The Mechanism Behind Heroin Addiction

July 24, 2015 Health

Heroin addiction is a serious problem that may control a person’s entire life. Treating addiction can be done with the help of the detox treatment centers in the area. These medical detox centers watch over a person while they get the drugs out of his or her system.

General Information About Heroin

The drug heroin is an opioid. It’s a synthetic version of morphine. It comes from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant, therefore occurring naturally. Heroin comes in a powder form that’s either white or brown. In some cases, it presents as a black, sticky substance known as black tar heroin.

Heroin can be smoked, snorted or injected. All of these routes can lead to a person to become addicted because the drug. Heroin does a great deal of damage to the brain because it can be consumed in so many ways. Not to mention, when a person injects it, the drug damages veins and increases chances of heart infection. When injecting, the person may acquire a disease like hepatitis C or HIV when sharing needles. Additionally, using heroin may lead to pneumonia or kidney and liver damage. Sometimes, there are harmful chemicals in the drug that can clog blood vessels that go to the brain, kidneys, liver or lungs, which may cause permanent damage to the vital organs. Of all the routes the drug is taken, injecting it is the most addictive.

The Mechanism Behind Heroin AddictionWhen a person injects heroin, there’s an initial rush or a surge of euphoria. The person may have a warm flushing of the skin, have dry mouth and clouded mental function. Heaviness of the extremities also occurs. After this euphoric feeling, the person goes into alternating states of drowsiness and wakefulness referred to as “on the nod.” People who smoke or snort it won’t feel the initial euphoria, but the other effects are the same.

A user will continuously need more heroin to feel the same high. The intense high only lasts a few minutes, however, a few hours after the effects have decreased, the person’s body begins to crave more. Generally, the symptoms start within six to 12 hours after taking the last dose. They will peak within 24 to 48 hours, decreasing within a week for most patients. Some people may have the symptoms for weeks or even months. Symptoms of withdrawal include aches and pains in the bones, diarrhea, nausea, restlessness, cold flashes with goose bumps, general discomfort and abdominal pain. Withdrawal feels similar to the flu, but it doesn’t usually lead to death. In rare cases, a person may have a seizure or serious respiratory complications.

Suppression of breathing is quite common in heroin overdoses. The suppression of oxygen can cause the brain to not get an adequate amount of oxygen. This condition is known as hypoxia. Hypoxia may lead to both short-term and long-term consequence psychologically and neurologically. In some cases, it may lead to coma or permanent brain damage. A person’s pulse, respiration and blood pressure have the potential to drop. This may cause death in some instances.

Mechanism of Action

The National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that 4.2 million Americans who are 12 or older used heroin before, even if it was just one time. This is equivalent to 1.6 percent of Americans. Of the people who try it, about 23 percent get addicted, which makes it a highly addictive substance. Because it’s highly addictive, people chronically relapse from heroin addiction. It alters the brain, which is why people frequently start using again even after the initial relapse. A person may seek out the drug no matter what the consequences are.

In the brain, heroin is converted into morphine. As morphine, the drug binds to the receptors in the brain. These receptors are for endorphin, which decrease a person’s perception of pain and give a natural effect of drugs like codeine and morphine. They also affect the part of the brain that deals with reward. Because the opioid receptors are located in the stem of the brain, people have a decrease in respiration and vital signs.

Heroin may have more of an effect than just the immediate consequences it causes. Studies are looking at the deterioration of white matter in the brain attributed to heroin use. The narcotic has the ability to change the size and shape of the brain. This brain alteration may affect a person’s ability to regulate behavior and make decisions. In some cases, a person’s ability to respond to stressful situations may change as well.

Rehabilitation for Heroin

An affordable drug rehab can assist a person in taking the first step to get off the drug as well as to help the person to live a lifetime without triggering the habit. Rapid detox centers will allow a person to get through the discomfort of detoxing using one of several medications including naloxone, which causes the withdrawal to occur during the first four to eight hours after taking the medication. Oftentimes, the patient may use anesthesia that makes the physical withdrawal from heroin basically painless.