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How Does Heroin Affect the Brain?

Abuse of any drugs causes chemical changes in the brain. Heroin is no different. Understanding how heroin affects the brain can be essential to making the decision to stop using the drug. There are changes that can occur in the brain’s chemical makeup with long term, and even short term, heroin abuse. These changes can be drastic, and make living life more difficult. So how does heroin affect the brain?

What is Heroin?

Made from morphine, Heroin is a synthetic opioid that has the potential to be highly abused. Because the potential for abuse is so high, and the fact that it has no medical use, it is classified a Schedule I drug. It can be injected, smoked, and inhaled nasally. Each of these methods of use can allow the drug to reach the brain rapidly, allowing for what is known as a “rush”. This euphoric feeling is the sought after, and desired effect of heroin use.

How Does Heroin Affect the Brain?

The effects of the drug on the brain can be long term. The brain produces a chemical called dopamine. This chemical is the brain’s response to doing something that makes us feel like we did something right, or feel good. Dopamine receptors are triggered with heroin use, causing these receptors to become reliant on the drug in order to achieve the “feel good” effects dopamine provides. Natural opioid production in the brain is another example of how heroin affects the brain. The brain produces its own opioid chemicals as a response to feeling pain. When it encounters synthetic opioids, such as heroin, it can begin to halt production of the natural chemical. This makes it hard for the body to soothe pain on its own.
Varying in severity, how heroin affects the brain can be anything from cognitive delays, to long term chemical imbalances. Cognitive delays can occur with prolonged use of heroin because the brain can begin to produce and build up harmful proteins. These proteins can slow the brain’s reaction to situations. There is also the risk of inflammation in the brain that can change the natural structure of it, and can affect memory. Behavioral changes occur because white matter in the brain can also deteriorate with long term heroin use, and when this happens, responses to situations can be altered from what would normally happen.

Single Use Of Heroin

When it comes to short term, or single use of heroin, there can be complications just as with prolonged use. It only takes one time for heroin to result in overdose, whether fatal or nonfatal. How heroin affects the brain in the short term can be just as drastic. Once heroin enters the body, it can travel fairly quickly to the brain and cause the euphoric feeling opioids can provide. This is the sensation that is sought after by many people who abuse the drug.

Dangers of Heroin Use

Like many other opioids, heroin can have an affect on the respiratory system, as well as heart rate. Heroin causes a “rush” when it enters into the brain, and the euphoric sensation is felt. Once this feeling wears off, there are lasting after effects that generally occur. Respiratory function is slowed, and if not monitored, can lead to a coma and permanent brain damage because of depriving the brain of oxygen. Responses to stimulation can be delayed, and heart rate can also slow down. All of these can be dangerous.

There is also the risk of overdose, infectious diseases, collapsed veins, infections in the heart, liver and kidney disease, and other risk factors. Any of these can potentially lead to death. Struggling with heroin does not mean that these or other ways of how heroin affects the brain need to occur. It is possible to make it out.

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

There are warning signs and symptoms associated with heroin abuse. Typically, a person struggling with heroin has many visible signs that there is a problem. Some of these signs and symptoms are:

  • Financial problems
  • Inability to maintain employment
  • Changes in moods
  • Changes in appetite
  • Interpersonal relationship issues
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home and work
  • Weight loss
  • Poor personal hygiene

Heroin Addiction Recovery Is Available

There is hope for recovery from heroin addiction. The horrors of how heroin affects the brain can be avoided by getting off the drug, and learning healthy coping skills to combat the desire to use drugs. Therapy, both group and individual, can be beneficial to recovery. Providing a safe and productive place to express positive and negative feelings associated with giving up the drug can be vital to successful recovery. Positive routines and healthy alternatives to the behaviors exhibited when using drugs can be taught and learned. All it takes is trying.

Help For Heroin Addiction In Nashville, TN

Here at Brentwood Springs, it is our mission to provide a path for recovery from heroin addiction. Treating all of the symptoms of addiction can help to make recovery possible. Contact us today, and begin your journey to a new life!

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