Heroin is a synthetic opioid drug made from morphine, a substance extracted from the seed pod of Asian opium poppy plants.
It is estimated that over 4 million Americans have used heroin at least once in their lifetimes and that 23 percent of the people who use heroin become dependent on it. It can be injected, inhaled or smoked, all of which allow the heroin to rapidly affect the brain.
Heroin addiction is a chronic relapsing condition cause by changes in the brain. Once addicted, the addict’s brain “classifies” heroin as necessary to sustain life, along with air, water, food and sex. Because of this, heroin addicts have an uncontrollable need to acquire and use the drug no matter what the consequences.
The Road to Heroin Addiction
Not everyone who uses heroin will become addicted, but heroin addiction affects a large enough percentage of people to think twice before trying it.
For people with other mental health issues, such as low self-esteem or PTSD, heroin can seem to offer comfort, which in many cases stimulates the repeated use that leads to addiction. For some people, addiction to heroin also offers a peer group of like-minded individuals and a sense of belonging that is attractive.
Many people become just as addicted to the culture and sense of community associated with their addiction. It is a “lifestyle”. They love the ritual involved in procuring and using the drug.
To some people it may seem fashionable to be a heroin addict. There is even a style referred to as “heroin chic”. One of the difficulties in overcoming heroin addiction is that the addict begins to see addiction as a part of his, or her, identity.
Addiction to Heroin
The problem for many people is that their addiction to heroin will never satisfy them. While they enjoyed the high initially, when they first started using the drug, that high becomes more and more elusive. Their bodies develop a tolerance to the drug and they require more and more of it to have that same effect.
At some point, they cease to experience the high at all and simply need the drug just to maintain their normal state. The cravings at that stage are so strong they are irresistible. They require more of the drug more often, and procuring it begins to require more and more of their attention. It is at this stage many addicts begin to lose jobs, strain relationships with family and even turn to crime to get the money to buy the drug.
Eventually, if the addiction to heroin goes untreated, it is inevitable that the addict will die.