Over time, the brain becomes acclimated to heroin, producing less and less of the desired effect. People addicted to heroin find they need to take more and more to achieve the same sensation.
So why do people start doing heroin and keep doing it, even though they know it can hurt them and make their lives unmanageable? Here are four reasons:
1. Their Friends Are Doing It
We have a biological urge to fit in with our social groups. These urges are not limited to adolescence; they can follow us into adulthood.
Heroin may be shunned in one peer group, but perfectly acceptable in other peer groups, especially within peer groups that:
- Feel isolated and/or hopeless due to geographic or economic circumstances.
- Idolize celebrities who might abuse heroin.
- Commit to counterculture or the thrill of breaking the rules.
In the 1990s, the term “heroin chic” described a trend in fashion photography that emphasized thin models with vacant expressions. This lead to cultural criticism that the term normalized heroin use or even glamorized it.
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If a peer uses heroin, it might be tempting to try it, especially if the person seems to enjoy it within an attractive lifestyle.
2. Their Doctors Prescribed Them Opioids
The percentage of heroin sufferers who started with prescription opioids is currently small (only four percent), but is growing.
Data from the National Institute of Health (NIH) from 2002 to 2012 discovered that people who had used prescription pain medication in the past were 19 times more likely to start using heroin. Yet, many people believe that “if a doctor gave it to me, it must be fine.”
As the addiction crisis mounted, doctors began prescribing fewer opioids. They don’t stop being addictive just because a doctor prescribes them or because they’re medically indicated.
Many people addicted to opioids continue to abuse prescription pills.
However, they might transition to heroin if:
- Their doctor cuts them off.
- They cannot find illegal prescription opioids on the street.
- They can no longer afford prescription drugs and turn to a cheaper alternative.
3. Heroin Makes Them Feel Good
Persons who experience pain, trauma, depression, or anxiety are particularly susceptible to heroin addiction because at first blush heroin seems to solve all their problems.
The first use of heroin often causes vomiting and unpleasant sensations.
However, subsequent use produces feelings that could be described as:
- apathy about physical pain
This happens because heroin attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain and creates a rush of dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical.
People who perceive much suffering in their lives—trauma from abuse, grief over a loss, chronic pain, failure to fit in, etc.—might see this dopamine rush as a way to make life bearable.
The good feeling comes with a cost, however. People hooked on heroin can upend or destroy their entire lives by hunting down the drug and making it their sole purpose.
4. How It Feels To Come Down Off It
Many people hooked on heroin know they have walked into a trap. They know it is bad for them. They want to stop, but they can’t.
It’s not because they lack education on the dangers of heroin. It’s not even that they lack willpower. It’s that coming down off of heroin is extremely uncomfortable when the body has become acclimated to its presence.
This is why using heroin has long been called a “fix” — without heroin in their system, people addicted to heroin are truly broken, suffering from symptoms like:
- intense agitation and anxiety
- diarrhea and vomiting
- flu-like symptoms
- muscle twitches and intense “pins and needles.”
These symptoms set in at around 24 hours without heroin, peak within two to three days, and can take up to ten days to fully subside. Many persons addicted to heroin fear withdrawal as much, if not more, than the death or incarceration they know heroin will eventually lead them to.
Seek Professional Help Today
To beat heroin addiction, it’s crucial to seek professional help. Overcoming withdrawal is challenging but necessary to live a healthy and productive life in the wake of addiction.
Call Turning Point today to discuss how medically assisted detox can help you rid your body of heroin as safely and comfortably as possible. Once we touch base, we can discuss further treatment options for your recovery.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Opioid Overdose Crisis
- National Institutes of Health — Physicians writing fewer initial opioid prescriptions, but some high-risk prescribing persists
- The New York Times — A Death Tarnishes Fashion's 'Heroin Look'