Check My
Insurance

Why Is Heroin So Addictive?

We will give you the support and guidance you need to get started on the road of long-term recovery.

Get Help with Addiction Treatment

Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug that is derived from the opium poppy plant. It is considered one of the most dangerous and addictive drugs in the world due to the intense pleasure and euphoria it produces.

Heroin is an addictive substance with a high potential for misuse and dependence. Approximately 23% of individuals who use heroin will develop a heroin use disorder after their first use. This disorder can lead to neglect of important aspects of life such as relationships, work, and responsibilities at home. The main form of treatment for individuals experiencing a heroin use disorder is substance use treatment.

Note: Remember to stay away from the word “abuse”

Guardian Recovery provides treatment services for individuals dependent on heroin. With the help of therapeutic interventions and evidence-based treatments, Guardian Recovery is committed to helping individuals overcome heroin addiction and begin living happy and fulfilling lives in recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options and to start the journey towards recovery.

Start Healing Today!

Choose recovery and take control of your life, it’s the path to a brighter future filled with health, happiness, and fulfillment.

How Does Heroin Interact Chemically in the Brain?

Heroin interacts chemically in the brain by binding to specific receptors, primarily the mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors. This binding results in the release of large amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which produces the intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria associated with heroin use. Over time, repeated use of the drug leads to changes in the brain’s structure and function, making it difficult for the brain to produce dopamine on its own. This leads to physical dependence on the drug and intense cravings for the drug, even in the absence of its pleasurable effects. The cycle of addiction can be difficult to break, as the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug and requires it to function normally. This is why heroin addiction is considered one of the most difficult addictions to treat.

How Does Heroin Cause Addiction in the Brain & Body?

Heroin causes addiction in the brain and body through its effects on the reward system and the development of physical dependence. When heroin is used, it binds to specific receptors in the brain, leading to the release of large amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This produces intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria, which reinforce the drug-using behavior and create a strong desire to repeat the experience.

Chemical & Physical Dependence

Heroin use can lead to both chemical and physical dependence. Chemical dependence refers to the brain’s adaptation to the presence of the drug, resulting in the need for increasing amounts of the drug to produce the desired effects. Physical dependence refers to the body’s adaptation to the drug, leading to withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped or reduced. Heroin binds to specific receptors in the brain, leading to the release of large amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Over time, repeated use of the drug leads to changes in the brain’s structure and function, making it difficult for the brain to produce dopamine on its own. This leads to physical dependence on the drug and intense cravings for the drug, even in the absence of its pleasurable effects. The body can also become physically dependent on the drug, leading to withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, and vomiting when use is stopped or reduced. These factors contribute to the development of addiction and make it a challenging condition to overcome.

Reward & Reduction of Pain

The phenomenon of reward-seeking behavior refers to actions taken in pursuit of pleasurable or reinforcing outcomes. When it comes to managing chronic pain, prescription opioids are often prescribed. However, these drugs can result in physical dependence and the development of opioid use disorder. In some cases, this can lead to the use of more dangerous opioids, such as heroin. This progression is driven by the desire for continued pleasurable effects and difficulty in obtaining prescription opioids.

Here are some examples of reward-seeking behaviors include: drug use, gambling, binge eating, excessive shopping, and risk-taking activities. It is important to be mindful of these behaviors, especially in the context of chronic pain management, as the consequences can be severe and life-threatening.

Factors That Contribute to Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a complex condition that is influenced by a range of biological, psychological, and social factors. Some of the most significant factors that contribute to heroin addiction include:

  1. Genetics — A person’s risk of developing addiction is influenced by genetic factors, such as their family history of substance abuse.
  2. Brain Chemistry — Changes in the brain’s structure and function as a result of repeated heroin use can increase the risk of addiction.
  3. Mental Health Disorders — Co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder.
  4. Environmental Factors — Exposure to trauma, abuse, or neglect can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder.
  5. Peer Pressure — The influence of friends and peers who use heroin can contribute to the development of addiction.
  6. Accessibility — Easy access to heroin and a lack of availability of alternative treatments for pain or mental health conditions can increase the risk of addiction.
  7. Previous Substance Use — A history of substance abuse, including the use of prescription opioids, can increase the risk of developing a heroin addiction.
  8. Age of First Use — Starting to use heroin at an early age can increase the risk of developing addiction, as the brain is still developing during adolescence.

These factors can interact in complex ways to increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder, and it is important to consider the unique circumstances of each individual when seeking treatment for heroin addiction.

Complimentary Insurance Check
Find Out Today!

"*" indicates required fields

Name

Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders and substance use disorders, including heroin addiction, often occur together, a phenomenon known as comorbidity. Research has shown that individuals with a mental health disorder are more likely to develop a substance use disorder, and vice versa. The relationship between these conditions is complex and can be difficult to understand, but it is clear that they interact in significant ways.

