Heroin addiction is a life-threatening disease that impacts the user’s life and health in a myriad of ways. Heroin is a potent opiate and illegal psychoactive substance that has a high potential for abuse and dependence.
In conjunction with it’s even more powerful cousin fentanyl, heroin has recently become one of the leading causes of addiction and overdose in the U.S.
Heroin acts, in part, as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and lessens neurological action in the body, therefore inducing relaxation and sedation. Excessive use, however, can lead to life-threating respiratory arrest and other complications that result in coma or death.
Heroin is addictive because it influences chemicals in the brain that are associated with feelings of reward and supreme well-being, such as dopamine. When this flood of chemicals is released, the user feels a rush of pleasure or what is referred to as being “high”.
Heroin Dependence and Tolerance
Over time, heroin abuse usually advances to dependence, a state in which the user’s body can no longer function properly in the drug’s absence. When a user discontinues use abruptly or dramatically cuts back, their body fights to restore balance. This intrinsic tug-of-war causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can continue for several days. Heroin’s withdrawal effects are not usually life-threatening but can involve uncomfortable and sometimes painful mental and physical features.
Tolerance is a state that occurs when the body begins to require increasing amounts of a substance to deliver the pleasurable results that the user desires. This effect is best described as “repeated exposure = diminished response.”
Therefore, after a period of prolonged use, brain influenced by the drug become desensitized and the user has difficulty achieving the high they are seeking. They attempt to correct this problem by using more of the drug more frequently or in higher doses, a dangerous pattern of behavior that significantly increases the risk of overdose and death.
Getting Help for Heroin Addiction
Heroin addiction cannot be cured, but persons who receive the appropriate treatment from addiction specialists can experience long-term sobriety and wellness.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to heroin or any other substances, it’s not too late to get help!