The Neurological Effects of Heroin
Heroin is known as an opioid drug, synthesized from morphine. While morphine occurs naturally from Asian poppy plants, there is nothing natural about heroin. It typically looks like a brown or white powder, or as “black tar”, a sticky, black substance. The drug has a dependency rate of 23 percent; this is the percent of people who become addicted after just one use.
The drug is used by injection, inhalation, or smoking. The drug travels to the brain quickly via all three methods, which is why it is among the most dangerous drugs on the market. Addiction happens quickly and often, and heroin use is a chronic relapsing disease. This is due to the changes it causes in the brain.
How it Affects the Brain
Upon entrance to the brain, heroin changes back to its original morphine. This drug binds to the brain cells called opioid receptors. These are located all over the brain, but are concentrated in the reward and pain sections. The receptors are also heavily located in the brain stem, which controls a number of functions essential to existence.
An overdose of this drug often involves breathing suppression. This leads to hypoxia, or a loss of oxygen to the brain. Depending on how long the sufferer has limited oxygen supply, the effects can vary from psychological damage to brain death. Permanent brain damage is also a possibility with overdose.
Heroin produces a euphoric rush, followed by flushed skin, dry mouth, heaviness in the arms and legs, and limited mental functions. After the initial rush, the drug suppresses the user’s brain stem, causing an alternate sleepy to energized state.
Research is currently being conducted into the long term effects of this drug on the brain. One of the noted results was tolerance to the drug, another was dependence on the drug, more so than other illicit drugs or alcohol. Some studies return a deterioration of the white matter in the brain through heroin use.
If you’d like to talk more about heroin effects on the brain, call the Vancouver Home Health Care Agency today.
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