Any drug craving is powerful—some more than others. The most infamous, perhaps, is a heroin craving. Heroin withdrawal manifests in scary, ugly ways most of us have at least seen in the movies, with addicts cradling themselves, shivering, vomiting on the floor. Those who have never experienced addiction might wonder: What exactly does a heroin craving feel like?

Pleasure Memories

Memories have a strong effect on the biochemistry of the brain, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown that the mere sight of heroin jolts an addict’s brain emotions into a frenzy incomparable to the sort of anticipation non-addicts feel when they are faced with something typically desirable, like sex or a favorite food. Heroin addicts are anticipating a sense of pleasure that their brain knows is unobtainable any other way, thus the heroin craving.

Seeking Relief

Addicts are hook to two sensations: the pleasurable high and the relief of withdrawal symptoms. Only in the early stages of addiction is the former desire satiable. Once thoroughly hooked, you begin to feel as though life is no longer manageable without opiates, that it occupies all your thoughts, that you need larger and larger doses, more and more often, just to feel normal.

Heroin Addiction

When we think of your miserable, hollow addict, we usually imagine a pale and infected person huddled in the corner of a drug den; earlier still, long before the habit becomes outwardly obvious, an addict’s relationship with heroin goes from being fun and carefree to sick and abusive. Eventually you may want to end this relationship, but heroin will do whatever it takes to get you back: physical abuse, psychological manipulation. Without heroin, you feel psychically ill. You have a fever, you have a cold. Everything aches—your muscles, your head. You know you’re hungry—your stomach is rumbling, you feel weak and light-headed—but nothing is less appealing than food at the moment. Your throat is dry, and you don’t feel thirsty.

Recovering from Heroin Addiction

Eventually you give into all this, because you realize that your former life is just as empty, but much more painful, than your life with heroin: because of that relationship, none of your old friends want to associate with you anyway. Why not just stick with heroin? Why not just be numb?

Just like abusive relationships, heroin addiction is extremely stigmatized. This cannot be stressed enough: The key in beating heroin addiction is not to attempt it on your own. Users often keep their habit a secret out of shame. Consult with your physician about treatment options—psychotherapies, pharmaceuticals, support systems—to decide on how to move forward in a safe, affordable way. You may find that rehab, inpatient or outpatient, is a good choice.


To get a sense of our approach for heroin addiction as well other opiate issues, please explore our website, and call us for any further information.

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