin
  • Severe itching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Severe itching
  • Fatigue
  • Limbs feel heavy
  • Clouded thinking
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Being in a state between conscious and semiconscious

Common long-term effects of heroin include:

  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction in men
  • Irregular periods for women
  • Collapse veins in those who inject
  • Damaged nasal tissue for those who snort
  • Mood disorders
  • Infection of the heart lining
  • Lung and respiratory problems
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Coma
  • Death

Why is Heroin so Addictive?

When wondering why is heroin so addictive it all comes down to the reward system in the brain.  Heroin induces a flood of dopamine into the bloodstream, the chemical that informs us that we are experiencing pleasure.  The user seeks to recreate that artificially created sensation, so the drug is reintroduced. 

Over time, the brain cannot keep up with the demands of the drug and slowly allows the drug to take over.  That early euphoric rush is now muted and difficult to recapture.  Tolerance to the drug rises, causing the user to increase both frequency and dosing of the heroin.  Between doses, intense withdrawal symptoms and cravings remind the user the body requires another dose.  In order to avoid the highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, the user feeds the addiction.  So, why is heroin so addictive?  Because it hijacks the brain entirely.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Individuals who have become chemically dependent on heroin can break free from addiction and turn their lives around.  It is a long process, requiring a strong commitment to the long-term goal of a drug-free life.  Inpatient treatment is the only viable treatment option for someone with a long history of heroin use, and requires 90 days for the best chance of achieving a sustained recovery.

After a medically monitored detox and withdrawal is completed, active treatment for the addiction begins.  This includes a combination of individual psychotherapy, group therapy, addiction education and relapse prevention planning, and targeted medications such as Suboxone or Naltrexone. 

After the inpatient program is completed, it is highly recommended that the individual in early recovery enter an outpatient program and sober living as a transition between inpatient care and returning to regular life.  Active participation in a recovery support group, such as N.A. or SMART Recovery, is an important source of peer support and is highly encouraged.

Solutions 4 Recovery Provides Inpatient Heroin Recovery Programs

Solutions 4 Recovery is an inpatient addiction treatment program utilizing evidence-based therapies for heroin recovery.  For more information about this highly effect heroin recovery program, contact Solutions 4 Recovery today at (888) 417-1874.