In the minds of heroin abusers, addiction and depression are often intertwined very closely – and you might have noticed this mentality yourself the more you interact with heroin addicts. Because of the nature of heroin, it also happens to be a very strong opiate that changes the chemistry of your brain, it causes changes in your mood and dependence that leads to addiction.
Is there evidence suggesting a link between the two?
Evidence suggest those heroin users may be right, though – a survey done by Advances in Psychiatric Treatmentestimates that almost half of opioid drug users (48% of them) have gone through depression at certain points in their lives, and turned to the drugs as a source of comfort. When depression occurs in such cases, it is known as Dual Diagnosis, and is very difficult to recover on a long-term basis, unless the user undergoes treatment for both cases.
The bad news is many heroin users do not receive treatment for both conditions, which makes relapse rates very high. This is the reason treating depression and heroin at the same time is important. The key is identifying the conditions early enough while the user is in the recovery process, and take the patient through extensive depression treatment to help them overcome the problem.
How does heroin affect the mind?
Heroin is an opioid that is very common as a recreational drug because of its euphoric effects. It is synthesized from morphine, which is an analgesic from poppy.
The drug works by exerting its effects through binding with certain receptor cells in your brain that are responsive to opiates. The drug changes to morphine in the brain after you consume it through the various methods – injection, smoking or snorting – and then proceeds to slow down the activity of neurons, resulting in a state of euphoria or sedation.
For many users of the drug, it provides a state of intense relaxation. However, the National Alliance on Mental Illness says that individuals with various psychiatric disorders experience more negative effects from the heroin side effects – contrary to opinions from people with depression who say that the drug is a solution to their hopelessness.
The psychological effects of the drug actually contribute to greater signs of depression, since the drug has debilitating effects, and the user goes through negative events after addiction, such as job loss, financial issues, problems in their relationships, and legal obstacles. The physical results from the addiction can lead to very severe emotional distress, including respiratory illnesses, vascular damage, muscle weaknesses and blood-borne illnesses.
Heroin use has a quick effect on the brain, and the brain adjusts very quickly to the drug. Due to this, the psychological and physical dependence develop very quickly. In fact, the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) say that almost a quarter of people that use heroin will get to the point of addiction – at 23 percent. When addiction occurs, the user becomes uncontrollable and impulsive when they have not abused the drug, despite the negative effects of abuse.
What are some of the risk factors of depression?
One of the most challenging aspects for recovery of heroin users, especially those who are undergoing depression, is knowing the root causes of the condition. Contrary to popular opinion, depression is not just being in a low mood.
Some of the cases that may lead to it include stressful social environments, genetic risks, psychological trauma events such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), imbalances in the chemistry of the brain, alcohol and drug abuse, and physical disability.
Treatment is usually challenging, especially when the person is still under the influence of the substance. In addition, there are symptoms of major depression disorder that bear similarities to those of opiate withdrawals – including weight loss, fatigue, poor concentration, and self-isolation. For the case of long-term heroin users, it may be difficult to determine whether they ended up using the substance due to depression, or whether depression was the result of their drug use. This is the reason the more comprehensive treatments pay attention and try to solve both issues for a more certain recovery.
Similarities between heroin withdrawal and depression symptoms
Very many heroin users tend to relapse when they attempt to quit. Even the most determined individuals can find themselves going back to the drug due to the side effects and withdrawal symptoms, most of which are so intense and uncomfortable.
In fact, when you try to give up the drug without professional assistance, you will experience intensely uncomfortable withdrawal signs (early signs) for the next twelve hours. They include muscle pain, nervousness, and problems with sleeping (insomnia), watery eyes, profuse sweating, and a runny nose.
As the body continues to remove the drug from the system, you will go through the late symptoms of heroin withdrawal. These include intense cravings, nausea and vomiting, goose bumps, involuntary muscle and leg movement, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
If you are a casual user, withdrawing from heroin is not life threatening, but heavy users might have very dangerous seizures if they try and withdraw without medical help.
The symptoms can feel like you have a serious flu, but the psychological effects are harder to tolerate, at least for many users. A user can feel extremely depressed when they stay for some week to months without the drug in their system, and this is all because of the effects ion the brain – when the brain is relying on the drug to make you happy, the simple pleasure of living becomes pale in comparison. This is also known as anhedonia – the lack of pleasure.
A major risk to heroin users who are going through depression is suicide. Because the brain is dependent on it, they experience more feelings of hopelessness with life, and they are at a higher risk of committing suicide.
There is a very active link between depression and heroin use – and it is more common than you may think. In case you have a loved one who is going through heroin abuse, it is more likely that depression is the cause or result of their drug use – so click here to find out more information about rehab facilities to help them recover.