Heroin
and Depression

Are Heroin and Depression Connected?

Heroin and depression are closely intertwined with one another. Unfortunately, over the past 20 years, heroin use has become an epidemic within the United States. Heroin is a highly addictive drug and the increasing amounts of heroin use in the U.S. should not be taken lightly. Heroin use combined with depression can be even more debilitating. While it may be difficult, there are resources available to get the help needed for those struggling.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance that’s found within the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin comes in a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance. It is often used by injecting it with a needle. It may also be smoked or snorted up the nose. When heroin is used it gets sent to the brain very quickly. This makes it highly addictive.

Can You Become Addicted to Heroin?

Yes, heroin is a highly addictive drug. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), “in 2017 about 886,000 Americans reported using heroin.” Studies have also shown that roughly one in four people who use heroin will become addicted.​​​1

If someone is using heroin regularly, they will begin to develop a tolerance. As that tolerance grows, higher doses may be taken to try and get the same “high” that they were initially getting from the drug. This is where addiction begins, as tolerance builds, and it’s used more and more.

Can Heroin Cause Depression?

Studies have estimated that close to half of opiate users have experienced depression at some point in their life. With the nature of heroin abuse and depression being tightly woven together, it can be difficult to determine which one comes first. However, aspects of heroin use could cause someone to become depressed.

Heroin is a very debilitating drug. It will often cause people to have mood swings, lose jobs, start to have turmoil in their relationships, feel a lack of motivation, and addiction may lead to an overall sense of hopelessness. This is where depression may begin to develop in someone who is frequently using this drug.

Why Might Someone Turn to Heroin When Depressed?

While heroin may worsen depressive symptoms, this doesn’t mean that someone with depression won’t turn to heroin use or become dependent on it. To someone struggling with depression, they may find that when they use heroin it feels like a solution. Heroin is a sedative that produces feelings of euphoria in those that use it. For someone who is depressed, they may feel as though these feelings of sedation are numbing the pain and taking them out of their inner turmoil.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

There are numerous treatment options available to help someone recover from heroin addiction. Treatment options include medications that help reduce withdrawal symptoms and behavioral therapies. The best treatment option will depend on the individual and their specific needs.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Some medicines that are designed to stop someone from using heroin are buprenorphine and methadone. These medicines connect to the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin does and help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Another medication that can be used is called naltrexone. This treatment option blocks opioid receptors and prevents opioid drugs from having an effect.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapies are also recommended to partner with medications when recovering from addiction. A combination of medication along with behavioral therapy has been shown to be the most effective, though a treatment plan will depend on the individual’s specific needs. Behavioral therapies will help rework a patient’s expectations of drug use, help manage triggers, and reduce stress. Personal goals, incentives, and rewards may be used to help encourage positive goals and achievements.

Treatment for Heroin and Depression

Treating someone who is struggling with both depression and heroin addiction simultaneously can be a very difficult process. Studies have shown that both depression and heroin addiction must be treated at the same time for optimal recovery.

For instance, if someone tries to get sober but doesn’t also receive proper treatment and therapy for symptoms of depression they will still feel as though they are struggling afterward. Those lagging negative feelings and symptoms from depression may still arise even after treatment is over. This is why treating both at the same time is necessary, so that the root of struggles can be found, and proper skills can be learned to cope during therapy and recovery.

What is the Heroin Epidemic?

The rising use of heroin is a major concern that affects public health as well as community and economic wellbeing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that the total financial burden of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year. This includes the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), heroin use in the United States doubled between 2002 and 2015. In 2017 886,000 Americans reported using heroin. Approximately 214,000 of those who used heroin in 2017 were between the ages of 18-25.​​​1 These numbers are staggering and it’s easy to see why this would be called an epidemic and be a major public concern.

Get Help for Heroin and Depression

Heroin is a highly addictive substance that can potentially have a long-term impact on life. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction there are many resources available to get you the help that you need.

Resources


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