When people discuss the use and abuse of drugs, they often suggest that heroin is the most dangerous drug available. The implication is that heroin is so powerful and so addictive that people who take the drug are almost certain to develop dependence.

It might sound like an exaggeration, but in reality, heroin is remarkably addictive. Many people who take the drug recreationally find that they quickly transition to a form of drug use that’s compulsive and impossible to control. Parsing the research conducted on heroin can make the addictiveness level of this drug a little easier to understand.

Heroin and the Brain

Drug addicted brainAn addiction is characterized by a psychological need for drugs that surpasses the user’s ability to control the use of drugs. Those changes begin in the cells of the brain, and research suggests that heroin impacts key portions of the brain to such a degree that addiction might inevitably follow use. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, receptors for heroin are located in portions of the brain that are responsible for reward and for the perception of pain.[1]

This means that people who take heroin feel no pain or discomfort at all, and the portion of their brains that record and remember pleasurable experiences are working overtime.

Since heroin is so powerful, its presence taxes and stresses brain cells. If the drug is presented to the body on a repeated basis, those cells can become fatigued or even burned out. A user might need to take in more heroin to combat this burn, and in time, the user might need heroin in order to avoid painful physical symptoms associated with withdrawal.

Modes of Heroin Abuse

While the chemical structure of heroin and its impact on the brain might be partially responsible for its addictiveness level, the ways in which heroin users introduce the drug to the body might also play a role.

Unlike some drugs that are swallowed and which enter the body relatively slowly, heroin users typically employ fast delivery systems, including:

  • Injection
  • Snorting
  • Smoking
  • Suppositories
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These methods allow all of the power of heroin to hit the body in a gigantic wave that overwhelms and overpowers. Rather than feeling slightly impaired in a slow burn, users are suddenly vaulted into a new realm of experience. This is the sort of transformation the brain tends to remember, and it tends to make heroin much more addictive than other types of substances that enter the body through oral routes.

Finding Help for Drug Addiction

No matter what method the person you love uses in order to take in heroin, you can to do something to help make the abuse stop. If left untreated, addictions to heroin can prove fatal, but treatment really can make a big difference. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions about heroin abuse and the available treatment options at Michael’s House. You are not alone. Call us now at 760-548-4032.


[1] National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is Heroin?” January 2017. Accessed May 1, 2017. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin