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Why Do People Get Addicted to Heroin?

You may have heard that heroin is one of the most addictive substances in the world. To understand what makes heroin so addictive and how it affects the brain and body, we must first understand what it is and why people use it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines heroin as a “very addictive drug made from morphine, a psychoactive (mind-altering) substance taken from resin of the seed pod of the opium poppy plant.” Heroin is included in the opioid drug class which is composed of addictive prescription pain relievers like codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. It makes sense that heroin and these drugs are in the same class of drugs because of their shared potential for addiction and how they affect the user’s brain and body. There is something unique about heroin that makes it, unfortunately, the endgame for drug use in most cases.

How Heroin Addiction Starts

Sadly, heroin abuse and overdose deaths have reached all-time highs in the last decade. This increase in heroin abuse is linked to the opioid epidemic associated with prescription pain relievers. People who struggle with addiction rarely begin with heroin. Circumstances may have led to their addiction to prescription opioid pain relievers. Being addicted to prescription pain medication, be it Vicodin or OxyContin, is not a convenient addiction, as it requires a physician’s prescription and usually costs a lot of money to obtain. When it becomes impossible to get a prescription for pain relievers, there is a quick and significant transition from pain pills to heroin use. Regardless of how the addiction started, this desperation leads individuals to seek relief. When their drug of choice is no longer accessible and they being to withdraw, they may turn to heroin. Heroin is a cheaper option that is easier to obtain and produces similar effects on the user’s brain and body.

NIDA explains that “most people who use heroin report that they first misused prescription opioids, but it is a small percentage of people who switch to heroin. The number of people misusing prescription drugs is so high, that even a small percentage translates to hundreds of thousands of heroin users.” Other statistics reveal that heroin users began drug use with heroin. In fact, some research has informed that “about one-third of heroin users in treatment simply started with heroin.”

Why Do People Use Heroin?

Because we know how addictive heroin is after just one use, it’s hard to understand why someone would start using it unless they were previously using prescription medicines. NIDA warns that “both heroin and opioid pill use can lead to addiction and overdose.”

Another reason individuals use heroin and become addicted to it is that they like the feeling of combining it with another drug. In general, “heroin is mixed with water and injected with a needle. It can be sniffed, smoked, or snorted.” Some users may combine heroin with other drugs, whether that be alcohol or cocaine. When heroin is mixed with cocaine, it’s called a “speedball” because it is mixing a stimulant (cocaine) with an opioid (heroin), masking the effects of the heroin, and elevating the risk of overdose.

People use and become addicted to heroin for a variety of reasons, which can be similar or dissimilar. They can become addicted to heroin because of biological reasons and how the drug’s mechanisms affect the brain and body. People are drawn to drug use because of both circumstantial and personal reasons. Their genetics play a role, and peer pressure does as well in some situations, but the reason a person uses a drug in the first place is their personal decision.

At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we help people understand why they are drawn to drugs. We use a holistic approach to care and assist our clients and their families in understanding why they became addicted to heroin.

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