Understanding Heroin Abuse Disorder: Why is Heroin So Addictive?

While there are many different types of drugs that people abuse and become dependent on, heroin is often considered the most dangerous and addictive. It affects over two million people in the United States each year and results in over 13,000 deaths due to overdose.

Understanding the main causes people use heroin, the signs and symptoms of heroin addiction, and its effects is a crucial first step toward healing and recovery. Heroin is highly addictive and can greatly impact the person using the substance. 

Pacific Palms Recovery helps heroin addiction patients recover from their addictions and live healthy lives. Our effective patient-focused drug & alcohol treatment programs have a proven history of helping addiction patients effectively and quickly. Our holistic treatment modalities are tried-and-tested treatments for heroin addiction.

Read on for a comprehensive outline of heroin, its effects on the brain, and other critical aspects of understanding the drug better.

Why is Heroin So Addictive?

Heroin is an opioid drug that comes from morphine. Its popularity as a synthetic version of opioids is partly due to its ability to relieve pain and how it affects opioid receptors in the brain. As with many medications, heroin’s addictive nature is directly associated with its effect on the brain.

The brain contains opioid receptors, G protein-based receptors, that mediate the patient’s response to most hormones, drugs, and neurotransmitters. Unfortunately, sometimes these naturally occurring opiates aren’t potent enough to relieve the patient’s chronic pain. That’s why most prescription painkillers have synthetic opioids to help with their medical conditions.

However, some patients become addicted and totally dependent on synthetic opioids, including heroin, decreasing their overall production both at home and in the workplace.

Aside from affecting the opioid receptors, heroin addiction affects the patient’s risk/reward system, a primary dopamine pathway in the brain. These effects make the addict dependent on the drug, forcing them to seek it out more so to get high than to treat their chronic pain.

This segment highlights other critical factors that influence a patient’s heroin addiction:

  • Family history
  • Peer pressure
  • Genetics
  • Work or school stress
  • Mental health disorders

Unfortunately, heroin is easily accessible, making it easy to use and abuse. Its adverse withdrawal symptoms make it even harder for the patient to quit using it. But since prescription opioids are expensive, people addicted to them often switch to heroin as it is relatively easier to find.

What Does Heroin Do to the Brain?

Heroin abuse affects the patient’s brain in different ways. The effect of heroin use on the brain can range from intensely pleasurable feelings to deteriorating health conditions.

First, heroin changes the structure of the risk/reward system in the brain, making it even more difficult to stop taking once addicted. It affects the mind by slowing down breathing and heart rate and may result in death from overdose if immediate treatment is not provided.

Heroin affects parts of the addict’s brain responsible for decision-making and judgments. Excessive heroin abuse may lead the patient astray and encourage using other drugs, such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, fentanyl, and cocaine.

Chronic abusers of heroin will continue to experience these effects even long after quitting the substance. Our heroin addiction programs help patients recover from complications that may result from withdrawal. We provide individualized heroin detox and rehabilitation treatments, depending on each patient’s addiction.

What are the Social Effects of Heroin?

Heroin addiction can be linked to many distressing symptoms and unpleasant effects. It can cause severe problems in all aspects of the addict’s life, including their emotional, physical, psychological, and social well-being.

The effects of heroin addiction also differ from one person to another, depending on several factors, including:

  • Amount of heroin used
  • Length of abuse
  • Patient’s individual makeup
  • The presence of other substances

This segment highlights the most common social effects of heroin use and abuse. Addicts with continued history of abusing heroin may experience the following:

  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Depression with the inability to feel happiness
  • Extremely low self-esteem
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of interest in personal hygiene and grooming

Many heroin addicts often wear long-sleeved shirts, even during warm weather conditions to hide cuts and bruises on the arms from injecting the drug.

How Can You Tell if Someone is Using Heroin?

Many patients gripped by heroin dependency often feel sick and uncomfortable without the drug in their system. The patient’s body becomes so accustomed and dependent on the drug that they feel sick through withdrawal.

Although needle marks around the arms, legs, and neck are telltale signs of heroin use, patients may experience other signs that we will mention below:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Hostility toward others
  • Euphoria
  • Agitation and irritability

Long-term heroin use can cause vein collapse from frequent injections, kidney or liver disease, lung infections, and severe mental health disorders like anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Our compassionate and caring team works around the clock to provide each patient with the best care to make their treatment and rehabilitation smooth and quick. We also encourage friends and family members to support patients to encourage patients to get through the treatments and avoid relapsing once discharged.

What are Some of the Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Patients with heroin abuse disorders use the drug primarily to avoid overwhelming withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. While getting high may also contribute, many addicts use the drug to escape the overwhelming symptoms.

Some common heroin withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Intense cravings
  • Increased heart rate
  • Cold flashes

While heroin withdrawal symptoms are rarely life-threatening, the physical symptoms can be debilitating and overwhelming, especially when self-detoxing at home. As such, we encourage all heroin addicts to seek professional assistance from a rehabilitation center to be completely free of the addiction.

Finding Heroin Treatment at Pacific Palms Recovery

Overcoming heroin dependence is a challenging journey for all patients. If you or your loved one is suffering from heroin addiction, your recovery journey needs close monitoring from a professional healthcare provider.

At Pacific Palms Recovery, our primary focus is to provide patients with the best, most comfortable accommodation. Our medication-assisted treatments, partial hospitalization programs, and outpatient drug rehab help drug patients overcome their addictions and gain control of their lives.

We employ a full range of treatment programs to treat each patient’s unique symptoms and help them come off the drug safely. Visit our rehabilitation centers by the beach for a hands-on experience of how we work.

Contact us to learn more about our personalized addiction treatment services.