More Than Scissors And Wrapping Paper: Heroin Addiction And The Brain

Scissors And Wrapping Paper Vs. Heroin & The Brain

In our last blog, we referenced a metaphor for heroin addiction which has now become a famous way for understanding the treacherous cycle. Heroin addiction can start off with indescribable experiences of pleasure and euphoria until the brain develops a tolerance and can no longer achieve the same high. Instead of giving up, however, the brain, stays committed to the idea that it can get high again. Chasing the high over and over again, the brain becomes dependent on the life threatening opioid.

Heroin is an opioid drug, derived from the opium poppy plant. Resin from the poppy plant is refined into a tar like or powder like substance, which is the heroin sold on the street. Street grade heroin is rarely pure. In recent years, there has been a surge of heroin overdoses caused by the presence of another opioid called Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, chemically made in a lab, and can lead to an instantaneous overdose. When heroin is pure, it too can cause an immediate overdose, particularly when it is injected intravenously.

Man talking to group

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We have opioid receptors in our brain which are targeted by heroin. There are different kinds of opioids in our brain which have different, specific functions. Generally, opioids are the body’s way of combating pain, which is why narcotic opioid prescription medications are used to treat pain. Opioid substances like heroin turn into morphine once metabolized in the bloodstream and enter the brain. Heroin binds to the opioid receptors, creating the feelings of anesthesia, euphoria, and pain relief which draws men to the drug. The sensations caused by heroin are significantly stronger than the ones naturally created by the body’s endorphins. Such strong sensations also trigger the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain which interacts with the pleasure centers of the brain.

Large amounts of dopamine have an influence on all of the brain’s pleasure centers including the frontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, and the ventral tegmental area. Pleasure is felt throughout the brain and body, creating an extremely strong memory association in the brain: heroin feels good. As the metaphor with the scissors exemplified, the pleasure heroin produces doesn’t last for long. A tolerance builds, creating a threshold for pleasure and causing the brain to need more heroin in order to produce a similar or greater effect. Quickly, however, the brain is no longer capable of creating a greater effect and it struggles to create an even similar effect. In between intoxications, the brain and the body become sick, needing the heroin to stabilize. A terrible pattern begins: use heroin, don’t get high, come off heroin, get sick. The sickness caused by heroin is severely upsetting to the brain, causing it to crave the drug even more. Ongoing, the brain suffers damage, the body becomes weak, and a man becomes increasingly addicted. Cognitive functions decline. The prefrontal cortex is damaged. The ability to choose right from wrong disappears. Heroin has become a total source for pain and suffering when it was once a pain for euphoria and pleasure.

Recovery for men needs to be mind, body, and spirit. At Tree House Recovery we are building men from the ground up with sustainable changes to create a sustainable recovery. Call us today for information on our treatment programs and how we can help you find freedom from addiction:  (855) 202-2138

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