Heroin is one of the most addictive substances known to man. In a 2012 survey, 335,000 people admitted to past-month use of it, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Heroin is one of the most addictive substances known to man. While the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes that heroin accounted for 86 percent of opiate treatment admissions in 2002 and only 63 percent in 2012, this difference is unfortunately due to the drastic rise in the popularity of prescription opioid pain reliever abuse rather than a decline in heroin abuse.

Propensity Towards Addiction

As with addictions to most drugs, there are risk factors that make certain people more likely to develop heroin addiction.Those who struggle with mental illness are also at an increased risk of heroin abuse. Approximately 50 percent of people with severe mental health disorders, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, also live with substance abuse issues, notes Helpguide. Additionally, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that about 50 percent of people with a substance use disorder have at least one serious mental health disorder.

Addictive Potential

Some of the signs of an addiction to heroin are:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Cramps
  • Trembling
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Restless demeanor
  • Anxiety
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Track marks
  • Financial troubles

If you stumble upon balloons, baggies, pipes, syringes or aluminum foil, these may also be potential signs of heroin use.

Heroin floods your mind with dopamine and limits receptors abilities to function properly. Many individuals will continue to use heroin to pursue the intense, pleasurable high it brings. However, once dependence forms, it’s also important to keep in mind that many people use heroin to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. Over time, dopamine receptors in the brain undergo changes, which can alter the brain’s chemistry significantly. The drug starts out as a method of delivering euphoria and ends up being the only way to experience any feelings of pleasure.

The End of the Line

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that addiction develops in about 23 percent of all people who use heroin. Currently, the best approach for treating heroin addiction includes continued medication-assisted therapy coupled with psychotherapy. Many patients are put on drugs like methadone and buprenorphine/naloxone right from the start of the detox process. These drugs act as replacements for heroin, allowing the body to slowly wean itself off the drug in decreasing, incremental doses over a period of time.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.