More than 4 million Americans tried heroin in 2011 alone. Each year, millions more use heroin to get high. About 23 percent of people who use heroin become dependent on the drug. So why do some people become addicted to heroin while others do not?
It has been published by institutions as the National Institute of Drug Abuse ( NIDA) that addiction is a relapsing brain disease. As with any disease, some people are more vulnerable to developing addiction than are others. This vulnerability varies from person to person, depending on their individual risk factors and protective factors. A risk factor is something that makes someone more susceptible to developing a disease while a protective factor reduces the likelihood of the disease.
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of heroin addiction include lack of parental supervision, poor social skills, untreated mental illness, and aggressive behavior during childhood, experimentation with drugs, availability of drugs at schools, and poverty within the community.
Protective factors that reduce a person’s chances of becoming addicted to heroin include healthy self-control, parental monitoring, parental education and awareness, positive relationships with others, academic competence, strong anti-drug policies at schools and strong community pride.
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Scientists define addiction as a disease because of the way the condition changes the structure and function of the brain. Some of these changes are temporary while others are long lasting.
Environmental and Biological Factors that Influence the Risk for Heroin Addiction
Environmental and biological conditions influence risk and protective factors. Environmental influences include conditions at home, school and in the neighborhood. Biological factors include a person’s genes, gender, ethnicity and stage of development.
The environments within the home and school greatly influence an individual’s risk for heroin addiction. A child growing up with parents or family members who use drugs or drink alcohol stands a higher risk for addiction that does a child reared in a sober home. Criminal behavior within the family also increases this risk.
Outside of the home, friends and schoolmates can pressure a child to take drugs. Doing poorly in school also increases the risk that a child or teenager will start using drugs.
Medical professionals estimate that heredity accounts for 40 to 60 percent of someone’s susceptibility to addiction. Environmental factors can influence the function and expression of a person’s genes, meaning that family, friends, school and community can influence whether the genes that make a person prone to drug addiction will become a factor.
A person’s stage of development when he starts using drugs can influence whether he will become addicted to heroin. Addiction is a developmental disease that often begins in childhood or adolescence, when the brain is still developing; using drugs at an early age increases the risk for addiction. This could be because of the effect heroin has on the developing brain.
Some parts of the brain continue to develop as a child ages. One such area is the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that helps a person assess situations, make decisions and control emotions. Taking drugs, especially heroin, while this part of the brain is still developing can affect the way the individual makes decisions throughout her life.
Lastly, the means of administration influences the development of addiction. Smoking or injecting an opiate delivers opiates to the brain faster than consuming opiates in pill form. This fast action causes quick neurological changes that result in the rush of euphoria that makes heroin more attractive than other types of opiates. The buzz associated with smoked or injected opiates does not last as long as opiates in pill form, however, so the intense high fades quickly. As a result, scientists believe many people use heroin more frequently in an attempt to recreate the pleasurable experience.
If worry that you or someone you love is addicted to heroin, reach out to caring professionals at Waismann Method ®. We understand the complexities of heroin addiction, including the factors that influence its development. Most importantly, we have the experience and training necessary to perform rapid detox to help you or your loved one deal with heroin addiction. Contact us at Waismann Method ® today for a happier, healthier tomorrow without heroin addiction.