Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the world, and thousands will die every year from a heroin overdose. Used for centuries for anything from a cough to pain relief, the potential for addiction and death was not fully realized until 1900. Heroin was made illegal in 1920, leaving millions of addicts desperate for opiate drugs.
Categorically, heroin is a central nervous system depressant, synthesized from the psychoactive chemicals in the opium poppy. Both opium and heroin can result in life-threatening central nervous system depression.
The Effects of Heroin: Addiction and Withdrawals
Snorted, smoked or injected, heroin reaches the brain through the bloodstream quickly. Once there, it binds to the opioid receptors, resulting in the relief of anxiety and pain. In effect, it gives the user a calm, euphoric sensation of escape from reality that can last for several hours.
Addiction occurs upon repeated use of the drug. The user’s brain has been, in essence, “hijacked” by heroin. It becomes dependent on the drug to feel good. In addition, it needs more and more of the drug to achieve the same results (tolerance).
When the user “comes down”, or stops using the drug, withdrawal symptoms occur. They are typically the opposite of what it feels like be high. Withdrawals are also a big incentive for people to keep using. Commonly, this is known as being “dope sick”.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
Depression and Anxiety
Body aches and increased pain sensitivity
Runny nose, tears
Diarrhea, stomach pain and spasms
Nausea and vomiting
Symptoms can begin without hours of the last dose, and can last several days.
While not fatal, symptoms are extremely unpleasant can can result in severe depression and suicidal feelings.