What Does Heroin Do To The Brain?

Starting at a very young age, children are warned against taking illegal drugs like heroin, simply with the warning that drugs are “bad.” As we get older, many people reach adulthood without a full comprehension of what exactly makes a drug like heroin “bad.” Of course, we know that heroin and other illegal drugs cause addiction, which can cause serious damage to your health and personal life, but what exactly is that damage? The damage that heroin causes can be seen both in the body and the brain, with the damage to the brain being often irreversible. To finally understand what heroin does to the brain, let’s take a closer look at this dangerous drug and its effects on the human brain.


How Opioids Like Heroin Affect The Brain

Heroin and other synthetic opioids are a derivative of the opium poppy and create a euphoric rush and relaxed state in the human body and brain.

Heroin is capable of affecting the brain in this manner because it binds to the brain’s opioid receptors. Opioid receptors have several functions in the brain, but they primarily work to produce the body’s natural pain-relieving response. Opioid receptors also regulate reward, encouraging the brain to produce chemicals like dopamine. 

When the synthetic opioids in heroin bind to the opioid receptors, they take the place of the body’s natural ability to produce opioids, creating a massive shift in the delicate balance of the brain.

Heroin also causes slowed breathing, because the opioid receptors are responsible for the function of the lungs, which is why long-term heroin use can lead to some major lung issues down the road.


Heroin Does Long-Term Damage To The Brain

There are many ways that heroin damages the brain, but essentially, they all boil down to the fact that heroin use upsets the balance of the brain and stops it from working properly. Using heroin long-term creates a chemical imbalance, where the brain cannot work on its own and becomes dependent on heroin to function normally.

This chemical dependence is the reason that withdrawal symptoms occur when heroin use stops. The brain cannot properly function on its own which causes the body to have an intense physical reaction as it tries to rebalance itself.

Another very scary, long-term type of brain damage that can occur from heroin use includes the deterioration of the brain’s white matter which makes it extremely difficult to reason and make logical decisions, as well as making one more susceptible to stress and have difficulty regulating behavior.

Long-term heroin use also creates hormonal and neurological imbalances, making a person far more likely to experience depression, chronic fatigue, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis, seizures, dementia, and Parkinson’s among other neurological disorders.


Chronic Heroin Use Can Cause Symptoms That Mimic Alzheimer’s

One of the most intense effects of heroin use on the brain was uncovered by a 2020 study and is currently being investigated by other scientists. This study found that long-term heroin use created a form of low-grade inflammation in the brain, as well as caused a buildup of proteins. These two factors combined cause the brain to appear the same way that a brain suffering from Alzheimer’s does. This very concerning study shows that long-term heroin use can cause immense cognitive decline and has many very dangerous side effects.


If you are suffering from a dependency on heroin or other opioids, you need to contact Fritz Clinic of Alabama. For over 35 years Fritz has been helping people like you heal from opioid addiction and get their lives back on track. Call or contact Fritz Clinic today to begin your journey to healing from opioids.