Heroin: Definition And Process Of Addiction

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Definition of addiction- WHO definition:

The Tenth Revision of the International Classification of Diseases and Health Problems (ICD-10) defines the dependence syndrome as being a cluster of physiological, behavioural, and cognitive phenomena in which the use of a substance or a class of substances takes on a much higher priority for a given individual than other behaviours that once had greater value. A central descriptive characteristic of the dependence syndrome is the desire (often strong, sometimes overpowering) to take psychoactive drugs (which may or not have been medically prescribed), alcohol, or tobacco. There may be evidence that return to substance use after a period of abstinence leads to a more rapid reappearance of other features of the syndrome than occurs with nondependent individuals. (mangement of substance abuse , n.d.)

Opioids: opioids come from opium poppy derivatives. They are able to make pain reactions and sensations less severe. (drugs.ie, n.d.) Common side effects of taking opioids are constipation and nausea. Some of the other side effects that you can experience from taking opioids are sedation, dizziness, vomiting, tolerance, physical dependence, and respiratory depression. (safer lock , 2017)

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Examples of opioids

  • heroin
  • methadone

Sedatives: sedatives depress the central nervous system which calm and relax you physically and mentally. (drugs.ie, n.d.) Sedatives have very similar effects to alcohol. Some of the effects are drowsiness, dizziness and confusion, your body movement slows down, your heart rate and breathing can also be slowed and it can worsen depression and anxiety. (what are sedatives , 2016)

Examples of sedatives

  • cannabis
  • ketamine

Hallucinogens: the 3 categories of hallucinogens are psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants. When this drug is taken it can changes your perception, thought, emotion, and consciousness. (drugs.ie, n.d.) The effects of hallucinogens can last several hours. Some of the effects are blurred vision, hallucinations, feelings of euphoria and dizziness. (hallucinogens: what are the effects?, 2013)

Examples of hallucinogens

  • magic mushrooms
  • ecstasy

Stimulants: stimulants make you have more energy. They make you more alert and more awake. (drugs.ie, n.d.) Some of the effects of stimulants are loss of appetite, an increased heart rate and blood pressure, bad sleep patterns and hallucinations. (effects of stimulants on the body, n.d.)

Examples of stimulants

  • cocaine
  • speed

The process of addiction

Drug addiction is understood as the final outcome of occasional drug-taking which then ends in taking the drug in excessive amounts. (Winger, Woods, Wade-Galuska, 2005)

Becoming reliant on a drug daily and feeling that you cannot live without it, is a sign of addiction.

If you are constantly taking a mood altering drug in high dosages, it can damage your ability to think properly and preform a normal day to day task. Important things we must do to keep alive such as have food, water and keep warm goes to the bottom of the list and important desires such as sex becomes less important too. It can become difficult to get a job also. You no longer have reactions to pain, fatigue and discomfort and this can lead to self-neglect and malnourishment. (drugs.ie, n.d.)


Heroin is an opioid that is made from morphine which comes from the seed pod of opium poppy plants. Heroin comes in the form of powder, it is either white or brown in colour or can come in a black sticky form which is called black tar heroin. Other names for the drug are big H, smack, horse and hell dust. (herion, 2019)

Heroin is not really a drug that people take for there first time experimenting. Mostly heroin is used when people run out of money and can’t afford the other dearer drugs. (what is the process of herion addiction?, n.d.)

There are 3 ways you can take this drug. You can inject it, sniff it or smoke it. People also often mix heroin with other drugs such as crack cocaine which is known as speedballing. (herion, 2019)

Heroin is an extremely addictive drug not only physically but also psychologically. Your body will start to crave the drug and you will feel like you can’t go about your day to day life without it. Only after 2-3 weeks of taking the drug you will start to build a tolerance to the drug which means you have to take more and more to get a buzz off the drug. (drugs.ie, n.d.)

Process of addiction:

Taking heroin encourages the release of dopamine into your body which gives you that pleasure when it is taken but the pleasure doesn’t last long. It only takes an average of 3 uses of heroin to start to become addicted and you start develop a high tolerance and a dependency on the drug. The brain starts to become dependent on the drug when a tolerance is set and it begins to crave the good feeling it gets when the heroin is taken. Then it starts to get bored without the drug and that’s when you feel the need to have the drug to even complete simply tasks throughout the day. When you then start to take the drug each time you crave it the tolerance gets higher and eventually no matter how much of the drug you take you won’t get that good feeling anymore. The brain then becomes dependent on the drug and makes you feel like you can’t live without it and this is when symptoms of withdrawal begin. (what is the process of herion addiction?, n.d.)

Short term effects:

Effects of heroin can start very quickly after taking the drug and can last for hours depending on how much of the drug you take and what method you use to take it. (drugs.ie, n.d.)

It makes you feel warm and relaxed with a hazy feeling of security, you get pinpoint pupils which makes it physically visible that you’ve taken a substance, it relives pain and this could be an issue if you were injured because you may not be able to tell if you’re hurt, you can feel nauseas and vomit after you take it first time, you can get dramatic mood swings, your breathing and heart rate slow down which can be really dangerous, you can become constipated, higher doses cause drowsiness, if you inject heroin it causes more intense feelings. (drugs.ie, n.d.)

Long term effects:

You build a tolerance quickly so you need to take more to get the same buzz which can lead to an overdose, it can cause chronic constipation, it can irregular periods which could lead to pregnancy, High doses can cause you to feel drowsy constantly, fall into a coma, or die from breathing failure, if you smoke heroin you risk developing lung and heart disease, you may stop eating properly and not look at yourself which could lead to disorders such as anorexia. (drugs.ie, n.d.)

