What is Heroin?
Heroin comes in many forms and has been abused in a variety of ways. Two main types are seen in the United States: powder and black tar. Powder heroin is purer and can commonly be snorted or smoked as well as being injected. Black tar heroin is a less pure form that is most commonly injected. Heroin itself comes from the poppy plant and is then processed into what is seen on the street today.
This article will explore the link between heroin and anxiety. It will also discuss the physical and psychological effects you may experience when receiving professional treatment at a rehab facility.
Can You Become Addicted to Heroin?
It is entirely possible to become addicted to heroin after starting to use it. One of the most crucial factors in heroin addiction is the first several times one gets high. Often, these first experiences present an intense euphoria never felt before. As heroin use increases the tolerance will also increase which forces people to take larger and larger doses to remain at the same level of intoxication.
This intense experience can lead to addiction quickly. In one interview, a man who admitted to his journey with heroin, when asked if he had any wish, said, “I would wish that I could take a pill and forget what heroin ever felt like.” Unfortunately, this does not yet exist.
Can Heroin Cause Anxiety?
Numerous studies have shown that heroin can cause an incredibly high amount of anxiety. However, the reason why has less to do with its chemical effects on the brain and more to do with the psychological response to the physical symptoms. How heroin works are that it is an opioid that binds to opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors then send signals that release a chemical called dopamine which is closely related to regulating feelings of euphoria and happiness.
Anxiety is chemically caused through the draining of serotonin in the brain and medications prescribed to treat it typically increase the amount of serotonin to regulate mood.
Therefore, the relationship between heroin and anxiety is slightly more complicated because it is not a straightforward chemical reaction that causes the development of anxiety.
The Relationship Between Heroin and Anxiety During Withdrawal
Rather, heroin dependency can manifest itself in a variety of very intense physiological symptoms through withdrawals. People with dependence to heroin experience withdrawal symptoms whenever there is not enough heroin. The time it takes to develop these symptoms varies from person to person and it is not uncommon for those with a severe addiction to experience symptoms within hours of their last heroin use.
These withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating and include sweating, vomiting, insomnia, muscle and bone pain, and restlessness among others. These symptoms can cause a great deal of physical pain. Therefore, this directly causes a great deal of anxiety in trying to avoid them.
External Stressors Caused by Heroin and Anxiety
Further compounding the issue of avoiding withdrawal symptoms are other external stressors such as anxiety towards obtaining money or social stigmas such as trying to hide their addiction from friends and families.
Multiple studies have shown that up to 70% of people with heroin addiction will develop some kind of mental disorder from drug use with anxiety being the most common one. Additionally, those that might have had preexisting anxiety before the addiction would only have these symptoms compounded with the drug use.
Can Heroin Help Anxiety?
Due to heroin’s highly addictive nature and profound ability to cause anxiety, it is not recommended by any medical professional to self-medicate with heroin to treat anxiety. In fact, self-treating for anxiety is one of the main reasons why many people become addicted in the first place. Since the drug has no medicinal benefit for anxiety, using it would only serve to make existing anxiety worse.
Why Might a Person Turn to Heroin When Anxious?
One of the main reasons why those suffering from anxiety might turn to heroin is the instant relief that it offers. The sudden rush of dopamine can create an intense high that helps temporarily relax muscles and can make someone feel as though they are escaping their current conditions. When these feelings of intense euphoria end, many want to continue using the drug to achieve previous results, but with every use, tolerance will increase and the length of high will decrease, leading to a cycle of dependency.
Making matters more complicated is the nature of anxiety itself. It is a very complicated mental disorder and some people might not respond well to some of the traditional treatments for this disorder. Instead of seeking further medical help, either out of frustration or lack of trust, people might turn to desperate means to relieve their pain which might lead to drug use like heroin.
Treatment for Heroin and Anxiety
While there are many excellent inpatient and outpatient treatment options to address heroin abuse, a recent scientific study has shed light on a possible treatment for heroin-related anxiety disorders: CBD oil. Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, has risen to popularity in recent years as an almost miracle treatment for a variety of claims. Recently, scientists decided to test the efficacy of using it to treat anxiety in people with a heroin use disorder and were met with surprising results.
The vast majority of the respondents reported decreased cravings for heroin. These decreased cravings for the drug can directly lead to decreased anxiety since as cravings for the drug decrease anxiety-related feelings for getting it should also decrease.
While these results are promising, there still needs to be further studies regarding CBD oil in treating opioid-related anxiety disorders.