Around the world, drug addiction is an infamous topic of discussion. The people addicted to different kinds of drugs range from a teenager to a 50-year old person. What causes this addiction? Is it some kind of natural phenomenon? Heroin is a common term in the drug world. The world has heard of it numerous times, but do we know if it acts as a depressant? Read on to know it in detail!
1. Drugs and Society
A chemical substance that causes an alteration in an organism’s physiology and psychology when consumed is called a drug. Drugs are different from food and substances that provide nutritional support. One can consume drugs by inhaling, injecting, smoking, absorbing via a patch, dissolving under the tongue, or ingesting.
In terms of pharma, a drug is a chemical substance that produces a biological effect when consumed. A medication or medicine, also called a pharmaceutical drug, is a chemical particle or substance used to cure, treat, and prevent a disease and improve one’s well-being. Conventionally, drugs used for medicinal purposes were obtained through extraction from medicinal plants.
Drugs that affect the functioning of the central nervous system, bringing a change in mood, perception, or consciousness, are psychoactive drugs. These kinds of drugs are divided into groups like anti-depressants, depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens. They have been useful in treating multiple diseases, including mental disorders, across the globe.
Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol are the most commonly used drugs worldwide and are recreational drugs because they are used for delight rather than medicinal utilization. All drugs can have potential consequences, and abuse of several psychoactive drugs causes physical dependence or addiction.
2. Understanding The Opioid Epidemic
A disease or medical condition affecting your behavior and brain activities can be called an addiction. When you are dependent on drugs, you completely tend to rely on them and always will have the urge to take them, irrespective of their consequences. The earlier you treat your addiction, the less you risk developing a serious condition.
Drug addiction doesn’t only mean being dependent on heroin, cocaine, or other illicit substances. There are high chances of you getting addicted to nicotine, sleep and anti-anxiety medications, and other legal substances. You can also become dependent on illegally acquired narcotic pain medications or opioids. Opioids played a key role in about two-thirds of the total deaths caused by drug overdose in the States in 2018.
In the beginning, you might like how a drug makes you feel, and you could think you will be able to control yourself. However, since these substances affect your brain, over time, your brain’s function will be altered, and this can lead you to lose control of your behavior.
It is also important to understand that addiction and misuse have different contexts. Drug misuse is when you take more than the dose prescribed or illegally consume substances. You may do it to release stress, feel happy, or avoid reality, but you can stop these unhealthy habits if you want to.
Addiction, on the other hand, is when you can’t refrain from consuming substances, even if it destroys your health completely, and causes you financial, emotional, and other issues for you and your close ones. The urge to be drugged can take up your whole day, even if you feel like quitting.
Physical dependence and tolerance are different from addiction. Cases of physical dependence lead to withdrawal symptoms after you decide to quit the substance suddenly. When your body becomes accustomed to a substance, it becomes less effective over time, which is what tolerance is.
3. Staying Sober
If you are suffering from addiction, it isn’t a flaw or a sign of weakness. But you will have to have a lot of willpower to overcome that addiction. Drug abuse can alter your brain functions, leading to powerful urges, and the need to give in to that urge makes sobriety seem difficult to achieve.
The first and toughest step towards recovery is to acknowledge that you have a problem and are trying to make a change. It is also normal if you aren’t completely sure if you are ready to recover or not and if you have what it takes. Your first concern regarding your addiction to a prescription drug will always be whether you will be able to find an alternate solution.
Committing to change requires you to change many things, including how you deal with stress and anxiety, what you do in your pastime, who is allowed into your life, what is your perception of yourself, and the prescription and over-the-counter drugs you intake.
It is common to feel conflicted about giving up drugs of your choice, even if it puts your life in danger. Recovery requires motivation, time, and support, but by committing, you can regain control of your life and overcome your addiction.
Whenever you decide to go through the recovery phase, remember some important points, which are the reasons you want to change, recall your previous attempts at recovery and whether they worked or not, set goals, remove everything that reminds you of your addiction at your home and office, and lastly talk to your family and friends about your commitment and ask for their support.
4. Heroin’s Handbook
What is Heroin? Seems familiar? Also known as diacetylmorphine and diamorphine, a chemical substance that is obtained from the dried sap or latex of the Papaver somniferum plant, is called heroin. It is particularly used as a recreational drug for a feeling of euphoria. The diamorphine used for medical purposes is a pure hydrochloride salt.
White and brown powders exported illegally across the globe are regularly diluted with cutting agents. In drug culture, cutting or lacing refers to adulterating a substance independent of the reason with another substance.