Other dangers associated with using the drug:

An unplanned pregnancy could happen due to irregular periods, There’s a high risk of overdose if you stop the drug and start to take it again at the same high dose because your tolerance has gone back down low, Heroin is more dangerous when used with other depressants like alcohol, tranquillisers, benzos and other opiates, you can cause damage to your veins if you are injecting heroin, you can risk getting HIV and hepatitis from sharing needles and you can risk choking on your vomit if your cough reflex is suppressed. (drugs.ie, n.d.)

Withdrawal symptoms can start 8-12 hours after you take your last dose but can fade after a week. You can start to get symptoms after several weeks on a high and constant dose of heroin. The symptoms are aches, shakes, sweating, chills, and sneezing, yawning and muscle spasms. (drugs.ie, n.d.)


Ecstasy is a popular nightclub drug that changes your mood and perception of what is around you, it boosts your energy, gives pleasure, gives you the feeling of emotional warmth and distorts your sensory abilities and time perception. It’s a stimulant and hallucinogen. (abuse, 2018)

Ecstasy is taken usually in a tablet form also known as an E tablet. Another name for ecstasy is MDMA which is taken as a capsule or tablet, or you can swallow it in liquid form or you can snort the powder and molly which is a crystal powder that’s rubbed on your gums or mixed with other drugs like alcohol and marijuana. (abuse, 2018)

It is not known if ecstasy is a highly addictive drug yet. Ecstasy is not physically addictive but can become psychologically addictive after taking it. It affects you in a way where you feel you can’t go out and enjoy yourself without taking it. You can also build a tolerance to the drug and would constantly be needing to take more and more of it to get the same high. (drugs.ie, n.d.)

Process of addiction:

The effects of Ecstasy can start within an hour of taking the drug, it is absorbed into the bloodstream as soon as it is taken but once it is absorbed into the body the drug makes it difficult for the body to break down the drug as it interferes with the body’s metabolism. It is not fully known yet weather ecstasy is a highly addictive drug yet but it is very easy to build a high tolerance to the drug which leads to addiction because you constantly have to take higher doses to get the same effect. This makes it harder in the long run to give up the drug completely and makes you very vulnerable to overdose after treatment. (ecstacy addiction treatment and abuse recovery, n.d.) Ecstasy effects the same neurotransmitter systems in the brain the same way other addictive drugs do. Symptoms of addiction to ecstasy include using the drug continuously even though it has negative physical or psychological effects or consequences on you, you have built a tolerance to the drug so after every use you need more and more of it to get the same effect, you have withdrawal if you don’t take the drug and you crave the drug and can’t go the day without taking it. (MDMA (esctasy) abuse , 2017)

Short-term effects:

effects of ecstasy can start just 20 minutes after you take the drug and can last for several hours.

Your pupils start to dilate and your jaw tightens which can show visible signs that you’ve taken the drug, you can become nauseas, start to sweat, lose your appetite and get a dry mouth and throat which can cause you to drink too much fluids and put yourself in danger or drowning, you can have epileptic fits and paranoia, you can have a high body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, you can become more lovey and have intense emotions for the people around you, you can have anxiety and panic attacks and be confused. (drugs.ie, n.d.)

Long term effects:

You lose weight which can lead to disorders such as anorexia, you loss interest in work which leaves you with no money to pay bills or buy your drugs so you can become involved in crime, you can get flashbacks which can cause paranoia, you can develop sleep problems, have no energy and have dietary problems, you can become depressed, have a change in your personality and have memory loss which could lead to further depression later in life. (drugs.ie, n.d.)

Other dangers associated with the drug:

It could cause major health issues like collapsing, vomiting and you could burst blood vessels, liver and kidney issues and it can cause heart problems such as heart failure. Other health problems can occur such as urinary tract infections are more likely to occur in women, it can cause anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations, insomnia and paranoia and also dehydration and heatstroke. Not being in control of your decisions and feeling the ‘lovey’ feeling makes you make unsafe decisions like unprotected sex and that can lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. (drugs.ie, n.d.)

The withdrawal from ecstasy is seen more as a psychological withdrawal then physical. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal are: fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, mood swings, paranoia, panic attacks, psychosis, hallucinations and delusions, confusion, loss of memory. (ecstacy (MDMA) withdrawal symptoms, effects and treatments, 2019)

Behavioural addiction:

A behavioural addiction is when you repeat a behaviour over and over because you gain pleasure from it for example, gambling, the internet, shopping and sex. It becomes an addiction when you start to ignore all the negative consequences and still carry on with the addiction because you can’t stop. (callan, n.d.)

Psychological addiction develops through a process. Usually in the teenage years is when you take up the appetitive behaviour which is stage 1. This is when people begin to be introduced to things that can be addictive for example the internet, exercise or eating. A person’s behaviour depends on the environment and their personality. Your social and cultural environments can also impact on your behaviour. When addicted to a behaviour the addiction is to the pleasure and good feeling you get from completing the addiction. When you realise by doing this behaviour you can up your mood you can start to become addicted for example if you are upset you might go shopping to up your mood. When you realise after completing the behaviour that you start to feel good and it took away whatever bad mood you were in you can start become addicted to doing it every time you start to feel that bad mood as you start to associate the behaviour with that good feeling you felt. Even if the behaviour starts to create negative consequences such as money loss the addicted person will still continue with the behaviour as the mind starts to ignore the negative and believe only positive things come out of the behaviour. Over time of completing the behaviour you can become more and more addicted and engage in the behaviour more often which can increase the effects of the behaviour and can cause you to not think straight and complete acts you wouldn’t usually do to just be able to continue the behaviour and leave you with no control over your addiction. (Hartney, 2019)

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Heroin: Definition And Process Of Addiction. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/heroin-definition-and-process-of-addiction/
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Heroin: Definition And Process Of Addiction [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 17 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/heroin-definition-and-process-of-addiction/

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