Despite its illegality, heroin still attracts many people to experiment with it. As an exceptionally potent – and addictive – opiate drug, it produces an enormous burst of profoundly pleasurable euphoria during the early phases of use. However, it rapidly induces neurochemical changes in the brain that lead to a dangerous dependency. The more that someone uses heroin initially, the more likely they are to fall into heroin addiction in a very short space of time.
The dangers of heroin addiction fall into two interlocking categories. Heroin exploits the human body’s natural attraction to opiate chemicals – the brain especially is laden with opioid receptors that bind with naturally produced endorphins that emerge in response to pain or physical exertion. As well as relieving pain, they generate buoyant and pleasurable feelings of well-being. Heroin binds with the body’s opiate receptors far more rapidly, and delivers a massive kick of euphoria: experiences that render the natural bodily responses to endogenously released endorphins feeble in comparison.
These dual processes – biochemical and emotional – frequently encourage and drive heroin users to repeat that experience of pleasurable intoxication. However, this is where the dangers of heroin addiction become more malignant and enduring, creating a vicious spiral. Put simply, recurrent use induces increasing chemical tolerance, which in turn sponsors the search for ever-larger doses to repeat the euphoric feelings. The brain undergoes neurochemical changes and the user’s personality and priorities undergo a pathological alteration – the sole purpose of many addicts’ lives is simply to get to the next “fix” of heroin, whatever the consequences.