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Long term effects of heroin on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC)

Heroin causes specific long term effects on the brain. A visual guide here. Check out! If you like the GRAPHIC, support us: PRINT, LIKE, OR SHARE it with your networks.

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Long term effects of Heroin on the brain

Opioid receptors in the brain are responsible for vital functions as well as smaller everyday activities. Once heroin enters the brain, these actions are seriously affected. More on the consequences of long term heroin use on psychological functioning, behavior, and personality here.

Specific long term effects on the brain

On the nervous system

  • can decrease the number of opioid receptors
  • interacts with cerebral cortex and brain stem
  • leads to lower receptor sensitivity
  • metabolized back to morphine
  • mimics naturally occurring peptide substances in the brain that act as neurotransmitters

On the neurotransmitters

  • affects control over respiratory depression
  • affects pain modulation
  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • heroin metabolites affects m-receptors, and also at k- and d-receptors,
  • leads to mental clouding
  • leads to sedation
  • triggers dysphoria
  • triggers meiosis

On the personality

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  • chronic lying for no reason
  • introverted
  • not socializing with peers

On the behavior

  • disoriented movements
  • drastic violent episodes
  • hyperactivity followed by fatigue
  • sleeping disorders
  • slurred and hard to understand speech

Psychological effects

  • addiction
  • cravings and compulsion
  • delirium
  • drowsiness
  • emotional unbalance
  • non-explicable fear
  • psychotic episodes
  • shifted priorities
  • sudden mood swings
  • suspicion

What are typical doses?

Abuse typical doses

  • per day recreationally …… 300-500mg
  • per day (addicts) ……… up to 1500mg

– addicts can administer 2 to 4 times per day.

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Lethal typical doses (for an average 170lbs opiate-naive individual)

  • overdose ………… 75 to 375mg
  • dose purity … varies between 11% -72%

How long is “long term”?

Daily use of heroin for at least a period of one month.

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Chronic use of heroin = repetitive pattern that triggers negative consequences to:

  • financial stability
  • health
  • social interactions
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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    1. Hi K. Smith. Yes! Smoking heroin is extremely dangerous, and can lead to overdose. It is not safer than other methods of ingestion, contrary to the popular belief.

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