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How Addictive is Heroin?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 20.4 million Americans struggle with substance use disorder (SUD). Heroin, mainly when mixed with Fentanyl (a powerful synthetic opioid), has played a vital role in the drug addiction crisis in the United States. Heroin is a highly addictive and potent opioid. It is an illegal drug with serious overdose risks.

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics estimates that 138.543 million people, or half the number of Americans 12 years of age and older, have used illegal drugs at some point. 25.4 percent of people who use illegal substances have SUD. Opioid disorders, which include heroin and prescription painkillers, are involved in 24.7 % of all drug addiction cases.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is manufactured from morphine, which is extracted from the seeds of the opium poppy plant. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies heroin as a Schedule I drug. The DEA classifies a chemical or substance as belonging to the "Schedule I" category if it has a high potential for misuse and no currently approved therapeutic or recognized medicinal use in the United States. Unfortunately, there is a high likelihood that heroin use will result in dependency, and heroin addiction is one of the most severe public health concerns of our day.


There are various more robust methods for consuming or injecting heroin to achieve a high. Usually, the substance is administered intravenously (IV), as an injection, into a vein. Some heroin users mix the opioid with water to make it smoother to inject into the body. The substance is also available as a powder that one can smoke or snort. For more robust and intense effects, some users "speedball" the heroin mixed with cocaine.

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Medically Reviewed:


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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Effects of Heroin Abuse

When heroin is used often, your body adjusts to the drug's presence and develops a physical dependence on it. This substance is very addictive because it affects how your brain works, and continuous usage causes the brain to adapt quickly.


Heroin's affordability and accessibility may contribute to its addiction. Given that heroin is cheap and easy to get, it is easier for individuals to continue usage. Besides, the acute withdrawal symptoms it causes make it difficult to stop using it.


The effects of heroin on the body are both cumulative and rapid. Some of the short-term negative consequences of heroin use include:

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Short Term Effects

  • Alternating between states of consciousness and unconsciousness throughout the day.

  • Euphoria.

  • Reddening and flushing of the skin.

  • Impaired brain capacity.

  • Heaviness in the limbs.

  • Nausea and throwing up.

  • Dry mouth.


Long Term Effects

Those who use heroin often and for an extended period may be more likely to suffer from the following:

  • Collapsed blood vessels (for chronic injection users).

  • Insomnia.

  • APD (antisocial personality disorder).

  • Disorders of the liver and kidneys.

  • Depression.

  • Menstrual cycles in women that are not regular.

  • Tissue damage in the nasal cavity (from chronic snorting).

  • Cramping in the abdominal region.

  • Complications of the lungs, such as pneumonia.

  • Infection of the heart's valves and lining.

  • Sexual problems in males.

  • Swollen body tissue filled with pus (abscesses).

Heroin is often mixed with sugar, powdered milk, and starch to make it last longer and help the people who sell it make more money. These substances have been shown to narrow blood vessels, which could cause problems with blood flow. Because of this, the liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain may be damaged in a way that can't be fixed. According to MedlinePlus, the most harmful severe consequences of heroin use on a person's health include pregnancy complications, infections of the heart, and death from overdose. Users who inject the drug put themselves at risk of getting a variety of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, amongst others.

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How Addictive Is Heroin?

When you or someone you care about is struggling with heroin addiction, it's normal to have questions. Some people wonder if heroin deserves the bad reputation it has. After all, the heroin manufacturing process begins with a plant.


Some of these questions may include, "How addictive is heroin?" Why is heroin so addicting?" and "How hard is it to stop using heroin?" You are trying to figure out why you or someone you care about became dependent on the substance in the first place and why you or they can't stop using it.


Heroin is a powerful opiate that has a powerful impact on the reward system in the brain. The potency of this effect is one factor contributing to the widespread nature of its addiction and misuse. Heroin manipulates the reward system in the brain by affecting the synthesis of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins.


Under normal conditions, the brain secretes these hormones to incentivize behaviors essential for life, such as feeding, and to help people better cope with the experience of pain.


Whether heroin is smoked, injected, or snorted, it causes opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system to react by generating a large amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine to be released. Dopamine is the chemical that gives the user feelings of pleasure or euphoria.


When a person's brain gets used to the euphoric rush heroin gives them, they may have powerful cravings for the drug. At some point, the substance will become so important to you that you won't be able to do everyday things without it.


When you use heroin for a long time, you might lose the ability to feel pleasure without the drug. This is because the parts of the brain that are in charge of happiness have been damaged. When access to the drug is cut off, the eventual result of this harm is often feelings of depression and anxiety, among other symptoms.


Heroin withdrawal symptoms make it difficult for addicts to stop without professional assistance. Although the withdrawal is seldom fatal, it may be so excruciating that you will do everything to escape it. Among the withdrawal symptoms are the following:

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Goosebumps

  • Tremors

  • Agitation and irritability


These symptoms may begin within twenty-four hours after your last use. The following are some symptoms that addiction has already started to form:

  • Consumption persists despite heroin-related complications.

  • Wanting and attempting to cease or minimize consumption but failing to do so.

  • Constantly craving the drug.

  • Tolerance.

  • Suffering withdrawal (or experiencing "junk sickness").


When you need to increase the quantity of heroin you take to get high, or if you begin injecting the drug, this is a big sign of addiction. Once a person develops an addiction, what may have started as an inexpensive way to feel good becomes a necessity for daily life.

Questions About The Rehab Process?

Our goal is to provide valuable and up-to-date information on addiction treatment.

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There are thousands of drug rehabs to select from, making it challenging to choose which is suitable.

Addiction treatment is essential; many methods exist to help pay for drug and alcohol rehab-associated costs.

There is a cost associated with drug rehabilitation, but the advantages of seeking care are worthwhile.

Seek Treatment For Your Heroin Addiction at Rolling Hills Recovery Center!

Our Rolling Hills Recovery Center team knows that opioid addiction is a disease, not a result of being careless or unable to control oneself. Everyone who participates in our heroin treatment program, which also addresses co-occurring illnesses, is treated with the utmost respect and decency for their time here. If you or someone you care about might need help with heroin addiction, please call us at (855) 559-8550 or contact us online through our website.


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