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Emotional Effects Of Heroin Use

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

Medically reviewed by

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

February 20, 2019

Heroin abuse can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, aggression, and paranoia which can lead an individual to push their friends and family away. Long-term heroin abuse and addiction can not only cause serious health effects but also damage relationships and put a person’s emotional health in jeopardy.

Heroin use can cause close-knit relationships to fall apart, causing a person to feel alone, isolated, and depressed. Heroin abuse and addiction can create a strain between friends, family, and those suffering from substance use disorder. Paranoia can kick in, driving those suffering further away from the connections they once had with family and friends. Normal behavior, decision-making skills, and response to stress are all affected by heroin. Long-term use may permanently impact the pathways in the brain.

Heroin abuse can harm a person in many ways, including by creating a host of negative emotional effects. Drug abuse and withdrawal can create anxiety, depression, aggression, and/or paranoia. Heroin can actually change your brain’s physical and chemical states. As the drug abuse accelerates, a person may experience tension with their loved ones, which can ultimately result in their losing these important relationships.The isolation that follows can be emotionally draining, especially when paired with the ways heroin directly impacts a person’s mood and brain functioning.

What Is Heroin?

Extracted from the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, a plant found in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, heroin is an extremely addictive drug. A bitter-tasting white powder, pure heroin is rarely sold on the streets. Instead, a powder that has a variety of color from white to dark brown is more often put into people’s hands. This drug is often mixed, or cut, with other ingredients such as quinine, powdered milk, or even other drugs.

What Are The Social-Emotional Effects Of Heroin Abuse?

Heroin use shakes foundational relationships. Imagine a group of friends out having fun by going to the movies, taking part in a favorite hobby, staying out late, and enjoying each other’s company. The bonds between them are getting stronger and solid relationships are forming. Deep bonds of trust, connection, and love are holding these relationships together tightly.

Drug use and abuse, such as heroin, is a crack in the foundation of many relationships. Maybe at first, the drug use is overlooked and no one is really bothering the person about it, as they themselves are not doing it or perhaps they don’t realize the abuse is occurring. However, things can shift very quickly the longer the drug abuse goes on.

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When an individual starts getting further and further into heroin abuse, their relationships start slipping. Instead of going to a movie, playing a sport, or having fun, the drug sneaks its way in as a more important factor to those who are abusing it. Pretty soon, the individuals who use this drug doesn’t invite non-users to hang out and friendships and relationships become strained and painful.

Inversely, those who aren’t participating in the heroin abuse suddenly don’t enjoy the company of those who are abusing this drug. Soon, bonds are broken, causing isolation, loneliness, and emotional pain on many levels.

Now, instead of healthy, happy relationships, these individuals start hanging around others who share their drug-seeking and -using behaviors. Now their habits are supported and they don’t feel judged by those who don’t use heroin. Otherwise, they will likely spend a lot of time isolated. In an attempt to fuel their drug habits, lying, stealing, and other dishonest behaviors can start to unfold, which further isolates the one suffering from heroin addiction.

Soon paranoia may kick in as the one suffering from heroin addiction starts to feel that friends and family are turned against them. Trust gets broken. Aggression or violence can come into play, even with close friends or family, destroying once close-knit relationships and shattering old foundations and an individual’s emotional well-being.

What Are The Effects On The Brain And Behavior?

Long-term heroin abuse starts changing the physiology and physical structures of the brain. A repetitive intake of this drug brings a downhill imbalance of hormonal and neuronal systems that can be difficult to change back. Due to heroin abuse, the white matter starts to deteriorate in the brain. This may start to impact a person’s ability to normalize behavior, to make solid decisions, and to respond properly in stressful situations.

Additionally, the body starts to become tolerant of the drug and develops a dependence. As these states progress, heroin may be all a person thinks about. Pretty soon, the body needs more heroin to get the same results, and if the drug is lowered at all, withdrawal symptoms start to kick in. These include vomiting, bone and muscle pain, restlessness, insomnia, cold flashes accompanied by goose bumps, and leg movements. Withdrawal may be emotionally draining as well, causing also agitation, anxiety, and other mood instability.

After using heroin, the pleasurable impact starts to turn into symptoms of depression, paranoia, insomnia, physical pain, anxiety, restlessness, and aggression. Blood pressure, increased respiration, heart rate, stroke, seizures, heart attacks, and even death can also be a result of heroin addiction.

What Are The Emotional Precursors To Heroin Abuse?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or high attentional impulsivity is linked with heroin abuse or addiction. Additionally, they note that those who have high levels of anger aimed at themselves or others, and personality traits like cynicism, are more apt to reach for heroin as their drug of abuse. A history of child abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual), depression, living in foster care, and/or dropping out of school, are also linked to heroin abuse.

In many cases, heroin use may predominantly be stress-related drug abuse. Emotional battles, stressful situations, or strained relationships can create risk factors leading towards drug addiction or relapse. Child maltreatment, early-life stresses, or hardships can lead to a stress-related drug abuse problems as well. Motivational systems and stress are studied in connection to impulse control and repetitive drug seeking. Addressing these will initiate new treatment studies to help those whose exposure creates a vulnerability toward addiction.

There Is Always A Helping Hand

Facing the emotional battle of heroin is extremely difficult. The isolation and depression, followed by the dependence and addiction to a substance which is pushing you away from loved ones can be hard to swallow. Know that there is help for you today. Don’t go through the battle alone—reach out today and contact us at We are here to support you through this time.

Center for Substance Abuse Research - Heroin

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