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Heroin Effects on Teen Brains

It is a well-known fact that teen heroin use needs to be monitored. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, people aged 18 to 25 are using heroin at an alarming rate. While there is currently a decline in teen use, the noted increase in users between 18 to 25 shows that people need to begin speaking with teens about heroin. But have you ever considered the way heroin affects teen brains? If you believe a teen you know has developed a drug use disorder, it is time to seek heroin addiction treatment in Southern California.

What Does Heroin Do to the Brain?

Brains contain millions of cells. These cells react to chemicals in people’s bodies—especially anything they ingest. The body will always react and cause the body to function in specific ways. These cells reacting to chemicals within the brain are known as receptors. When a teen smokes, snorts, or injects heroin, it enters the bloodstream and makes its way to the brain. Opioid receptors react immediately to heroin. An opioid receptor is powerful in impacting how people feel pleasure, pain, stress, anxiety, and depression. These opioid receptors also affect:

  • Appetite
  • Breathing abilities
  • Sleep patterns

Endorphins, which reduce pain and regulate bodily functions, work with opioid receptors. Once heroin is in the brain, it transforms into morphine and another chemical that allows the body to react to heroin’s presence. As a result, teen users will experience short and long-term heroin effects on their brains.

Heroin Effects: Short-Term Brain Damage

When heroin enters the brain, it immediately transforms into morphine. It then begins to bind to opioid receptors. For teens who use heroin, this binding feels like an immediate rush or a pleasurable sensation. This initial feeling is a short-term way that heroin affects teens’ brains. The rush that users feel depends on how much heroin they take. In addition, how heroin is taken also impacts how quickly it can enter a teen’s brain and bind to opioid receptors. Once a teen experiences the rush, they will experience other short-term side effects of heroin. These will include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Heavy feeling in hands and feet
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Slowed breathing
  • Less rapid heartbeats
  • Disorientation

Heroin and the Brain: Long-Term Effects

Long-term heroin use presents many consequences to its users. Addiction is a clear indication that heroin’s presence in the body and brain of a user is present. But before discussing addiction, consider this. What does heroin do to the brain long-term? Our brains will always remember pleasurable moments. As a result, we are consistently motivated to find pleasure and experience happiness. While heroin users often believe the chemical makes them happy, it is truly not. Heroin actually overwhelms opioid receptors and changes the pleasure and reward system. This flood of chemicals transforms how the brain can function. A change in brain function makes teen users desire more heroin even though it has the power to change how a person feels pleasure and happiness. The long-term effects of heroin use include:

  • Cravings – Users will desire heroin because they believe it makes them feel good.
  • Tolerance – As teens increase their usage of heroin, their tolerance will be more apparent. As a result, their opioid receptors will become less sensitive to heroin’s presence. Tolerance is one of the most significant side effects of heroin because users will have to increase their usage to achieve a greater feeling of pleasure.
  • Dependence and addiction – Tolerance naturally leads to dependence. As opioid receptors decrease in responsiveness, the brain will continue to change. When heroin is absent, a teen’s opioid receptors will act abnormally, causing several withdrawal symptoms until the drug is used again.

It’s no secret that heroin and the brain work together to create a pleasurable feeling for users. But at what cost? When a teen consistently uses heroin, the reward system that causes cravings changes, and in time, dependency will develop.

Fight the Side Effects of Heroin at Destinations for Teens

An estimated two percent of young adults ages 12 and older have developed a heroin use disorder, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. While that number might seem small, when you consider the short and long-term impact that heroin use has on the brain and body of teens, it cannot be forgotten. At Destinations for Teens, we support young adults overcoming their heroin use disorder with the help of medical and mental health professionals. We offer a number of options for teens and their families that will support recovery. Contact us at 877.466.0620 to begin your journey.