Heroin use has increased across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Heroin users nowadays are predominantly white singles in their late 20’s living outside large urban areas. The average age of first heroin use is 24 years old. As heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths. Because heroin is classified as schedules I and IV illicit drug, many users rack up arrest records.
Heroin & Dual Diagnosis
Heroin use can alter brain chemistry, causing mood changes, suicidal behavior, psychological dependence and addiction. Unless the user is treated for both conditions, it is likely that he or she will relapse.
- A new study from Health Education’s Heroin Prevention Project indicates that almost 75% of those addicted to heroin have a concurrent mental health condition, such as depression or schizophrenia.
- A recent study estimates that 48% of opiate users have experienced depression at some point in their lives.
When depression and substance abuse are treated simultaneously, depressive symptoms often improve. Opiate addicts who go through residential rehab or methadone maintenance treatment have significant improvement in their conditions once they learn how to cope with emotions, direct their thought processes, and live a healthy lifestyle.
The dangers and risks cannot be understated when it comes to understanding heroin’s effects on the brain and body. There are many reasons for addiction to occur, some of them include the following:
Individuals with a first-degree relative with addiction disorder are more prone to become addicted themselves, though genetics alone are not the only factor.
Repeated drug use changes the way the brain reacts and responds to stimuli. Heroin disrupts communication inside and between the brain’s cells. More drug is needed to compensate for lack of neurotransmitters which leads to dependence and addiction.
Socio-economic factors, as well as family beliefs and attitudes and peer influence, affect an individual’s choices about drug use. Homes, where drug use is more acceptable and prevalent, may cause more lenient behavior and attitudes towards them. Environmental factors may include using drugs as a way of dealing with stressors, difficult circumstances or life events.
Untreated or undiagnosed mental illness plays a role in drug use. This may lead to self-medication by use of drugs to tolerate or cope with symptoms of the disorder or illness.