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How Does Heroin Addiction Start?

Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from morphine. Morphine comes from the pods of the opium poppy plant. It goes by many names on the street, including "Black Tar," "Black Pearl," "Brown Crystal," "Smack," "Brown Sugar," "Brown Tape," "Dope," and "China White." Unlike morphine, which helps alleviate severe pain, particularly after surgery, heroin has no accepted medical use in the United States.


Heroin sold on the streets often comes in powder form. Powdered heroin is relatively pure compared to other forms, such as Mexican tar heroin and brown powder. Some people inject heroin directly into their veins, while others choose to smoke or sniff it.  


Some Drug users engage in one of the riskiest behaviors: "speedballing,”  combining crack cocaine with heroin to heighten its effects.


Heroin, regardless of its origin or purity, is highly addictive. Heroin usually comes to the United States from Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, and Mexico. Colombia became the US's fourth key source of heroin in the early 1990s.

How Does Addiction to Heroin Begin?

Several factors might lead someone to develop a heroin addiction. Some people's paths to addiction began with gentler substances like methamphetamine or cannabis. Some people may have started using drugs because they were under the influence of a friend or loved one.


Opioid pain medications are a powerful gateway drug that leads to heroin addiction. It is estimated that eighty percent of heroin users had taken opioid prescription medications before moving on to heroin. Usually, doctors put patients with chronic pain, post-operative pain, or pain following an accident on these “apparently harmless” drugs.


The way that prescribed opioid medications work is similar to how heroin works; specifically, they activate the opioid receptors in your brain and central nervous system to reduce the unpleasant effects of pain and give you a nice feeling.


Heroin's low price on the black market and the absence of a prescription requirement have led to a dramatic increase in its usage and abuse.

Rolling Hills Recovery Center Heroin Helpline

Anytime, day or night, you may call us at Rolling Hills Recovery Center at 855-559-8550. We'll work with you to find the best treatment plan.


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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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What Causes Heroin Addiction?

Heroin addiction often follows a similar trajectory, so it doesn't matter whether one begins drug abuse with marijuana or prescription pills. Heroin stimulates opioid receptors in the brain, which often increases the amount of dopamine that is released. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in the brain's reward and decision-making processes.


Dopamine's job is to make people want to keep doing fun things by making them feel good when they do them. Dopamine levels increase when people have consensual sex, compete in sports, or achieve personal goals.


Heroin's pleasurable effects stem partly from its ability to trigger dopamine release in the brain. When heroin is taken repeatedly, the body and brain rapidly adjust to its impact and become less aroused.


In the end, you will find that you need to take more significant quantities to get the same feel-good effects. This might go on forever, but there's a real risk of overdosing if you keep up this dosing rate.


With increasing tolerance also comes an increased risk of developing a physical dependency. Heroin tolerance is the process through which the body becomes so used to the drug's effects that it starts to experience withdrawal symptoms when no longer receiving the drug.

Rolling Hills Recovery Center offers free 24/7 heroin addiction support. Call today and confidentially speak with our addiction specialists at 855-559-8550.

Signs of Heroin Withdrawal

If you are hooked on heroin and try to stop using it suddenly, you might suffer from severe withdrawal effects. The withdrawal period may start as soon as a few hours after the last use of the substance. These symptoms can include:


  • Severe heroin cravings

  • Diarrhea

  • Restlessness

  • Vomiting

  • Bone aches

  • Disturbed sleep cycles

  • Cold jolts

  • Irregular leg motions

  • Acute muscular pain

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Risk Factors for Using Heroin

The use of heroin and other substances is associated with many risk factors. Even though not all heroin users exhibit these risk factors, it is vital to understand why some people use heroin. Possible risk factors for heroin addiction include:

Age of the First Usage


Teenagers who experiment with heroin or other narcotics are more likely to develop a dependency on the drug and other substances since they have been exposed to them longer.

Past Trauma


Some people were subjected to or observed traumatic experiences in the past, such as emotional abuse or physical violence, as children. The probability of eventually engaging in abusive behaviors and being addicted to substances is higher for such people.

A History of Substance Abuse in the Family


Opiate and heroin misuse is more likely to occur in households when other family members also abuse the substances.

Mental Health Issues


The presence of mental health disorders such as depression, panic attacks, conduct disorder, or ADHD is related to increased sensitivity to substance misuse and addiction.

Inability to Regulate Their Behavior or Their Impulses


It is more likely that young individuals will struggle with drug misuse difficulties if they have difficulty managing their behavior and learning from their mistakes.

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.

Effects of Using Heroin

Heroin by itself may have both immediate and long-term impacts on the user. There is a possibility that you may not exhibit all of these symptoms; nonetheless, some are very typical.

Commonly Seen Short-Term Symptoms of Heroin Usage


  • The skin begins to warm and flush.

  • Excruciating itchiness.

  • Vomiting.

  • Nausea.

  • Impairment of cognitive processes.

  • Dry mouth.

  • A feeling of heaviness in the limbs.

  • "Going on the nod." It refers to a state between full consciousness and partial unconsciousness.


Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use


Heroin addicts are especially vulnerable because they routinely share needles. The risk of contracting hepatitis C (HCV) is higher among people who inject drugs (PWIDs). This pattern of behavior remains a significant factor in the spread of the HCV epidemic across the United States. It is estimated that each PWID infected with HCV will infect an additional 20 people. Below are some of the long-term consequences of heroin use:


  • Pimples on the face.

  • Coma.

  • Toothache.

  • Immune system deterioration.

  • Inflammation of the gums.

  • Infectious diseases of the respiratory system.

  • Cold sweats.

  • Weakness in the muscles.

  • Partial paralysis.

  • Males experience diminished sexual ability and lifelong impotence.

  • Introversion.

  • Difficulties associated with menstruation in women.

  • The deterioration of memory and IQ.

  • Depression.

  • Itching.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Having trouble getting an orgasm (for both genders).

  • Insomnia.


Heroin has a reputation for being incredibly destructive. It might cost your family, friends, job, or even home. As time passes, dishonesty and thievery become habits that come naturally to you. At some point, you stop caring about other people and the world around you.


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Treatment for Heroin at Rolling Hills Recovery Center

We hope you have gained something valuable and enlightening from reading this post. If you or someone you know needs help with heroin addiction, please contact our 24/7 helpline at 855-559-8550 or visit our facility. You may count on us as a mental health center to assist you in kicking your drug habit for good. We have an easy and fast online insurance verification system. Contact Rolling Hills Recovery Center to learn more about our innovative rehabilitation programs.

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What causes heroin addiction?
Signs of heroin withdrawal
Risk factors for using heroin
Effects of using heroin
Treatment for heroin at Rolling Hills Recovery Center

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How does addiction to heroin begin?
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