In several countries, heroin finds utilization for medical purposes, such as to relieve pain during childbirth or a heart attack, as well as in therapy to replace opioids. Heroin is generally directly injected into the veins, but it can also be smoked, snorted, or inhaled. It is sometimes also given orally as tablets.
The beginning of effects is quick and lasts for a few hours. Decreased breathing, drowsiness, improper mental function, dry mouth, addiction, and constipation are the most common side effects of consuming heroin. Injecting heroin can also lead to pneumonia, infected heart valves, and blood-borne disorders. When injected into a vein, the effect is 2 to 3 times greater than the effect of a similar dose of morphine.
4.1. Heroin’s Dark Symphony
Heroin addiction, also known as opioid use disorder, is a disorder that involves alterations in the brain and behavior. Heroin is a highly addictive drug. It binds to the receptors in the brain to release a chemical called dopamine. Just like other drugs, the effects remain for a short period, meaning the release is temporary. Some people keep wanting more of this “feeling,” hence making them addicted.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and is responsible for sending messages between your nerve cells, which is why it is also termed a chemical messenger. It plays a key role in how your body feels pleasure. It plays a part in giving our body the unique ability to think and plan. Dopamine helps us focus, strive, and find things interesting.
Once you are addicted to consuming heroin routinely, the body does not produce dopamine naturally anymore. This leads you to take higher or more recurring doses of heroin to feel the dopamine release. Opioid misuse can also begin with legal drugs such as painkillers that are usually given after surgery or some injury. The working of painkillers and heroin are similar.
A person addicted to these painkillers or prescribed medications, when they can’t get access to them anymore, resorts to consuming heroin-like drugs to feel good. Everyone who takes legal painkillers or recreational substances doesn’t need to face addiction; some people aren’t able to stop taking them.
4.2. Heroin Habit or Hereditary?
Is it just a habit that grows over time, or can it be hereditary? Addiction doesn’t occur selectively. It can happen to anyone who takes opioids. While it is uncertain to rule out who is at more risk of developing an opioid use disorder, certain risk factors lead to it.
If you are someone who has a family history of addiction to other substances, you are susceptible to developing an addiction to opioids. Heavy tobacco use, past episodes of severe depression or anxiety, exposure to high-risk individuals or environments, and unemployment issues are some other factors that can lead to addiction.
However, everyone who has these risk factors isn’t at risk of developing an addiction. Addiction is multidimensional and can be caused by factors like genetical, physical, or environmental.
People who regularly use heroin tend to develop a tolerance, which requires them to take higher or more frequent doses of it to continue getting the desired effects. Consistent use of the drug causes multiple issues like health problems and failure to meet responsibilities at home or work.
4.3. Heroin, Hallucinations, and Hilarity
Many people either snort or smoke heroin. The most common way is to inject it into your veins, and it is also the most dangerous way, as it can lead to an overdose.
Keeping the way of consumption aside, the one thing common in all these methods is that heroin affects your brain quickly, and it is easy to get addicted to it, even if it has been only once or twice you have consumed it. Soon after you take heroin, you start to feel a rush of good feelings, and then, for hours, you feel everything has slowed down around you.
Heroin obstructs your body from getting pain signals and lowers your heart rate and breathing. In case of an overdose, it can lead to stopping your heart completely, resulting in death. People with anxiety, stress, and mental disorders take heroin to cope. A study found that heroin consumers suffer from ADHD, depression, or bipolar disorder.
There are both short-term and long-term effects of heroin consumption. Warm and flushed skin, euphoria, dry mouth, arms and legs that feel heavy, vomiting, itching, impaired brain function, and drowsiness are some of the short-term effects of heroin intake.
Over time, regular and chronic use of heroin leads to effects such as collapsed veins, insomnia, infections of the heart lining and valves, skin infections like abscesses, a higher chance of getting diagnosed with AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, liver and kidney disorders, pneumonia and tuberculosis, menstrual disorders and miscarriages, and mental disorders.
5. Depressant Déjà Vu
Depressants are drugs that lower the levels of neurotransmission or reduce arousal or stimulation in multiple areas of the brain. They are also referred to as downers, as they reduce the level of arousal when taken. They do not change the mood or mental state of people. The function of a depressant is opposite to that of a stimulant.
Depressants find a worldwide utilization as prescribed medications and illicit substances. Alcohol is an obvious depressant. When a depressant is taken, its effects often include sedation, pain relief, somnolence, memory impairment, or ataxia. It can sometimes lead to euphoria, muscle relaxation, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, and dissociation.
