Violence and Heroin Addiction- Busting the Myths


One of the greatest myths surrounding addiction, and, especially, heroin addiction, is that substance abusers are always violent. While this may apply to certain situations and certain people who are prone to acting out of anger and frustration, the vast majority of substance abusers are not violent at all. Instead, they are simply labeled as such because of the stigma surrounding addiction in the media. The truth is far from this, however. As with all addictive personalities, each individual case can differ greatly, and heroin addiction is no different.

The violent tendencies of a heroin addict are based on many factors. Such factors include his or her own specific drug-seeking behaviors, his or her personal characteristics both under the influence of the drug and without it, and how the drug affects his or her brain chemistry. All of these factors come together to determine whether an addict is truly violent. This article aims to shed some light on this otherwise shady topic, inform you of what heroin actually does to the brain, and how this can relate to violent behavior.

Heroin’s Effect on the Brain

To understand what is happening to a heroin addict, and to truly understand why the person may behave like he or she does, it is vital we take a look at what heroin does to the neural pathways of the brain. Heroin is an opioid. So, in a similar fashion to all other opioid substances, it binds to the opioid receptors in the synapses of the brain. These synapses are also found throughout the central nervous system and the limbic system, primarily in the brainstem and the prefrontal cortex. This binding initially causes a euphoric sensation to occur, which is then closely followed by a time of sedation or deep relaxation. This naturally interacts with the reward system in your brain and creates a feeling of desire in the person to keep using heroin to feel this way. This is the main reason why people get addicted to heroin and other harmful substances. A deep desire has been created to feel this way again, so the person must keep on abusing the substance if he or she wishes to feel it. This continues and does not stop until the person receives some professional help in the form of a recovery center or a detox facility because this desire does not disappear without help. This is why any change in the habit of an addict can cause violent behavior. He or she feels the need to take the required substance in order to feel good. Any change to the person’s daily behavior can cause violent outbursts.

The Correlation Between Violence and Drug-Seeking Behaviors

Just as is the case with any substance addiction, there is a likelihood that violence may occur on several occasions for multiple reasons. In the case of heroin addiction, this violence does not necessarily derive from the impact that heroin has on the user’s brain. This normally causes a relaxed and euphoric feeling in which the user can barely move let alone feel any aggressive emotions or act on them. Instead, the violence is usually because of the user’s dependency on the drug. If a user’s daily behavior is disrupted and he or she is not able to get that euphoric feeling, then the person may start to become agitated and get more aggressive over time until he or she is eventually forced to act on these violent emotions. The person is willing to do anything to get that next hit, even if the behavior is incredibly violent.

Another common cause of violence among heroin addicts comes from their families and friends. It is often the case that as users begin to build up a tolerance to the drug, they start to borrow money from the people closest to them because they require more heroin to get the same high as before. This can lead to resentment from friends and family members because the user will likely not pay them back. This can then cause violence from the user because he or she is now completely financially cut off from the drug he or she needs. Addicts may even turn to stealing the money that they need to fund their addictions. This will then cause even more resentment between the user and his or her closest friends and family members. The anxiety and depression that often comes with substance addiction can also cause the users to lose their jobs, which makes them even more willing to participate in violent behaviors to obtain the money they require to buy heroin. Such violent acts may include robbery or assault.

Violence During Withdrawal

When recovering, the sufferer may experience several severe side effects of heroin addiction that can also cause violent behaviors. One such side effect is psychosis. When psychosis occurs, the person often loses his or her sense of reality and starts to hallucinate or become delusional. This also comes with a great deal of anxiety and a strong feeling of hopelessness. These feelings can sometimes cause a sudden impulsive urge to be violent. Hallucinations are also a strong side effect of heroin withdrawal. These can appear suddenly and without warning and can greatly affect how the sufferers see themselves and the world around them. If they are in a public place and they see a hallucination that causes fear, they may have a violent outburst as they try to get away from it.

When ready, look for an opioid addiction treatment facility that offers a wide range of treatment programsthat will directly target the source of the opioid/heroin addiction. You needn’t worry about having any violent outbursts at a licensed facility. Their professional team members will make sure that these violent episodes do not occur on a regular basis.