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.
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.
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.