Heroin and the brain
The brain produces endorphins on its own. They are responsible for causing pleasure and helping to ease pain. Exercise releases endorphins which is why individuals feel good after exercising. When a person takes opiates, such as heroin, it’s like dumping a truckload of endorphins into the brain, giving a feel good sensation, and numbing any pain. Regular use of heroin causes the brain to stop producing endorphins as the receptors are already over loaded.
This comes into play in part when withdrawing. When a person stops taking heroin the lack of natural endorphins leaves them feeling pain. After detoxing, the brain will start to produce endorphins again. This is part of the reason there is such a high relapse rate among heroin and opiate users. The mental and physical discomfort can last for some while, producing cravings to ease the discomfort.
Long term psychological effects of Heroin abuse
Long term psychological use: Becoming addicted to heroin leads to individuals losing the ability to cope emotionally and responsibly. The drug would have masked the uncomfortable emotions such as guilt and fear. Thus, when individuals abstain from heroin they are often emotionally unstable and struggle to understand their own emotions. Decision making and normal everyday mundane routines become difficult to undertake. Psychologically it could be said that heroin addicts need help to learn how to cope with their emotions. It can be an isolating experience learning to live without the drug as family and friends lack knowledge and understanding of the transitional process of the psychological impact on the addict.
Depression: Many individuals who have been addicted to heroin have a period of depression following detox. This is understandable due to the complex nature of emotional difficulties. Whereas the heroin has created a good feeling in the individual they are now left with feelings such as fear, guilt, anger, sadness, all of which have been masked by the opiate. Depression often sets in if the addict is unable to access the help they need.
It could be said that society spends much time and financial resources focused on stopping drug use but little on offering support following abstinence. Depression often is a key factor in relapse.
Help for Addicts
Local authorities employ agencies that offer support to heroin addicts. However, the support may be a substitute substance, methadone, that may be perceived as being yet another addictive substance. There is little or no help with emotional and psychological damage caused by heroin. This may be due to the fact that many of those employed in the area of substance misuse do not have the benefit of training or information necessary to work with heroin addicts. Some people with addictions problems are fortunate enough to access residential treatment. The treatment process supports addicts through a detox and offers group therapy.
Heroin addiction and the 12 step philosophy
The twelve step philosophy has been working throughout the world for many years and has been successful in helping many people through their addiction problems. The philosophy is grounded in helping individuals cope with their emotions and ‘ups and downs’ of everyday life. There is ongoing twenty-four hour support for as long as individuals wish to access it. Through this process individuals overcome depression and learn to cope fully with their emotions.