Why Can’t I Stop Using Heroin? – The Heroin Addiction Cycle

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As one of the most aggressively addictive drugs on the market, heroin use quickly takes on a life of its own when used on a regular basis. Anyone who’s struggled with heroin abuse well knows of the hold this drug takes over the body and mind; a hold that can stay with a person long after he or she stops using.

In effect, the heroin addiction cycle only builds in momentum the longer a person keeps using this drug. Understanding how this cycle works can help you take the needed steps towards getting treatment help.

Call our toll-free helpline at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? to speak with one of our addiction specialists about available heroin addiction treatment options.

The Heroin Addiction Cycle

The “High” Effect

Heroin Addiction Cycle

Heroin abuse creates chemical imbalances in the brain, making it nearly impossible to function without the drug.

The “high” sensation that heroin produces starts the ball rolling and becomes the “carrot-on-the-stick” from there on out. As relaxing and calm as it may seem, heroin places an incredible strain on the brain’s chemical pathways, forcing the release of massive amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals through the body’s central nervous system.

According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, with repeated use, heroin’s interactions in the brain start to have lasting effects in terms of changing how neurotransmitter-producing brain cells function while creating chemical imbalances along the way. These changes lay the groundwork for a developing addiction problem.

The Withdrawal Episodes

According to the University of Arizona, after using heroin for weeks at a time, a person will likely start to experience withdrawal episodes whenever the effects of the drug wear off. In effect, withdrawal episodes become the first visible sign of the heroin addiction cycle in motion.

During withdrawal, uncomfortable physical symptoms coupled drive a person right back to using again. This cause-effect pattern will continue on indefinitely with withdrawal symptoms increasing in severity along the way.

Symptoms commonly experienced include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety

Who is Most Likely to Overdose on Heroin?

The Cravings

Last, but not least, the drug cravings that develop out of a growing heroin addiction reflect the damaging effects of heroin on the mind. As brain chemical imbalances worsen, the brain’s reward system soon grows dependent on the effects of the drug.

The reward system is designed to prioritize behaviors and activities that produce positive or pleasurable results. It’s this system that determines your thought content, motivations, priorities and ultimately your behaviors.

The drug craving and compulsive drug-using behaviors that come with heroin addiction result from damage done to the brain reward system.


In effect, the heroin addiction cycle may start small, but soon snowballs into a self-perpetuating pattern that hijacks a person’s thinking, motivations and behaviors. These conditions account for why it’s so hard for a person to stop using this drug on his or her own.

Even in cases where a person does manage to stop using heroin, the effects had on the brain reward system create an addiction-based mindset that can persist for months or even years after stopping drug use. If you’re wanting to take back your life from the effects of heroin addiction, getting needed treatment help offers the best chance of living a drug-free life.

We can help you find a treatment program that’s right for you. Call our toll-free helpline at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? to speak with one of our addiction counselors.

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