Don’t Do It! Three of the Most Destructive Addictions

While addictions are unhealthful, there are some addictions that are more dangerous than others because of the devastating effects they can have on a person’s mental and physical health. Here are three of them:

Heroin

The destructive potential of this addiction is notorious. Interestingly, heroin began as a substitute for morphine and is created by adding two acetyl groups to the morphine molecule.

Heroin is an opioid drug that gets its power from the fact that it’s fat soluble. This allows it to pass through the blood-brain barrier, a mechanism that works to keep toxins out of the brain. Heroin goes straight to the brain in a way that even morphine doesn’t. Once it’s in the brain, heroin is broken down into morphine. The drug then locks into the brain’s opioid or mu receptors where it mimics the effects of the body’s natural endorphins. This results in a sense of elation, pain relief, the depression of breathing and heart rate and other effects.

Heroin can be injected, snorted or smoked. Most addicts inject heroin under their skin, into a vein or into a muscle. This itself is a problem because heroin addicts often share needles.

Tolerance to heroin develops quickly, so the user finds that he or she has to take more and more to experience the same effects. As tolerance grows, so does physical dependence on the drug. This means that when the user doesn’t have heroin for a period of time he or she will begin to experience the physical and mental discomforts associated with withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal include pains in the bones and muscles, diarrhea and stomach cramps, vomiting, depression and anxiety. Withdrawal from heroin is usually not life threatening, but for an addict the discomfort is intolerable. Therefore, many addicts swing between the euphoria of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.

Not only this, an addict might crave heroin for months or years after they’ve otherwise quit.

By itself, heroin can lead to death because of the depression of the user’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems. But the user may be more at risk from diseases like AIDS and hepatitis that come because of contaminated needles and the poor hygiene that often afflicts heroin users.

For heroin addicts, successful drug treatment often consists of stabilizing them on drugs like methadone, which will remove the cycle of euphoria and withdrawal they experience during their heroin addiction.

Amphetamines

Amphetamines are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system. They mimic the effects of adrenaline in the system even though the two substances act very differently in the body. Amphetamines cause the nerve cells to release norepinephrine, then inhibit the enzyme that inhibits the norepineprine. They also block norepineprine uptake, where the chemical is carried back into the nerve cell. Usually, the neurons secrete neurotransmitters at a steady and controlled rate. When they flood the system as they do during heavy amphetamine use, it takes the body a while to replenish its stores. That’s why the euphoria and alertness that accompany amphetamine use are followed by depression and exhaustion.

Also, the overstimulation of the dopamine receptors by amphetamine addicts can lead to a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia. Long term addiction to amphetamines can also result in brain damage, which manifests as confusion and slurred speech.

Barbituates

Barbituates are central nervous system depressants. They were introduced around the turn of the last century as sleeping aids. The effects of barbituates are very much like the effects of alcohol, and the user can experience clumsiness, shallow breathing and sleepiness. An overdose of barbituates can lead to coma that progresses to death. Most addicts take barbituates orally, though some inject them. They’re often taken with other nervous system depressants like alcohol and opioids, which increases the risk of death. Even withdrawal from barbituates is life-threatening, with fevers and seizures. Indeed, barbituates still account for about a third of all drug deaths.

These addictions can take hold of you and control your life and the lives of those around you. When you are dealing with these addictions remember that asking for help is a great way to overcome them. If you are a parent and your teenager or child is dealing with and addiction, talk to them about it and help them to understand the affects of their decisions.

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