The Tragic Reality of Heroin Addiction: How it Ruins Your Brain

If you or someone you love struggles with heroin addiction, it’s important to understand the tragic reality of this form of substance abuse disorder. It’s not just that heroin addiction can cause financial hardship and health problems, but also that it can significantly damage the structure and function of your brain, even if you don’t suffer from full-blown dependence on the drug. These changes can make it more difficult to overcome your drug use and more likely that you will develop other mental health problems in the future.

What is Heroin?

If you are new to heroin and not sure what it is, then a good place to start is by understanding that heroin is an illegal opiate drug. First created by chemists at Bayer pharmaceutical company in 1874, it was originally intended as a painkiller. However, after some time, its addictiveness made it unpopular with both doctors and patients. But now heroin has become one of the world’s most addictive drugs. What makes it so addictive? One reason why people get addicted to opiates like heroin is that when used regularly (every day or more), they create changes in your brain that make you physically dependent on them.

Another thing that makes heroin addictive is that people develop a tolerance to it, so they have to take more and more of it to get high. Also, heroin acts on your brain in ways that reinforce drug-taking behaviour. For example, it increases levels of dopamine—the feel-good chemical—while also blocking pain signals to your brain so you don’t feel any pain while you are high. As a result, when you stop using heroin, your body wants those pleasurable feelings back and if you don’t use again right away then withdrawal symptoms will set in. This creates intense cravings for heroin which makes it very hard for people to quit their habit.

It is also important to know that there are different kinds of heroin—or at least it is produced in several different ways. There are two main types of heroin: white powder heroin and brown tar heroin. The white powder comes from South America and has a higher purity than brown tar which comes from Mexico and doesn’t have as high a purity rating. If you do try either of these forms of heroin, then be aware that if they haven’t been mixed with other substances, then they will have very small pieces of ground glass in them and if not filtered properly can cause very serious damage to your veins when injected. However, both forms can also be smoked using an ordinary water pipe.

Why Do People Get Addicted to Heroin?

Several theories exist as to why people get addicted to heroin. Many researchers believe that it’s a combination of various factors that ultimately lead an individual to develop an addiction. Other experts argue that genetics play a significant role in who becomes addicted and why some people are more susceptible than others. Either way, there’s no denying that heroin is highly addictive, and it can take over a person’s life quickly, leaving them desperate for more. There are many physical changes in the brain once someone becomes dependent on heroin and can no longer function without it—and those who try to quit may find they have serious difficulty doing so. Fortunately, treatment is available, and rehab centres like Freeman House Recovery can help ease withdrawal symptoms while teaching individuals how to prevent relapse when they return home.


As mentioned above, several factors contribute to a person’s chances of developing an addiction. Some people use heroin as a way to cope with life issues, while others seek out pain relief or feel they aren’t getting enough emotional support from friends and family. Whatever reason someone has for using heroin, their first experience can make a significant impact on whether they continue to use it—or not. When someone becomes dependent on something, they often do everything in their power to get it, which means using more money and resources that otherwise could be spent on more important things such as food and shelter. The road to addiction is long and dangerous; many addicts say it was only when they hit rock bottom that they realised how badly their addiction had affected them and their lives.

How Does Heroin Affect Your Brain?

Heroin activates a part of your brain that is responsible for controlling emotions, learning and memory. This area of your brain is called your reward centre, or mesolimbic pathway. The chemical messengers in heroin pass signals along to your nucleus accumbens—the brain’s pleasure centre—and to other areas that release dopamine. These chemicals tell your body to increase heart rate and breathing, which results in an overall feeling of euphoria. As a result, people taking heroin may feel relaxed and high. However, these pleasurable effects are only temporary and can quickly disappear when a person stops using heroin for extended periods.

Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, muscle aches and restlessness make it difficult to stop using heroin without professional help. Over time, chronic use of heroin can cause permanent changes in your brain chemistry and structure, resulting in long-term health problems such as addiction or even death. Although there is no cure for drug addiction at present, treatment programmes are effective at helping people overcome their addictions. Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine have also been shown to help prevent withdrawal symptoms by blocking opioid receptors from receiving additional opioids from outside sources while still allowing the normal function of non-opioid systems within your body.

As a result, it is extremely important to get help for an addiction problem as soon as possible. Treatment programmes will vary depending on your needs and past treatment history, but treatment can help you regain control of your life. Research shows that people who recover from drug addiction often experience improvements in their mental health, self-confidence and interpersonal relationships with others. With the support and proper care, you can overcome your addiction so you can live a healthy, happy life without drugs or alcohol.

Can You Recover From Heroin Addiction?

What are your chances of recovery if you get treatment for heroin addiction? What happens in rehab for heroin addicts? Let’s find out. It turns out that much of what we think about addiction—where it comes from, what causes it, how to stop it—is wrong or outdated. The biggest myth about drug abuse is that addicts are weak and powerless; actually, they’re often quite strong-willed. A recovering addict once said that his biggest problem was self-sabotage—he’d do everything right until he didn’t want to anymore.

Regardless of where addiction comes from, it takes root in your brain. This is because drugs hijack our reward system—the mechanisms that give us pleasure and encourage us to repeat behaviours that are beneficial for survival, like eating food and having sex. A drug high doesn’t feel all that different from a natural high, because it recruits a similar network of brain regions to get you there. When you use heroin or any other drug, you flood your receptors with dopamine, making them more sensitive than usual and creating a need for even more stimulation. This is called tolerance. Tolerance becomes addiction: You need heroin just to feel normal. 

People who are suffering from addiction have a wide range of personalities, backgrounds and motivations. Because of that, not all treatment options will work for them. But one treatment, in particular, has been shown to help: medications used as part of combination therapy, such as buprenorphine and naltrexone. These drugs essentially help reboot your brain’s reward system so you don’t feel pleasure from heroin use anymore. There are other ways to treat heroin addiction, including counselling and support group therapy, but those are less effective than medications. Can you recover from heroin addiction? If you’re interested in getting clean from opioids—whether it’s heroin or prescription painkillers—you can get better with help at Freeman House Recovery.

The power of addiction lies in its ability to hijack and manipulate your brain.  The changes that occur in your brain’s reward system when you use heroin for a long time change it so that you need heroin just to feel normal. This is why people who are addicted will do anything, including risking their lives, to get more heroin. While there is no easy cure for heroin addiction, some treatment programmes can help you regain control over your life. If you or someone you love has a problem with heroin abuse or dependence, please call +27 12 1111 739 now for more information on treatment options available at Freeman House Recovery. Help is available.


About Freeman House Recovery 

Freeman House Recovery provides a continuum of care for individuals with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. We offer residential treatment programmes as well as detoxification services. Our goal is to help our clients achieve long-term recovery by addressing their physical and mental health needs while providing them with counselling and other supportive services. In addition to offering individualised treatment plans that address each client’s unique needs, we also provide various groups and workshops designed to promote recovery. We are committed to helping our clients achieve sobriety so they can live healthy lives free from addiction.

Freeman House is an upmarket rehab in South Africa. Learn More at

The Tragic Reality of Heroin Addiction: How it Ruins Your Brain

The Tragic Reality of Heroin Addiction: How it Ruins Your Brain

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