For individuals with a mental health disorder, the use of drugs like heroin can provide temporary relief from symptoms, such as anxiety or depression. However, over time, repeated use of heroin can worsen mental health symptoms and increase the risk of addiction. On the other hand, individuals who are struggling with heroin addiction are more likely to experience symptoms of mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, as a result of the impact of the drug on the brain.

Genetics

Genetics play a significant role in determining a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder, including heroin addiction. Here are some key genetic factors that can influence the development of addiction:

  • Heredity: A family history of substance abuse can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder.
  • DNA: Variations in specific genes can influence a person’s susceptibility to addiction.
  • Neurotransmitter: Genes that regulate neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and opioid receptors, can influence the development of addiction.
  • Metabolism: Genes that control the metabolism of drugs can influence the way a person reacts to substances like heroin.

It is important to note that genetics is just one of several factors that can contribute to the development of heroin addiction, and other factors such as environment, peer pressure, and mental health can also play a role. Understanding the interplay of these factors is crucial for the development of effective treatments for heroin addiction.

Environment & Stress

Environment and stress can play a significant role in the development of heroin addiction. Exposure to stress and trauma can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder, and the environment in which a person grows up or lives can also influence their risk. Here are some examples of how environment and stress can contribute to heroin addiction:

  • Trauma: Exposure to traumatic events, such as abuse or violence, can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder.
  • Family environment: Growing up in a family environment where substance abuse is prevalent can increase the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.
  • Social environment: Peer pressure and social influences can play a role in the development of heroin addiction.
  • Chronic stress: Exposure to chronic stress, such as poverty or unemployment, can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder.

It is important to recognize the impact that environment and stress can have on substance abuse and addiction, as addressing these factors can be an important part of effective treatment and recovery. Treatment approaches that address both substance use and environmental and stress-related factors have been shown to be particularly effective in helping individuals achieve and maintain lasting recovery.

Regenerate response

Heroin Cut With Other Drugs Can Increase Risk of Addiction

The illicit drug trade is known for being unregulated, and as a result, heroin that is sold on the street is often cut with other substances to increase its quantity and profitability. However, the addition of other drugs to heroin can have serious consequences, particularly when it comes to addiction. The presence of these contaminants can increase the potency of the drug, which in turn can increase the risk of addiction. Some of the most commonly added substances include fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid that is much more potent than heroin, as well as other dangerous chemicals like benzodiazepines and stimulants. Ingesting these contaminants can have unpredictable and potentially fatal effects, and they can also increase the risk of overdose and death.

Does Method of Use Influence Addiction Risks?

The method of using heroin can greatly influence the risk of addiction. Different methods of administration, such as injecting, snorting, or smoking, can lead to varying levels of intoxication and can affect the speed and intensity of the drug’s effects. For example, injecting heroin directly into the bloodstream can result in a rapid and intense high, but it also increases the risk of overdose and addiction. Snorting or smoking heroin can provide a milder high, but it can still be addictive. Additionally, some methods of use, such as injecting, can also increase the risk of exposure to bloodborne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C and potentially harmful contaminants in the drug. It is important to understand the risks associated with different methods of use and to seek professional help to overcome addiction.

Our Locations 

Our Facilities & Teams Transform Lives

Changing lives by providing comprehensive support and rehabilitation, empowering individuals to overcome addiction and regain control of their health and well-being.

Contact Us Today to Learn More

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs. With over 1.1 million individuals reporting using heroin in the year 2021, effective treatment options are crucial. Guardian Recovery offers evidence-based therapies and life skills training to support lasting sobriety. Get a free insurance benefit check and start your recovery journey with the help of a Treatment Advisor. Remember, you are not alone. Millions are struggling with substance use, but with the right help, treatment is possible at Guardian Recovery.

SELF-ASSESSMENT:

Do I have an Addiction issue?

Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. Heroin | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (nih.gov)
  2. Risk of Heroin Dependence in Newly Incident Heroin Users | Substance Use and Addiction Medicine | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network
  3. What effects does heroin have on the body? | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (nih.gov)
  4. Risk of Heroin Dependence in Newly Incident Heroin Users | Substance Use and Addiction Medicine | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network
  5. Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction – PMC (nih.gov)
  6. Genetic signatures of heroin addiction : Medicine (lww.com)
  7. What is the scope of heroin use in the United States? | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (nih.gov)

Get Local Help

Helpful, Recovery
Resources

Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

More About Author

Check Insurance Coverage

Find out today what options are available to you. Fill out the form below.

Do it for YOU, Do it for LOVED ones

Live a BRIGHTER Future Today!

Guardian Recovery is here to assist you in your journey of healing.

Do it for YOU, Do it for LOVED ones

Contact Alumni Services Today!

Guardian Recovery is here to assist you in your journey of healing after coming to one of our facilities.

Your Name

Stay in touch ALUMNI

Join our alumni newsletter to get up to date information on events, news, and more.

Name

Personalize Your Experience

Allow us to guide you to the information your looking for.

Begin HEALING Today
24/7 Help: (888) 693-1872