Heroin, Opium and the Brain

Over the next few weeks I will explore the impact of different drugs on the brain and body.

Heroin and Opium have almost identical affects on the brain and body during use and withdrawal because Heroin and Opium are both opioids made from the poppy plant. The slight difference is that heroin is enhanced in its impact on the body: “Heroin is a semisynthetic narcotic drug, which uses opium as the source of the narcotic during processing. Opium is converted into morphine, which is then synthetized into heroin. It is chemically changed and enhanced in a lab in order to increase the potency of its effects.”  (www. sunrisehouse.com/) For this reason I shall discussed them both together.

Heroin Overdose | Signs, Symptoms & Risks of Heroin Abuse

They are highly addictive drugs often because of the euphoric feelings that result from there use, it is believed that they can become psychologically and physically addictive after just one or two uses. The pleasurable experience heroin and opium offers is a relaxed, happy euphoria that makes you feel warm and sleepy, some even say you get a brain fuzz and feel contentment. People report that they and the world slows down and they feel no pain (this is because the heroin blocks the pain receptors in the brain). However there is a side effect to these drugs that is deadly, because they depress the central nervous system and slow down the chemical messages in the body this leads to suppressed respiration rates, heart rate and blood pressure as well as making them sleepy some users fall into a coma and their breathing slows so much they stop breathing altogether and die. This overdose is common if users stop taking the drug for a few days, consistent use builds a tolerance to the drug, however, only a few days without it this tolerance is lost, so if they were to then take their usual dose they risk overdose, coma and death. Both the drugs, which are derived from the same source as morphine (medical use painkiller) bind to the receptors in the brain that feel pain but that also receive dopamine and other feel good chemicals. This means that more is needed each time as the receptors are full so the brain demands more and more of the drug to feel the same, it becomes physically addictive, however, this can be undone with a replacement drug and detox, but the psychological addiction of the feelings and reasons why someone became addicted can be tougher to deal with, therapy often helps to ease this issue. Not only do users feel cravings, muscle spasms, confusion and itching while they are taking heroin and opium they are at risk of serious blood poisoning and infections like HIV and sepsis, malnutrition, abscesses, lesions, dental and skin issues. It can also cause serious financial and social issues for the user who’s lifestyles often change focusing on nothing but the next fix, leaving them friendless, estranged from family, poor and with self-worth issues. Other issues occur during withdrawal from use, symptoms include: Nausea, Diarrhoea, Abdominal pain, Sweating, Shaking, Nervousness, Agitation, Depression, Muscle spasms, Bone pain, Cravings for the drug, Insomnia, Cold Flushes, Suicidal thoughts, Isolation. People use heroin or opium for many reasons but it is believed some are psychological such as Post Traumatic Stress, Anxiety, Depression and well as because it is part of the life style they crave, these issues will need to be dealt with as well as the withdrawal issues if the user is going to get clean of the drug. Another problem is that heroin and opium use can change the structure of the brain due to continued use.

Beautiful flowering poppy in green grass in field. (papaveraceae) Free Photo

If you’d like some face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at laura@wrightminds.co.uk or on 07598810304