From an outsider’s perspective, making the decision to begin using heroin is a confusing and difficult thing to comprehend. The dangers of using heroin are well-known, as many celebrities and members of the community have died as a result of using this highly-addictive substance. Individuals who have never used heroin may fairly ask the question: why would someone start using heroin?
Endorphins and the Intense High Associated With Heroin
The high feeling users experience from heroin can be one of the most intense experiences a person can ever feel. Heroin creates a tidal wave in the reward circuits of the brain, flooding a person with an intense feeling of euphoria and providing relief from any experience of pain. The body produces its own version of this in the form of endorphins, which act in the reward circuits of the brain and provide a feel-good experience after activities such as exercise, eating a favorite food, or hugging a friend.
When a person uses heroin, they receive a flood of dopamine and the brain receives the message that “this substance is good and worth repeating.” The act of receiving a large amount of dopamine can cause a rewiring effect in the circuits of the brain, beginning the path to physical addiction. Over time, repeated use of heroin makes it more difficult to get off the drug, as the brain begins to crave this substance.
Why Heroin Is So Addictive
An individual will experience negative feelings such as irritability, stress, and lack of sleep if they decide to abstain from using. As an addiction progresses, heroin can become the sole source of comfort and satisfaction in a person’s life, taking over all other pleasurable activities. With each repeated use, the ‘positive’ effects of heroin are reduced, as you begin to receive less pleasure from the high, though this doesn’t reduce one’s overall craving for the drug.
Heroin is an especially potent drug because the high is felt quickly and provides an intense rush of pleasurable feelings for the user. Heroin abuse can be the result of a user receiving a prescription for legal opioids and becoming addicted to the effects of the legal painkiller, as heroin can provide similar effects for the user. Heroin has become more widely available, making it an easy substance to find in many cases and often is more affordable than legal prescription opioids.
The Opioid Epidemic
In 2015, more than 33,000 people in the United States died as a result of an opioid overdose, which includes prescriptions opioids, heroin, and street fentanyl, which is an intense synthetic opioid. Many pharmaceutical companies began promoting opioids as a solution to pain management in the late 1990’s. This resulted in an increase in the amount of opioids prescribed to the general public, as healthcare providers increased the number of prescriptions they gave to patients. This, in turn, led to an increase in the amount of people misusing opioids as well as diverting them for the purposes of illegal and unauthorized sales.
According to official government statistics, between 21 to 29 percent of individuals prescribed opioids for pain go on to misuse them. Approximately 8 to 12 percent of people who are prescribed opioids develop an addiction. Of the people who misuse a legal prescription for opioids, 4 to 6 percent end up transitioning to heroin. The amount of overdoses from opioids increased 30 percent from July 2016 to September 2017, highlighting how this issue has increasingly become a problem in the United States.
Effects of Opioid Abuse
The effects of opioid abuse can be devastating to both individuals and communities. A person’s overall health can become negatively impacted from abusing opioids, as chronic use of opioids compromises the optimal functioning of the immune system. This, in turn, can lead to additional health complications, as a person can become more susceptible to other forms of illness. Individuals who end up injecting opioids are also at risk for contracting an infectious disease, such as HIV and hepatitis C. The opioid crisis has also seen an increase in the number of neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is when a newborn experiences drug withdrawal as a result of a mother’s use during pregnancy.
The causes of the opioid epidemic are numerous and varied. In addition to pharmaceutical companies marketing these substances as a safe and effective solution for chronic pain, the United States has seen an over-prescription of these substances from medical professionals. Often times, opioids will be prescribed in instances where alternative treatments may have been just as effective. Insurance companies are also more likely to cover prescription drugs instead of other forms of pain management, making it more convenient and cost-effective for individuals seeking pain relief.
Socioeconomic factors also play a role in the rise of opioid abuse nationwide, as an increase in the amount of poverty, unemployment, and wealth inequality contribute to this epidemic. Feelings of isolation and hopelessness can increase the chances of an individual deciding to abuse opioids, as they feel there is no realistic solution to their circumstances. Many individuals use opioids as a way to relieve their psychological and emotional distress instead of physical pain.
Help for Opioid Addiction
If you are struggling with a heroin or opioid addiction and need to get on the path to recovery, contact the caring professionals at Ocean Hills Recovery. We offer a wide-range of interventions to specifically address whatever is the root cause of a person’s addiction. We understand that not all addictions are the result of the same factors, and we work directly with our clients to formulate an effective treatment plan which results in real results.