Heroin and Depression

Can Heroin Cause Depression?

Table of Contents

Scientists have long warned about the impact heroin use can have on the brain. We’ll explore the link between heroin and depression and heroin’s risk of addiction, along with recommended treatment.

What is Heroin?

Heroin belongs to the class of drugs known as opioids. It is one of the most addictive substances that has been illegal in the U.S. since 1924.

The most common way to abuse heroin is also the most dangerous: injecting it intravenously. This direct connection to the bloodstream causes an immediate and intense effect.

Heroin has various street names, including:

  • Junk
  • Smack
  • Dope
  • Brown sugar
  • White horse
  • China white

Is Heroin an Opioid?

Heroin is an opioid made from morphine, a potent substance found in opium poppy plants that grow in Asia and South America.

More precisely, heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid made from naturally occurring morphine found in poppy plants that have been chemically processed. It enters the brain quickly and produces an immediate “high.”

Depression and Heroin

Can Heroin Cause Depression?

Heroin and depression are closely linked.

With regular heroin use, brain chemistry begins to change. Heroin is so potent that it can erase the brain’s ability to produce its own dopamine. This means it begins to take over how the user perceives pleasure and satisfaction.

The depleted levels of dopamine, combined with heroin abstinence, can lead to severe depression, hopelessness, and feelings of emptiness and despair.

Heroin use is also associated with a high death rate; 13 times that of their peers!1 One study that analyzed 527 people who used heroin, found that 39.3% had attempted suicide.2 Treatment with antidepressant medication, a family history of suicidal behavior, and alcohol dependence were significant predictors of suicide attempts.

How Could Heroin Make a Depressed Person Feel Better?

When heroin is injected, it takes around 10 seconds for the substance to reach the brain through the bloodstream. The opioid attaches to the receptors, leading to a release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters. The result is a surge of euphoria and pleasure. However, these effects are only temporary. Heroin does nothing to treat depression and can make it worse.

Can You Become Addicted to Heroin?

Regular heroin use can lead to a tolerance developing to the substance. When tolerance is developed, more and more must be taken to experience the same high.

In time, the body becomes dependent on it. Then, when substance use stops, withdrawal symptoms begin. Symptoms may include chills, vomiting, bone pain, and cold flashes, among other things.

Some factors can increase the risk of developing a drug addiction, such as family or personal history of substance abuse, history of severe depression or anxiety, exposure to high-risk individuals, and history of risk-taking behavior.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

One of the most effective treatments for heroin addiction is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This type of treatment aims to help ease the withdrawal symptoms associated with detox.3 Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine are the most commonly used medications. They activate the brain like heroin, without the negative side effects of drug abuse.

What is the Heroin Epidemic?

Between 1999-2018, an estimated 450,000 people died from an overdose involving opioids. The opioid epidemic came in three waves, the first wave beginning with prescription opioids, the second with heroin, and the third with synthetic opioids.

The second wave of the heroin epidemic began in 2010 and saw a staggering increase in overdose deaths involving heroin.

Heroin overdose deaths have increased by five times between 2010 and 2018.4 In 2010, 3,036 people died from a heroin overdose compared to 14,996 people in 2018.5

This information should not replace a visit to a doctor or treatment center. If you are concerned that you or a loved one might be suffering from heroin addiction, ask for professional help today.


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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