Heroin is an opioid, a drug originally derived from the poppy plant to help manage pain. Heroin and other opioids are prescribed as strong pain medications, but are also used recreationally as well.
Heroin, can be smoked, snorted or injected; the goal is to get the drug into the bloodstream and ultimately the brain. In the brain, heroin converts to morphine, and binds to opioid receptors in the brain, relieving pain and spreading euphoria.
Repeated heroin abuse can result in disruption in what is called the reward pathway, the brain functions that control motivation, reward-seeking and the perception of pleasure. It is this disruption that makes heroin an incredibly addictive substance. Nearly 1 in 4 people who try heroin will suffer from an opioid addiction.
In recent years, heroin use has increased dramatically in a number of populations, among men and women, across most age groups and across all income levels.
The opioid epidemic and the increase in heroin abuse disorders go hand in hand, 4 in 5 new heroin users had already abused prescription painkillers before trying heroin.