The Human Brain and the Effects of Heroin

Heroin Effects on the Brain

by / Tuesday, 05 November 2013 / Published in Drugs, Heroin, Human Brain
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Heroin is a highly addictive opiate drug that is synthesized from morphine. Morphine is naturally derived from opium and is extracted from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Through a series of chemical processes, the morphine is converted into the street drug called heroin. It can resemble cocaine, in terms of its appearance, as it commonly comes in a white or brown powder form. There is also a different derivation called “black tar heroin” and it gets its name from its sticky black appearance. The article further explains heroic effects on the brain.

How the Drug is Used

Users of this drug, typically inject, sniff, snort, and/or smoke it. All four applications transport the drug directly to the brain; although, injecting heroin is immediately felt because it goes directly into the bloodstream, thereby causing addiction to occur quicker. It is important to note that all four methods can facilitate addiction in users. Needless to say, heroin use can lead to serious health problems.

What effects does Heroin have on the Brain?

About 40 years ago, brain researchers made a very important discovery concerning drug addiction and the brain. It was found that the human brain has what are called receptor sites that are tailored for drugs derived from opium. Morphine, a chemical that also is derived from opium, has many medicinal functions and is commonly used as a pain reliever. Morphine has a similar structure to naturally occurring chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that are released into the bloodstream to make humans and other species feel good. They are produced chiefly in the brain. It is interesting to note that endorphins are called natural opiates because of its feel good, euphoric properties.

Heroin mimics endorphins because of the morphine that is present in the drug. So when heroin is administered into the body and is delivered to the brain, it automatically is received by those receptor sites that were designed for endorphins. The intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure that a user feels when taking this drug is, unfortunately, what leads to addiction. The immediate rush that a user feels can last from about one to two minutes, but the high can last as long as five to six hours as the drug permeates throughout the body.

Heroin Addiction and the Brain

Over time, once addiction sets in, tolerance usually goes up and users lose a lot of the euphoric feelings that they were able to achieve at the onset of addiction. The human brain demands that the same level (or more) of opiates much be had in order for the body to function somewhat normally. Hence the adage chasing the dragon gained popularity because users were always chasing the feeling of that first high. Those who are dependent on heroin then continue using it to combat withdrawal symptoms (muscle pain, diarrhea, nausea, cold flashes and restlessness) that can be felt as early as just a couple of hours after the last use. This is because the brain is also in withdrawal mode, sort to speak, because not enough opiates are being had.

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