We have seen that the time has changed, and the way to release the built-up pressure has been changing, there are instances where people steam off the extra stress by consuming some or other substance that kind of relieves their nerves and provides either excitement or pleasure.
This is why the consumption of drugs generally has increased, without realizing the impacts of the same on the brain and body.
In this article, we will get to know more about what is heroin, how does heroin affect the brain, how we get addicted, and what withdrawal symptoms one experiences.
1. What is Heroin?
Just like other substances of abuse, heroin is a synthetic substance that is derived from the opium poppy plant and is an opioid drug that is injected usually intravenously.
People can also smoke or inhale a powder because it can cross all the barriers of blood and brain through any of these methods.
The effects of heroin are numerous and can be listed as physical, and psychological, basically all leading to the detriment of the body due to its addictive nature.
Like all other drugs that have a high addiction capability. Heroin is also very addictive so once you start consuming it regularly; your body develops a tolerance to the drug.
Due to this, you have to consume larger and larger amounts to get the same effect or the same extent of pleasure and this goes to the extent that you might develop a disorder and there have been many cases of overdose due to the same.
It is so addictive that the US Government outlawed it later to prevent the catastrophic effects on the population which was observed when its consumption was legal, earlier by doctors who prescribed it as painkillers.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, prescription medications including Vicodin and OxyContin have a similar effect on the mind and body as heroin studies from 2011 showed that almost 80 percent of heroin users, used their first heroin with prescription opioids.
2. How Does Heroin Affect the Brain?
The effect of heroin on the brain is extreme and in varied ways. It affects not only the brain stem but also the reward system and the opioid receptors.
After entering the body, heroin gets converted into morphine which in turn binds to the opiod receptors.
The opioid receptors are related to the pain and reward center of the brain, and due to the presence of heroin, creates an intense dopamine rush.
It is this dopamine rush that gives euphoria to the user, it creates the feeling of intoxication in the mind and body and makes heroin addictive.
When the heroin reaches the brain, it goes to the specific neurotransmitters that release dopamine, hence regulating pain and providing pleasure.
But the problem is that the kind of hit that you get from the drug is not the same as when the body naturally releases dopamine.
So, now the release of dopamine will eventually always need the drug push to create the feeling of reward or pleasure.
Another factor that impacts the whole process is the consumption, how much heroin you are consuming, in what frequency, and for how long you have been consuming it.
The end result of all these factors along with the neural working of the drug on the brain depicts the intensity of the rush, the psychological effects on the brain, and the potential of addiction.
3. Effects of Heroin Usage
The most prominent short-term effect of heroin is obviously that short-lived euphoria that you experience after consumption of heroin.
Other short-term effects include dry mouth, heavy limbs, vomiting, drowsiness, and a drop in body temperature.
You can also experience the rush of warmth to the skin, nausea, severe itching, and slowed breathing and heart rate.
But after a long-term usage of heroin people can get addicted and develop a lot of long-term physical and psychological effects.
Long-term effects can be physical like collapsed veins, increased tolerance, and therefore more dependence.
It can lead to an increased risk of a stroke, liver, and kidney damage, and in some cases even brain damage.
Due to long-term consumption, you can have lung infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia, as well as viral infections like HIV and Hepatitis by sharing needles.
Psychological effects of long-term consumption of heroin include the adverse effects on the brain’s reward system as we saw above.
The production of dopamine creates a rush which creates a feeling of pleasure and since it is chemically generated rather than naturally generated; it has major negative effects on the brain.
If we talk just about the brain, even then the damage is huge. Heroin usage leads to neurological imbalances in the brain.
Chronic use leads to a reduction in the white matter which in turn decreases the reasoning and decision-making skills of the brain.
It also leads to impulsive behavior and hormonal imbalances. There can be chances for a chronic user to develop dementia-like symptoms or sometimes inflammations in the brain which would be similar to Alzheimer’s condition.
4. Heroin Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms of heroin can be mild or severe. Mild symptoms include common conditions like nausea, vomiting, sweats, and tremors.
It also leads to muscle aches and spasms, diarrhea, and restlessness. Severe symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, and depression; which eventually lead to rapid heart rate and drug cravings.
When you try to detox from the drug, the craving will be extreme, making the detox all the more difficult. Another problem during the detoxification time is that now the user’s body has a lower tolerance to heroin, so the chance of overdose is easier.
But this is something that is not known to someone who is trying to go ahead with withdrawal, so they consume the same amount in withdrawal.
When this occurs the extreme amount of heroin in the body suddenly leads to slowed breathing and heart rate.
5. Final Thoughts
We have seen how heroin reacts to the body and how the brain is affected to have an understanding that it is something that should be avoided at all costs.
Also considering its addictive nature, it is best that we do not fall prey to any such substance abuse, for a better body, mind, and future.