What effect does heroin have on your brain?

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Addiction is a severe problem nationwide and it’s sweeping across Mid-Michigan…but the question is what happens to your brain when heroin takes control?

Throughout the past decade, heroin addiction continues to skyrocket at least that’s what Michigan State University Doctor Jed Magen noticed after careful observation.

“People don’t realize that this is really a physiological and neurological phenomenon…people literally can’t stop,” Dr. Magen stated; Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Michigan State University.

For the past 29 years, Dr. Magen has studied the physiological and psychological effects heroin and opioids have on a person’s brain…he found that heroin actually changes a person’s brain chemistry.

“What happens is…it’s rather like if you’re really hungry you go to the refrigerator and you look and you can’t find anything and then you find yourself going back two or three times to look…it’s like a…it’s like something you can’t satisfy,” said Dr. Magen.

He says heroin users will go to any length for their addiction…but what effects will this life-altering drug have on their brain?

“There’s an area of your brain called the nucleus accumbens which has a lot of dopamine which a lot of people have heard of which is a neurotransmitter and when you get pleasurable feelings those dopamine levels increase,” Dr. Magen stated.

Which according to Dr. Magen “re-trains your brain” to become more interested in heroin.

“So then what happens is then you begin to go in withdrawal and now you got withdrawals so now you want to do anything to prevent that withdrawal,” he said.

Over time…dopamine levels go up, heroin users boost their drug intake causing withdrawals which lead to heroin cravings and a person’s perception of reality is altered.

“You’re so involved in the drug and in seeking the drug that you ignore other things…you ignore child care, you ignore your job, maybe you ignore eating, you ignore self-care,” Dr. Magen stated.

According to Dr. Magen, that leads to a shorter life span.

But he says there are ways to get treatment to overcome an addiction.

“You should call somebody, you know if it takes a family member or a friend taking you over some place…do that,” said Dr. Magen.

Because there is hope…the longer you stop using heroin, the more time your brain has to recover so you can help break the cycle of addiction.

Dr. Magen says once a person stops using heroin, the addiction lays dormant in their system and there’s a possibility if a previous heroin experience is triggered…the user could get cravings again.

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