Heroin addiction is not a behavior; rather, addiction is a state of being for the brain. An addicted brain differs greatly from a healthy brain. A marked difference between the two concerns brain chemistry. A healthy brain functions normally as a result of various interactions amongst neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that evokes pleasure, regulates motivation (a process that prompts the a person to take certain actions in expectation of a reward).


If you have a healthy brain, dopamine motivates you to do things necessary for your survival (such as eating). However, in an addicted brain, the chemicals involved in motivation and reward malefaction. This article describes the inter-workings of a heroin addicted brain and suggests several treatment options.

Road to an Addicted Brain

Your healthy brain moves toward becoming an addicted brain upon your first “high” from heroin. Heroin is a highly addictive opiate (drug in the opium family) derived from morphine (a natural substance that comes from Asian poppy plants). Heroin’s addictive properties are attributed to the way it acts on the brain. When you take it in to your body, it causes dopamine to be produced by neurons at an increased rate. Because dopamine controls the sensation of pleasure, you experience this surge in dopamine as intense pleasure.

Your entire life to revolve around getting more heroin, which produces disastrous results.

Possible Effects of Having an Addict’s Brain

Instead of motivating you to survive, when you are addicted to heroin your brain is primarily motivated by the the surge of dopamine that heroin elicits. Consequently, you experience intense cravings that gradually cause your entire life to revolve around getting more heroin, which produces disastrous results. Being addicted to heroin eventually negatively impacts every aspect of your life including your health, relationships with family/friends, career/finances, and your own character/self-image. Sure, heroin gives you a pleasurable rush, but in exchange it demands everything that you hold most dear.

The following are some possible effects heroine addiction:

  • Death or coma by overdose
  • Tooth decay
  • Weakened immune system
  • Depression
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Decrease in memory/intellectual performance
  • Social Isolation
  • Losing your:
    • loved ones
    • career
    • freedom (becoming incarcerated)

The Road Back to Health: Treatment

The long-term risks far outweigh the short-term high heroin provides. What, then, can you do to begin to wean your addicted brain off heroin? Fortunately, there are several ways of treating heroin addiction. However, none of these options is easy or a cure-all.


There are many prescription drugs that are designed to treat heroin addiction. They help restore the brain’s natural equilibrium. Different types of medicines achieve this end by different means.


Psychotherapy cannot remedy your brain chemistry, but it can address issues that initially prompted you to seek out drugs.

Inpatient Treatment

This is a hospital/residential setting where every part of your day pertains to recovery and staff/nurses are present to ensure your safety. It might be best to go to a residential setting if you can cover the cost of treatment because you will be able to quit heroin with the help of drugs that reduce withdrawal symptoms in a controlled manner. You will also have the support of fellow patients.


Outpatient treatment usually builds upon a person’s foundation of sobriety after completing an inpatient program. However, it can be helpful for whom inpatient substance abuse treatment is not available. Outpatient treatment consists of individual therapy, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, etc.

Final Thoughts

With the will to achieve it, treatment, and social support, you can revert your addicted brain back to its original state and have a healthy brain once more.

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