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What Makes Heroin So Addictive?

Heroin depresses or slows down brain activity. When taken the drug enters into the bloodstream and travels to the brain. It only takes a brief moment for the user to feel the impact of the drug which is one of the reasons heroin is so addictive. The drug binds itself to nerve receptors in the brain and alters neurochemicals that are responsible for creating sensations of pleasure. This causes users to feel a rush of pleasure and euphoria. After this rush the user will experience several hours of feeling drowsy, confused, sedated or out of touch with reality. This sensation is pleasing to the user and can only be re-experienced by taking more heroin. The brain halts its natural production of feel good chemicals and becomes reliant upon the drug for feelings of wellbeing. The brain is altered because of heroin use and is tricked into believing that it needs the drug to survive or feel well. This is known as a psychological addiction. A person can experience cravings for heroin weeks or months after he or she has stopped using.

Can I Become Physically Dependent on Heroin?

Heroin use can lead to a physical addiction or dependence. Once cravings for the drug develop, a person will feel the need to use the drug compulsively. Bodies will adapt to the presence of the drug and will feel unbalanced without it. Physical addiction or dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms arise when a person reduces use or stops taking heroin. Withdrawal symptoms from heroin typically peak between 48-72 hours after the last dose. Heroin withdrawal can produce symptoms such as the following:

  • Intense cravings
  • Muscle spasms
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

These symptoms are painful and can cause a person to return to heroin use.

Who Is at Risk for Heroin Addiction?

Anyone who tries heroin can become addicted. Certain people may be at a higher risk for addiction than others due to factors such as the following:

  • Chronic pain or illness. Heroin provides euphoric feelings and can also diminish the sensation of pain.
  • Emotional pain. People struggling with emotional trauma are more susceptible to heroin use and addiction. Sources of emotional pain may include divorce, job loss, crime, loneliness or loss.
  • Family history or genetics. Predisposition to addiction can be hereditary.
  • Environment. People surrounded by family, friends or peers who abuse heroin or other drugs are more likely to use drugs themselves.
  • Mental illness. People suffering from anxiety, personality disorders, depression or other mental health issues are at high risk for heroin addiction. Heroin provides superficial relief from psychological pain and can provide a false sense of control over mood and emotions.

How Can I Prevent Heroin Addiction?

The only way to avoid heroin addiction is to avoid using the drug altogether. Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive opiate narcotic. The immediate or short-term effects of heroin use can be just as dangerous as those that develop over time. The consequences of heroin use are especially hazardous, because the drug is rarely ever sold in its pure form. Street heroin is almost always “cut” with other drugs or substances that can be toxic. Heroin users take a great risk every time they use. Not knowing the strength or content of the drug being used can lead to overdose, dangerous drug interactions, death and addiction.

Help Avoiding or Ending Heroin Addiction

If you or a loved one is in danger of or already has developed an addiction to heroin, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our highly trained counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have about why addiction happens and how it can be resolved.