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A Look at Heroin Cravings

If you or a loved one are seeking treatment for alcohol or substance abuse, please call our partner facility today:
The PAC Program
(866) 516-8266


Ever experience a deep, deep yearning for something? That’s sort of how a drug craving feels. However, cravings for heroin are sharper, stronger, and far more intense – simple as that.

But how exactly does it feel? It’s something most non-addicts wonder, either because of what they’ve seen on TV or what they’ve witnessed from addicted friends/family.

The majority of those who withdraw from heroin experience a strong desire to consume more; that’s obvious just from observation. However, many people don’t realize that the cravings stem partly from a desire to stop withdrawal symptoms. We often think of drug abuse as a constant, selfish pursuit for pleasure, but for most heroin addicts, the “high” is a thing of the past: now they use heroin solely to feel normal.

Just a few hours after using, the clock starts ticking: use more heroin ASAP or prepare for some seriously unpleasant side effects which make day-to-day life unmanageable. Without heroin, addicts experience physical illness – which many describe as a “super-flu.” Everything aches, but no sitting position feels comfortable. You know you’re starving, but nothing is less appealing than food – even your favorite foods. Your throat is dry, but you don’t feel thirsty. A heroin craving won’t kill you, but it will cause you to feel very, very, very uncomfortable.

Cravings are the result of memories – memories linked to the effect of drugs on the brain’s biochemistry. Imaging studies are now able to prove this. They reveal intense brain activation when addicts are shown photographs of pipes, cocaine, heroin, or other stimulating paraphernalia. When memories of past use hit the brain, the whole body tingles with anticipation. Every fiber in your being screams: “Yes! This is it! Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

Normal, non-addicted people feel this sort of anticipation, too, when presented with sex, nutrient-dense foods – essential survival tools. Heroin addiction, once in action, becomes as deeply ingrained in the brain as our most basic evolutionary instincts.

There’s hope, though. Memories of use can be replaced with more memories of sobriety if you can make sobriety happen – which you can, with the help of treatment. A combination of psychotherapies, medicinal aid, and personal drive can actually undo the behaviors you learned from your time using. Opiate substitutions like Soboxone can complement the educational aspects of treatment by reducing lingering cravings, which can distract from the former. Some even act as relapse safeguards by blocking opiate receptors. (Even if you relapse, you won’t feel anything, so it won’t stunt your progress.)

Although outpatient treatment is always an option, it’s not the best choice when it comes to serious addictions. Opiate addictions are seldom mild. If you’re struggling with heroin abuse, prescription pill abuse, or any other opiate problem, we recommend that you contact The PAC Program immediately