For people who do not suffer from the disease of addiction, understanding why a loved one wants to start using, or continues to use, heroin can be confusing. Heroin is a drug derived from morphine and users experience its high from it rapidly binding to the brain’s natural opioid receptors, especially those that are responsible for things such as pain, pleasure, heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. Once heroin is bound to these receptors, a sense of a “rush” or euphoria begins to take place. The disease of addiction helps facilitate an increased pace of heroin use, often leaving addicts stranded and unable to ever stop on their own.

Most people who end up addicted to heroin don’t usually go into using with the idea that they will become hooked. Why some individuals are more susceptible to addiction over others is still unknown; however, increased use, an increased tolerance (meaning more and more is needed to achieve the same high), and withdrawal symptoms being present when use is stopped, (shaking, sweating, cravings) are sure signs that a substance use disorder is present. Continued use of heroin happens for many reasons. If addiction is present, an addict stopping on their own might be impossible. At this stage, medical advice and treatment might be needed to intervene as heroin use is psychologically and physically at an extreme. Use also might continue in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms from starting. As use tolerance builds, the highs become shorter and the “come down process” (where the body is coming off of the drug) is harder. Users may often continue to use (despite wanting to stop) in order to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Others may even have dug themselves into a physical, mental, and emotional hole where suicidal overdose is just right around the corner.

To say exactly why each individual continues to use is difficult. It could even be a combination of the reasons that were previously listed. Other common uses tend to be connected to emotional deprivation, childhood or traumatic experiences, and management for physical pain. Some drug experts have found large links between prescribed painkillers for injuries or pain management and a connection to an opioid addiction. Some heroin users started off by getting into a car accident (or other physical injury) and were prescribed painkillers. Later, they eventually misused the prescriptions (wanting a stronger and cheaper high) and started using heroin as a painkiller replacement or when their prescriptions ran out. This phenomenon was also linked to the opioid epidemic and an increase in opioid overdoses across the United States.

Heroin use can be started and maintained for a variety of reasons. It may even be hard for professional help to get to the bottom of what is motivating an individual’s drug use. What can be done however is to identify if a loved one is an addict and then contacting professional help to advise what steps should be taken next. Heroin addiction usually happens over a length of time and the treatment process may look similar as well, usually to help rule out and get to the bottom of all the reasons for the addict’s use. Treatment and recovery helps give the addict many more reasons to live a sober life.