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How Does Heroin Abuse Affect Your Mental Health?

How Does Heroin Abuse Affect Your Mental Health?

The prevalence of heroin abuse and addiction today has reached shocking proportions.  It caused more than 14,019 fatal overdoses in 2019, and the numbers are rising.   Yet, the impact of heroin abuse isn’t restricted to fatal overdoses. Heroin users struggle with the negative effects of the drug in many other ways. 

Heroin is one of the leading causes of the opioid epidemic America faces today.  It is an opioid that is 50 times stronger than morphine.  The euphoric effects it produces are almost immediate.  Also, heroin addiction can occur with only a few doses.  Soon, the person needs more and more of the drug to get the desired effects.  Over time, the endless cycle of getting high, coming down, and seeking more of the drug becomes their primary focus in life.  Continued heroin use will lead to serious physical and mental problems.

How Does Heroin Abuse Cause Mental Health Problems

To better understand how this substance can cause so much suffering and damage, we need to know how heroin works in the body.  What happens when heroin enters the brain to cause mental health problems that ruin a person’s life?

  1. Heroin acts on the brain’s natural opioid receptors.  These receptors regulate how a person perceives pain.  They also control how an individual responds to the sensation of reward.
  2. The chemical make-up of heroin causes it to work faster than other opioids.  If a person injects heroin, it enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain in 10 seconds.
  3. Heroin then activates and overstimulates the brain’s opioid receptors.  This effect gives the user a sense of contentment and bliss that other drugs can’t produce.
  4. When heroin use continues for long periods, the structure of the brain changes.  These changes are irreversible in some cases.  The changes also erode a person’s ability to control behavior, make decisions, and respond to stimuli.
  5. The brain produces extra opiate receptors to compensate for the continued presence of the drug. Dopamine, which controls how a person responds to pleasure, is also affected by heroin.  The brain’s ability to produce dopamine slows or stops.  This effect leaves a person unable to experience pleasure without the drug in their system.

As a result of heroin’s power, a user experiences various mental health problems that can completely alter the course of their life.

Mental Health Disorders Caused by Heroin Abuse

Heroin abuse can lead to short-term and long-term physical and mental health issues.  For this discussion, we will focus on the mental health problems experienced by heroin abusers.

Changes in a person’s brain caused by repeated heroin use can lead to the following psychological problems:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal ideations

Heroin abuse can also cause disruptions in brain functions that control the following:

  • Thinking
  • Learning
  • Decision-making
  • Ability to focus
  • Memory 
  • Processing information

The consequences of heroin abuse can also affect the person’s family, friends, and communities.  Many relationships are broken due to a person’s drug use behaviors. Also, heroin-related crime destroys many neighborhoods, especially in inner-city areas.  Furthermore, the financial burden on our government for law enforcement, incarcerations, health care, hospitalizations, and treatment programs is staggering.  

For these reasons and more, helping individuals get treatment for heroin abuse before more damage occurs is vital.

Heroin Abuse and Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues 

Some heroin users have preexisting mental health problems that contributed to their heroin abuse.  Things such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem can lead a person to experiment with drugs as a coping mechanism.  But, as they continue using heroin, other mental health problems can arise, making it more difficult to quit using the drug.  

When heroin abuse and mental health problems are present at the same time, simultaneous treatment of both issues is the best option.  Why?  Because addiction is a complex disorder that involves physical, emotional, and social aspects. Effective treatment must target each of those factors to ensure lasting recovery.  Without the skills and knowledge to manage their emotions, a person is more likely to continue using heroin as an escape tool.

Mental health problems may be the cause or effect of heroin use.  Regardless, the outcome is the same no matter how it began.  The person’s life and health suffer adverse consequences either way.  

Seeing Beyond the Stigma Surrounding Heroin Use

We must change the stigma surrounding heroin and help people get the treatment they need.  It’s unfortunate that many people still think of heroin users as weak-willed individuals who could quit the drug if they wanted to badly enough.  The truth is, few people can quit heroin on their own.  When the potent addictive qualities of the drug take hold, the person is powerless to resist the cravings for more of the drug.  

Think of the overdose statistics as individuals, not just numbers. Heroin stole their chance to reach their full potential in life.  Each number represents a life ruined or lost due to heroin abuse.  These individuals did not make a conscious choice to become addicted to heroin.  Yet, they continue to suffer the consequences.

Get Specialized, Accredited Treatment for Heroin Abuse Today

Heroin addictions are on the rise and becoming more deadly.  For instance, many street dealers lace heroin with other dangerous chemicals such as fentanyl to increase profits and make the drug more potent.  Unsuspecting buyers have no idea what is in the drug they purchase.  

Of course, effective treatment is the best solution for heroin addiction.  At Cycles of Change Recovery, we want to be part of that solution.  Our accredited, comprehensive treatment program gives clients an individualized approach that addresses their specific needs.  We focus on helping a person heal physical damages and emotional trauma caused by heroin abuse.  . Our goal is for clients to complete our program with the confidence, motivation, and skills to rebuild their lives.

If you’re struggling with heroin abuse, the best time to make a change is today.  Take the first step toward addiction recovery.  Call us now.  Our caring, skilled professionals will help you overcome addiction so you may enjoy the healthy, productive life you deserve.  


drugabuse.gov/ – Overdose Death Rates


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