Why Is Heroin So Addictive?

What Is Heroin?

Opioids are a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy seed. Many prescription painkillers, such as codeine, morphine, methadone, Oxycodone, and Buprenorphine fall into this category. Heroin does, as well. While most of the prescription painkillers are ingested in pill form, heroin is snorted or injected.



It has been documented that heroin addiction often begins with opioid painkillers prescribed by a physician following an injury or surgery. Dependency can occur innocently during this period. Heroin use often arises from the inaccessibility of prescription painkillers. When a user’s supply becomes scarce, people often turn to the illegal drug market to obtain heroin.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as many as 80% of new heroin users previously abused prescription painkillers. They also report that people who abuse prescription painkillers are 19 times more likely to develop a heroin addiction.

Why Is Heroin So Addictive?

The opioid epidemic has become one of the biggest crises facing the United States in the 21st century. The illegal drug market, combined with rampant overprescription in the pharmaceutical market, has resulted in US towns and cities becoming ravaged by heroin addiction. Opioid addiction often begins with prescription drugs or heroin, it generally ends with heroin. Rates of addiction for opioid users are among the highest, but why are opioids and heroin so addictive?

Compared to other classes of drugs, the chemical structure of opioids, and heroin in particular, have a particularly powerful effect on dopamine production in the brain. This dopamine release alleviates physical as well as emotional pain.

The mode of administration plays a key role, as well – most users inject heroin. Injection ensures rapid delivery of the drug to the brain – this speedy delivery, combined with the already addictive chemical structures of heroin, make it one of the most addictive and dangerous substances in existence.

How Many People Died Of Heroin Overdoses Each Year?

According to 2015 data collected by the CDC, there were just over 52,000 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Of these 52,000, heroin overdoses accounted for 12,990 deaths. An additional 20,101 overdose deaths were attributed to prescription painkillers.