Addiction to heroin may profoundly affect the way a person behaves and thinks, and can ruin their ability to make rational decisions and function normally.
There are several causes of heroin addiction including having a chemical dependency on the drug and transitioning from prescription opioid use to heroin use.
Major Causes Of A Heroin Addiction
People that become physically and mentally dependent on heroin will find it extremely difficult to quit the use of the drug. The following are some of the most common causes of heroin addiction.
How The Brain Reacts To Heroin Use
When heroin is ingested, it crosses the blood-brain barrier and binds to opioid receptors. These receptors are responsible for the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that provide sensations of well-being and painlessness.
The longer a person takes heroin, the fewer natural opioids the brain will produce. Over time, the brain will become dependent on the drug for access to these pleasure-causing neurotransmitters.
When the brain goes for a few hours without heroin, withdrawal symptoms will occur that mimic the symptoms of severe flu including chills, aches, nausea, and strong cravings for more heroin.
Find out more about how heroin affects the brain.
Genetic And Environmental Factors In Heroin Use
Heroin addiction may also be attributed to genetic disposition. For example, people who have a family history of substance use disorders are more likely to experience addiction.
Environmental factors also play a part in heroin addiction. Studies have shown that people who lived through a divorce or experienced other forms of trauma have a higher probability of substance abuse.
The Link Between Opioid Prescription Abuse And Heroin Use
Research shows that nearly 80 percent of people who are currently abusing heroin had taken prescription opioids in the past.
Often, people with chronic pain or other issues get addicted to prescription opioids and transition to heroin eventually due to the low cost of heroin on the street.
For example, a single tablet of OxyContin may cost as much as $15 on the black market, while a single-use baggie of heroin costs approximately $5.
Chemical Dependency On Heroin
Chemical dependency is different from addiction, but the two often go hand-in-hand.
Chemical dependency is characterized by the body’s physical dependence on the drug, while addiction refers to chemical changes in the brain that result in specific behaviors.
People may become chemically dependent on heroin when they use it repeatedly. The body will build up a tolerance with chronic heroin use, so more heroin has to be ingested to create the same euphoric effect.
As the body’s tolerance continues to increase, along with consumption, the person using heroin must take increasingly higher doses to avoid uncomfortable heroin withdrawal symptoms.
Health Risks Of Heroin Addiction
Heroin is a dangerous drug, classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) due to its high potential for abuse.
In addition to the physical and psychological effects of addiction, prolonged heroin use poses several health risks including heroin overdose and death.
Some of the short- and long-term effects of heroin abuse include:
- lung disease from smoking black tar heroin
- heart, kidney, and liver damage
- severe itching
- very low blood pressure
- heroin track marks
- drastic weight loss
- abscesses forming at injection sites
- worsened anxiety or depression
- mood swings
People with a heroin addiction oftentimes behave recklessly or impulsively. This may lead to contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B from unprotected sex or sharing needles.
Treatment Programs For Heroin Abuse
If you or a family member are currently addicted to drugs such as heroin, help is available through a substance abuse rehab program.
Behavioral health addiction treatment services may include:
- dual diagnosis care for co-occurring disorders
- individual, group, and family counseling
- support groups for opiate drug abuse
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for heroin abuse using buprenorphine or methadone
- mental health disorder services
- medically monitored heroin detox
- short-term or long-term inpatient drug rehab
It is important to seek the help of professionals to avoid the potentially life-threatening effects of withdrawal from heroin addiction.
Find Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Call our helpline at Bedrock Recovery Center today for more information on our residential treatment program. Our team will give you or your loved ones the best chance at long-term recovery.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Heroin
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Heroin DrugFacts
- National Institute of Health (NIH) — Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — Heroin
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.