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How Addictive Is Heroin: Impacts To Your Brain & Body

We all know heroin as an incredibly addictive substance. It is famously regarded as one of the most addictive drugs that exist in the world, and anyone who has had trouble with the drug will be able to vouch for its highly addictive nature. But it can be helpful to know as much of the basic science behind this as possible, and that is what we are going to look into in this article.

How addictive is heroin, exactly? And what sorts of impacts does it tend to have on the brain and the body with regular use? Read on to find out more about this drug in detail, and remember to reach out for help if you should need it.

Is Heroin Addictive?

The simple answer is yes – heroin can indeed be incredibly addictive. In 2016, roughly 626,000 people in the US were known to have a heroin use disorder. With that kind of disorder, it essentially means that the individual in question had some serious problems with the drug. That can include health problems and dependency, and also lifestyle concerns such as problems with school or work. It can also mean trouble sustaining relationships of all kinds.

Those kinds of negative effects are only put up with by the user because the drug itself is so powerfully addictive. It is addiction that causes people to go back to the drug again and again, even when they don’t really want to and they know and can see the negative effects that the drug is having on every aspect of their life. It is for this reason that addiction is often formulated as being a disease of the brain.

How Does Heroin Addiction Occur?

So how exactly does a person become addicted to heroin? When you take the drug, it enters your brain incredibly quickly, getting picked up by the opioid receptors throughout the brain and brainstem, but also in your spinal cord and lungs. When it does this, it causes an intense high very quickly, which is an important part of why it is so easily addictive.

When you start using heroin repeatedly, you start to develop a tolerance for it. That results in needing more heroin to have the same effect that you would have done the first time, and this is one of the clear hallmarks that an addiction is developing. The moment you find you need more and more of the drug to get a high from it, you know there might be a problem that you need help with.

Beyond tolerance, you will get to a place where you continue taking more and more heroin just to feel normal. When that happens, it means that heroin is going to feel like the main driving factor in your life, and it is likely to underpin all of your behavior at that stage in one way or another.

You are much more likely to become addicted to heroin if you take it again and again. That doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t get addicted from just one or two experiences with the drug, but it does mean that every time you use it, you are increasing your chances of later needing help.

Withdrawal Symptoms

One of the clear signs of an addiction is when you are experiencing withdrawal as a result of not getting the drug regularly enough. You experience withdrawal if you have become dependent on the drug to feel normal and function normally. The withdrawal from heroin can be both incredibly difficult to deal with, and genuinely dangerous for your bodily health. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Pain – in the muscles, or in the bones, or a general ache throughout the body.
  • Changes in body temperature – hot and cold from one moment to the next.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Bowel problems, including both diarrhea and constipation.
  • Insomnia.
  • Being restless.
  • Incredibly strong cravings for heroin.

With all of these withdrawal symptoms, it can be very difficult to stop the drug altogether, which is why most heroin addicts end up needing a lot of help in order to overcome their addiction. However, with help, it is possible.


The good news is that there are many forms of treatment for heroin addiction, and people do successfully overcome their addiction every day. Whether you do so through medicine, therapy, rehab, or a combination, it is something that is possible to achieve, no matter how deep into the addiction a person might have become.

If you need some help overcoming a heroin addiction, be sure to seek the help you need today.

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