How does heroin interact with the body?

Heroin is a dangerous drug that causes both temporary and permanent damage to your body. What does heroin do to your body? Find out what consequences you can expect if you abuse heroin long-term.

Heroin is an opioid, and like its prescription counterparts, it impacts specific receptors in your brain to cause the euphoric high it’s known for. What many people don’t realize is that the impact isn’t a temporary boost to the happy cells of the brain — it’s actually a physical change in how the brain functions.

Compounds within the drug bind to mu-opioid receptors in your brain. That causes parts of your brain to go into overdrive, creating more dopamine than is required. It’s the dopamine that causes the high.

Some people minimize the serious consequences of this brain-changing activity by noting that dopamine itself is a natural product of your body. While that’s true, the way your brain produces dopamine when heroin is introduced isn’t natural, and it can lead to a variety of physical, mental and emotional consequences.

woman thinking about what heroin does to your body
sign to the road to recovery from heroin addiction

How heroin creates a physical dependency

The National Institute on Drug Abuse calls heroin “highly addictive.” The euphoria — however brief — that comes with using heroin can be a draw to individuals, especially if they are dealing with stress, depression or other issues. The high itself lasts only a few minutes to about half an hour in many cases, though, which causes individuals to seek out more heroin almost immediately.

Over time, individuals can build up a tolerance to heroin, which means they need more of the substance to experience the same high. At the same time, repeated use of the drug trains the brain and body to expect a higher-than-normal dopamine level. Use heroin long enough (and it doesn’t take very long at all) and your body begins to think those dopamine levels are normal. That leads to withdrawals when there isn’t enough heroin in your body to cause the high; your body actually thinks something is wrong and is sick. This is physical dependency — one factor in addiction.

Short- and long-term effects of heroin

Aside from changes in the functionality of your brain and the development of physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, heroin can impact your body and life in other ways.

The immediate impact of heroin usually has to do with the impact in your brain. It’s not just the receptors that control pleasant feelings that can be affected. Heroin can also impact brain receptors that control functions in your body such as your heart rate or breathing. At its worst, heroin can bring your heart rate to dangerous levels or cause you to stop breathing correctly, landing you in the hospital via an overdose.

Less severe effects on your body can include dry mouth, itching, nausea, flushed skin and moving in and out of unconsciousness.

Long-term heroin use can have a variety of mental and physical implications. Evidence suggests that continued use of heroin can deteriorate brain function. Other long-term impacts to your body can include:

  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Heart problems
  • Insomnia
  • Mental health disorders
  • Sexual or reproductive dysfunction
  • Complications of the lungs

It’s never too late to reclaim your life from heroin addiction. Whether you’re just developing a physical dependency or have struggled with heroin abuse for years, call us today at 877-284-0353  to find out about heroin rehab options. Don’t wait for heroin to take a continued toll on your body.



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