How Addictive Is Heroin?

Heroin is a central nervous system depressant. It is often responsible for the sleepiness in its users because of the sedation it produces. This is why heroin users frequently talk about “going on the nod” or simply “nodding off”. Heroin can be described as a semi-synthetic opioid that replicates the effects of opium, a substance derived from the opium poppy (Papaver Somniferum). It can be consumed through snorting, injection, and smoking. 

All three avenues of administration transport the drug to the brain at accelerated rates. This contributes to greater health risks, risks of addiction, and ongoing relapsing of health ailments as the result of fluctuations inside of the brain. These side effects are also characterized by irrepressible drug use.  

How Heroin Works 

When ingested, heroin causes receptors inside of the brain and nervous system to react by activating a powerful release of dopamine. Dopamine can be described as a neurotransmitter that produces pleasant moods or feelings of euphoria. Once the brain becomes accustomed to the rush heroin produces, the user may undergo strong cravings for the drug. 

How Addictive is Heroin? 

Heroin is strong enough to lead the vast majority of users to dependency. However, it is rare that any first time user will experience the symptoms of addiction after one use. It is still, nonetheless, important to understand that while addiction may not occur, it is the initial exposure to heroin that can initiate the start of a compulsive cycle that will in turn lead to addiction. In laymen’s terms, the more a person frequents use of the drug, the more likely he or she is to program the brain and nervous system to adjust to the chemical changes the drug induces. 

Regular users often experience symptoms of withdrawal after they discontinue use or decrease consumption. While heroin withdrawal is not normally deadly, the overall experience of “going without” can be so painful for the user that he or she might go above and beyond to completely avoid it. The symptoms of withdrawal are as follows: 

• Nausea 

• Vomiting 

• Diarrhea 

• Chills 

• Goose bumps 

• Bone discomfort 

• Pain in the muscle tissues 

• Tremors 

• Nervousness 

• Irritability 

• Cravings 

These symptoms can begin as soon as twenty-four hours following the user’s last dose. 

Researchers have begun to investigate the effects of what abusing the drug has on the brain after long periods of time. 

The Dangers of Heroin Usage 

If users ingest heroin at high enough doses, heroin can decrease the heart rate and respiratory system to levels that can cause unconsciousness or even death. In addition to the risks of overdose, the use of heroin can often be the result of other life threatening ailments to include but not limited to:  

• Lasting chemical imbalances within the user’s brain 

• Corrosion in cognitive skill sets 

• Contact with blood-borne diseases (i.e. hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS) 

• Chronic lung and heart problems 

• Infection or swellings at the injection site 

• Irregularities with bowel movements/Constipation 

• Recurrent illness and infection 

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for users of heroin to experience suppression of breath when overdosing. This factor can greatly inhibit oxygen levels inside of the brain, a condition known as hypoxia. Hypoxia can have both short-term and long-term neurological effects. 

For a number of years, the vast majority of heroin users were aged 30 or older. That number is now changing as the popularity of the drug grows. In spite of the risks associated with heroin abuse, users have not refrained from experimenting with the drug or using it to the point of addiction. Deaths resulting in heroin overdose have significantly been on the rise since 2010.