How Heroin Addiction Starts

Once someone is in the midst of a gripping addiction, particularly with something as dangerous and deadly as heroin, people around them often wonder how it got started. What are the initial warning signs of something like heroin addiction? How is it that someone travels down the path of heroin addiction?

While no two scenarios may be exactly the same, there are often some similarities in how heroin addiction starts.

First and foremost when looking at how heroin addiction starts, it’s important to note that of the people who try the drug, almost one in four will become addicted. Heroin use has a high likelihood of addiction associated with it, and it’s a powerful drug that also quickly leads to dependence.

How Heroin Addiction Starts
One of the primary ways how heroin addiction starts currently is the abuse of prescription opioids. Research that looked at the years of 2002 to 2012 showed the initial use of heroin was 19 times higher among people who used prescription opioids for nonmedical purposes. Another study that looked at young users of injectable drugs showed that 86 percent used opioid pain relievers in an abusive way before using heroin. This represents a very different picture from what was seen decades ago. For example, in the 1960s heroin addicts primarily started with heroin itself. In the 2000s, 75 percent of people who said they used heroin also said their first experience with an opioid was via a prescription drug. 80 percent of heroin users in a national-level study of heroin data said they used prescription opioids before using heroin. Some of the most prescribed and abused prescription opioids include Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin. These drugs like heroin are classified as opioids, so if a person abuses them and becomes dependent and addicted, they may move to heroin because it’s a cheaper and more readily available alternative.
While the use of prescription painkillers may be one way how heroin addiction starts, there can be other gateway drugs that lead users down the path of this drug. For example, people often report using heroin as a way to come down from cocaine. Polydrug use is not uncommon, but the combining of different drugs can often be extremely dangerous. Regardless of how it begins, there is a scientific component to how heroin addiction starts. Heroin, like prescription opioids, binds to certain receptors in the brain. When this happens, it triggers the release of a naturally occurring chemical called dopamine. That chemical is released when we do things we find pleasurable in a natural way, but the amount of dopamine released with heroin is up to 10 times as much as what can occur naturally. When your brain releases dopamine, it’s taught to continue to seek out the activity that led to this. As an example, when you have sex one time, your brain releases dopamine. Since the dopamine was released, your memory is formed to know that you want to do it again. It’s the same concept with heroin but in a much more amplified way. This is how heroin addiction starts, and it’s why heroin is so addictive. Once you take a drug like heroin, the chemical functionality of your brain is altered. The pleasurable euphoria of the drug was such that you want to keep seeking out what caused that. This outlines what happens with an addiction to heroin and the cravings that you can experience after using heroin even just one time. Also important to understand when looking at how heroin addiction starts are the concepts of tolerance and dependence. Your brain quickly becomes used to the effects of heroin, which is why you build a tolerance to it. This means that you will need to take larger doses of the drug to get the same effects. Your brain and the systems of your body become used to the presence of heroin, and without it, you start to feel abnormal or experience withdrawal symptoms. A few things to note about how heroin addiction starts. The first is that even if you don’t first abuse prescription opioids, just using heroin one time or a handful of times can lead to addiction because of the nature of the drug and how it impacts chemicals in the brain. The second thing to note about how heroin addiction starts is the fact that with this drug there’s no way to avoid addiction aside from not doing the drug.
How Heroin Addiction Starts
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