Cannabis may be considered to be a depressant sometimes due to the presence of cannabidiol, which is known to treat insomnia, anxiety, and muscle spasms, similar to other depressants. However, its other component, tetrahydrocannabinol, may slow down the brain function to a small degree while reducing reaction to stimuli.
There are multiple types of depressants available across the world, some of which are:
- Alcohol: An anesthetic that has been in use as a psychoactive drug for centuries. The oldest recreational drug used by humans is considered to be ethanol.
- Barbiturates: These are effective in relieving the conditions such as seizures and insomnia. They are commonly used for illegal purposes, are highly addictive, and have a severe potential for overdose.
- Benzodiazepines: This is a drug composed of a benzene ring and a diazepine ring. They find utilization in improving the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) at the GABA receptor, resulting in sedative, hypnotic, anti-anxiety, and muscle relaxant properties. This makes it useful in treating anxiety, insomnia, agitation, and seizures.
- Carbamates: These are a class of depressants that are synthesized from urea. They are also termed tranquilizers. They have muscle relaxant, hypnotic, anti-hypertensive, analgesic, and anxiolytic effects.
- Nonbenzodiazepines: These are sometimes referred to as Z-drugs and are a class of hypnotic depressants. These are primarily used to treat insomnia and anxiety. They are structurally similar to benzodiazepines but are not related at the molecular level.
- Opioids: These are substances used for relieving pain by acting on pain receptors. Medically, they are used for pain relief, including anesthesia, but they are highly abused substances and cause euphoria.
- Opiates: These are different from opioids. Opiates refer to naturally available opioids such as morphine and codeine. Opioids, on the other hand, refer to all classes of opioids, natural, synthetic, and semisynthetic, like heroin and oxycodone.
5.1. Depressants and Creativity
Most popular depressants, like alcohol, BZDs, and opioids, are usually ingested either in liquid or oral form. Widely misused depressants like heroin can be injected, smoked, inhaled, or snorted. Prescribed depressant pills intended for ingestion can also be consumed similarly.
These drugs have a physical and emotional numbing effect that makes them able to reduce anxiety and stress. Opioids can provide the feeling of euphoria, which has made it to be recognized as a recreational drug.
Depressant drugs find a wide utilization in modern medicine for multiple applications. They are a standard class of medicines used for treating stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Opioid drugs such as oxycodone, methadone, codeine, oxymorphone, and morphine are largely used for many conditions and medical procedures. They are particularly used as painkillers and for relieving pain post-surgery.
5.2. Depressants and Daytime Drama
A depressant use disorder is a type of substance use disorder where you regularly misuse depressants and have a strong compulsion towards taking them. Certain criteria characterize depressant misuse, which includes using more than the recommended dose of a prescribed depressant, failing to quit, requiring more time to recover from depressant use, constant cravings for depressants, neglecting obligations, using depressants in dangerous situations, building up a tolerance, and many more.
There are several effects of depressant use, some of which can be fatal to your overall health. Moderate to low depressant use can cause effects like drowsiness, low blood pressure, constant fatigue, dilated pupils, memory loss, longer time in reactions, constipation, problems in urinating, loss of coordination, and impaired decision-making.
Higher doses can make these effects worse and cause further problems such as depression, mood swings, personality changes, sexual dysfunction, lack of motivation, suicidal thoughts, weight gain, and withdrawal symptoms. Continued use can lead to liver and kidney diseases, weakness, breathing problems, sleeping disorders, and hormonal imbalance.
6. Is Heroin a Depressant
Both heroin and depressants are classes of drugs that can cause adverse effects when abused. Is heroin a depressant or a stimulant? Can it lead to depressing brain functions similar to the effects of depressant use disorder? Heroin isn’t a stimulant but rather a central nervous system depressant.
Just like depressants, it can cause a sedative effect and slow down the brain functions, unlike a stimulant that speeds up the functions of the brain. Heroin targets the brain receptors, which slowly alters its functions and causes an urge to intake it regularly.
After the initial rush of feelings due to heroin consumption, you are likely to experience a heaviness in your arms and legs. Some other effects, such as impaired cognitive function, dry mouth, vomiting, and itching, are a result of heroin intake.
Heroin stimulates the brain receptors externally, which is why the neurotransmitters inside stop responding to normal stimuli, and your brain isn’t able to produce feelings of pleasure naturally, which causes dependence. As the brain struggles to work without heroin, you are likely to develop depression.