Is It Possible to Get Addicted to Heroin on the First Try?
Following a year of record-setting opioid-related deaths–where drugs killed more people than AIDS at the height of the Epidemic and Americans were more likely to die from overdose than in a car accident–people are beginning to reexamine the true addictive potential of opioids. And, while you’re not likely to become addicted to OxyContin® after taking one pill, addiction researchers are asking: Can you become addicted to heroin after the first try?
In 2017, approximately 494,000 Americans reported trying heroin for the first time; 15,000 people died of a heroin-related overdose.
What Heroin Does to Your Brain
Heroin is a powerful opioid drug made from morphine compounds found in the opium poppy plant. No matter how it is taken, when heroin enters the body, it moves to the brain quickly and starts changing the way the central nervous system functions. In the brain, heroin is converted back to morphine before binding to specific receptors responsible for perceptions of pain and pleasure.
It doesn’t stop there. While heroin dulls sensations of pain and delivers a euphoric rush of pleasure, it’s also sending signals to parts of the brain responsible for the regulation of heart and breathing rates, memory, motor control, alertness, and emotional control (in the brain stem, cortex, and limbic system). The limbic system, in particular, and the reward-response reactions that take place there, play a major role in the development of addiction. Heroin causes this system to release dopamine, leaving the individual with feelings of satisfaction and well-being for a short time–drowsiness and mental impairment follow for hours afterward. Dopamine-caused sensations evolved in all animals to reinforce behavior crucial to their survival. Though the amount and intensity of dopamine released is typically less, other actions that trigger a dopamine response include eating and having sex.
The release of dopamine that comes from abusing heroin and the feel-good buzz it creates– even the first time–leave the brain wanting more. While everyone possesses varying potentials for establishing an addiction, everyone is at risk of developing a physical and psychological dependence on heroin following repeated use.
How Do You Stop a Heroin Addiction?
In about a week, you can completely detox your body and be heroin-free. However, this does not mean that the addiction is cured. Heroin addiction causes a complex network of changes in the brain that are not easily reversed.
Think of addiction and years of drug abuse as an elastic coil that becomes more and more tightly wound around your finger. The longer the coil stays in place, the more damage it does and the longer it will take for that damage to be undone. In the same way, addiction can take years of sobriety before an individual begins to feel truly free and healthy.
To start the process of unwinding from addiction and regaining a healthy life, find an addiction treatment center near you by contacting a dedicated recovery professional today.