Understanding the Dangers of Heroin Abuse

Heroin is among the most addictive substances. People with a heroin addiction can spend a lot of money on this illegal drug every day despite its low cost.

Today, you can learn how heroin addiction develops and how you can connect with science-backed heroin addiction treatment at Renaissance Recovery.

an image of poppy, where heroin is created

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an addictive opioid drug, classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. It is sourced from the seed pods of the Asian opium poppy plant. While native to southern Asia, these poppies are also found in other parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Mexico, and Colombia. Commonly known as brown, smack, or dark, heroin can come in a variety of forms.

The purer forms of heroin are a white powder with a bitter taste, which are generally produced in South America. On the other hand, black tar heroin, a darker and less pure form, is common in Mexico. In the western states of the US, Mexican black tar heroin is the most popular form of the drug.

Unfortunately, heroin is now often laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. Drug smugglers are blending fentanyl with other substances in order to cut costs and amplify the strength of their concoctions. Consequently, this has led to a surge in opioid overdoses across the United States. 

While pure forms of heroin are sometimes smoked or snorted, the majority of street heroin is diluted, dissolved, and injected. Combining heroin with cocaine is known as a speedball, an incredibly lethal mixture. 

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How Addictive is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid that can lead to addiction due to its intense effects on the brain’s reward system. In fact, the prevalence of heroin abuse and addiction is primarily due to the intensity of these effects. The 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that there are over 1 million adults in the U.S. who are classified as having a heroin use disorder.

Heroin use disrupts the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s reward system, by increasing the production of dopamine. Ordinarily, dopamine is released in response to behaviors associated with survival, such as eating, and to help counter pain.

As a person becomes more and more addicted to heroin, their brain begins to recognize the drug as a source of pleasure, due to the release of chemicals like dopamine in their reward system. Over time, you may require heroin to function normally and to avoid the presentation of withdrawal symptoms.

Some warning signs that an addiction to heroin may be developing include:

  • continuing to use the drug despite problems it is causing
  • Attempting to quit but being unsuccessful
  • Developing a tolerance to heroin
  • Experiencing cravings for the drug
  • Having withdrawal symptoms manifest in the absence of heroin 

an image of someone dealing with opioid treatment.

Why is Heroin so Addictive?

Heroin’s highly addictive nature is due to heroin’s impact on the brain‘s reward system, creating intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Upon consumption, the substance quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier. It then binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, which are responsible for regulating pain, pleasure, and reward.

When people use heroin, their brains experience a release of dopamine which reinforces the behavior and creates a feeling of pleasure. However, due to the drug’s frequent use, it alters the brain’s structure and function. This can cause users to become dependent on it to feel normal. If they attempt to stop using, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, restlessness, and physical discomfort. 

Furthermore, heroin use can cause rapid development of tolerance. This means that increasing amounts of the drug are needed to achieve the same level of euphoria. Continued use of larger doses of a substance can result in a cycle of addiction.

Heroin addiction is also commonly linked to social, psychological, and environmental issues such as stress, trauma, mental health disorders, and exposure to environments that encourage drug use. All of these factors can contribute to the development and maintenance of heroin addiction.

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Fight Back Against Heroin Addiction

Get evidence-based treatment to overcome heroin addiction at Renaissance Recovery. Call our team now to learn more about the process.

What Causes Heroin Addiction?

Heroin addiction can arise from various underlying factors, which can include both biological and environmental causes. For instance, genetic factors may contribute to the risk of developing heroin addiction, with certain gene variants potentially making some individuals more susceptible to the condition than others.

Exposure to environmental factors such as stress, trauma, and drug use can also increase the risk of heroin addiction. As can social factors like peer pressure, isolation, and low socioeconomic status.

Additionally, a personal history of mental illness and health disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD also increase the likelihood heroin addiction.

The misuse of prescription opioids may also contribute to the risk of heroin addiction as these drugs have similar effects. Unfortunately, opioid prescriptions can often lead to heroin addiction for those looking for cheaper options once their prescription expires.

Fortunately, heroin addiction is a treatable condition, and recovery is possible with the right treatment and support. Typically an approach that combines FDA-approved medications (buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone) and psychotherapy (CBT or DBT). We can help you initiate your recovery at Renaissance in Southern California.

a man looks out at the sky to represent xanax effects and xanax side effects anger.
a man rubbing his eye dealing with the alcohol addiction symptoms

Heroin Addiction Symptoms

The criteria for diagnosing heroin abuse and addiction(opioid use disorder) are outlined in DSM-5-TR. This is the revised fifth edition of American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The symptoms used to diagnose heroin addiction include:

  1. Using heroin in larger amounts or for longer periods than intended.
  2. Failing to successfully reduce or discontinue heroin use despite efforts to do so.
  3. Devoting significant amounts of time to obtaining and using heroin.
  4. Experiencing intense cravings for heroin.
  5. Neglecting personal and professional responsibilities due to heroin use.
  6. Continuing to use heroin despite it causing problems in relationships.
  7. Giving up social activities because of heroin use.
  8. Using heroin in dangerous situations.
  9. Developing tolerance to heroin so that increasing amounts are required to achieve the same effects.
  10. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms in the absence of heroin.
  11. Continuing to use heroin despite it inflaming physical or mental health conditions.

Signs of a Heroin Addict

The following are some potential symptoms and signs of heroin addiction:

Not all individuals with heroin addiction will exhibit all of these symptoms and effects of heroin and some may be skilled at hiding them. If you suspect that a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, look for these symptoms and discuss your concerns with them. Encourage them to seek professional help for their drug abuse problem before it leads to something dangerous like a heroin overdose.

Help for Heroin Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

If you have developed an addiction to heroin, we can help you address this problem at Renaissance Recovery. 

We specialize in the outpatient treatment of heroin addiction. This allows you to connect with the care you need while remaining anchored to your everyday commitments. 

Choose from the following substance abuse treatment options at our luxury Huntington Beach rehab

  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs): The most immersive form of outpatient treatment
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs): More flexible and less time-intensive outpatient programs
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs: For heroin addictions that co-occur with mental health disorders 

All treatment programs provide individualized heroin addiction treatment that may include behavioral therapies and treatment options such as: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare 

If you require assistance with a supervised medical detox, call 866.330.9449 today and we can connect you with facilities throughout Southern California, as well as intensive outpatient treatment for heroin addiction.

If you want to overcome heroin addiction and achieve long-term sobriety, contact our team today for help.

Our Heroin Addiction Treatment Programs

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

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