From Pills to Heroin

How People Become Addicted to Heroin

Heroin is a highly addictive opioid. The drug produces feelings of pleasure, but it can cause a host of health problems, including liver and kidney disease, bacterial infections and depression.

The drug is derived from morphine, a natural opiate extracted from the seeds of various poppy plants. Other opiates found naturally in poppy plants, including codeine, can also be addictive.

No one wants to be addicted to heroin. Some people try it for the occasional high, but the recreation turns into a substance use disorder. Most people who use heroin turned to it as an alternative to opioid pills that they became addicted to after receiving a doctor’s prescription.

“They start off using a narcotic such as OxyContin to treat pain,” Dr. Glen Hanson told “It relieves the pain. That’s great. Then on top of that, these narcotics stimulate reward systems in the brain for some people.”

Opioids, such as OxyContin and heroin, relieve stress and anxiety. They make people feel a sense of calm and relaxation in addition to happiness.

“They want to keep using the drug, not for the pain anymore but for the stress relief,” said Hanson, the former interim director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “It gets out of control, and now they become addicted.”

” Heroin relieves stress just like the OxyContin used to, and it’s a lot cheaper, and it’s easier to get.”


Opioid prescriptions don’t last forever. When you’re addicted to prescription drugs and your prescription expires, you face a choice. Either power through withdrawal, find a drug rehab facility or find an alternative drug. Unfortunately, finding and using heroin is easier than recovering from any kind of drug addiction.

“Heroin relieves stress just like the OxyContin used to, and it’s a lot cheaper, and it’s easier to get,” Hanson said. “Now the person appears as the traditional drug addict that’s buying stuff off the streets and exposing him or herself to all of the potential problems that street drugs can cause.”

That’s how thousands of people become addicted to heroin every year. Nearly 600,000 people were addicted to heroin in 2015, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The epidemic has spurred a growth in prevention and treatment initiatives across the country. Today, there are more resources for people with heroin addiction than ever.