Many illicit drugs are highly addictive, and heroin is one of them. Heroin is a type of an opiate drug that produces strong effects in the brain’s reward system. Knowing how the brain works helps us understand why heroin is so addictive. The limbic system is a pathway in the brain that is responsible for producing feelings of pleasure and ease. The brain chemicals and receptors respond to each other and activate these pathways.
In a healthy person, the reward system may be activated through a variety of activities, such as earning a promotion, winning a game, or being in a relationship. Heroin affects this system by stimulating the release of dopamine in the brain in highly unnatural ways. The brain becomes accustomed to this dopamine release and the strong sense of pleasure it produces, so it signals people to keep using the drug to produce the same results.
Heroin Abuse Statistics:
The following are 2016 statistics related to heroin use:
- A total of 948,000 Americans used heroin in 2016.
- Since 2007, there has been a growing trend for heroin use.
- Teenagers and young adults from eighteen to twenty-five years old are experiences increases in heroin use.
- The amount of first-time heroin users was double in 2016 (170,000 new users) compared to the number of first-time users in 2009 (90,000 new users).
- People diagnosed with heroin use disorder increased from 214,000 in 2002 to 626,000 in 2016.
- Heroin use is now predominantly seen in suburban and rural communities.
- Alongside prescription opioids, heroin is considered one of the top concerns relating to drug abuse in the United States.
- Children and teens aged twelve to seventeen have experienced declines in heroin use, with few members of that population reporting heroin use in the past year.
- 15,500 Americans died from heroin-related overdoses in 2016.
- In 2016, heroin-related overdoses most affected males from the ages of twenty-five to forty-four, with a 17 percent increase from 2015.
How Long Does Heroin Last?
Introducing heroin into the body produces rapid effects that may last for hours. The speed of the effects may depend on the method of administration. Heroin is ingested by snorting, smoking, or injecting. It usually comes in the form of white or brownish powder that is mixed with ingredients such as milk, sugar, or quinine.
Another variety of heroin is black tar heroin. Compared to other forms of heroin, black tar heroin tends to be more potent and offer a longer lasting high. It is usually smoked or injected.
The popularity of heroin as an illicit substance is largely due to its intense effects. It may create a heightened and strong state of euphoria, which is associated with a chemical component called 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) and morphine in the brain. The 6-MAM is responsible for the rapid absorption of the drug in the body.
In the United States, heroin is not considered a medically useful drug. Other areas, such as the United Kingdom, use heroin medically for acute pain. The drugs may be used intravenously by people who are suffering from physical trauma, myocardial infarction, post-surgery pain, or chronic pain.
What Does Heroin Look Like?
Physically, heroin comes in many forms. It is a subsynthetic product that is a crude version of diamorphine. When purified, it comes in a white powder form. Some heroin variants come in a brownish powder form and have impurities. Black tar heroin is a sticky, dark substance that can be injected intravenously or smoked.
On a chemical level, heroin has a molecular structure of C21H23NO5 . The drug is produced through the acetylation of crude morphine, hence its other name, acetomorphine.
What Are Signs of Heroin Use?
Addiction to heroin may be spotted if you are aware of its signs. Like other drugs, there is a risk of dependency to heroin if people do not seek treatment immediately. Some signs that you or your loved one may be addicted to heroin include:
- Continued use despite encountering problems: People who are dependent on heroin continue to use the drug even if they experience problems related to its use.
- Trying and failing to quit drug use: Heroin is a highly addictive drug. Many users want to quit but feel stuck due to their dependency.
- Intense cravings for the drug: Intense cravings may drive people to do virtually anything to acquire heroin.
- Feeling sick without the drug: Those struggling with heroin abuse disorders may experience significant withdrawal symptoms when they do not use the drug.
- Increased drug tolerance: People who persistently use drugs may gradually begin using higher doses to experience the same highs that they experienced before.