Heroin Overdose Statistics
More than 900 people the US die from opioid-related overdoses each week (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse). Of these opioid overdoses, heroin is responsible for nearly 300 deaths per week, which is second only to deaths involved prescription drug overdose at over 325 people per week. Since nearly 80% of heroin abusers start by taking prescription pain-killers (obtained legally and illegally), arguably the combined data for heroin-related weekly deaths is over 600 people per week. If you break this down, this means, shockingly, that someone in the US dies every 11 minutes from an opioid overdose.
Why Heroin is Addictive
Heroin is a very powerful opiate that affects the reward systems in the brain. Heroin influences the production of feel-good chemicals (like dopamine and endorphins). Under normal circumstances, the brain releases dopamine and endorphins to reward behavior necessary for survival.
When someone takes heroin, it causes huge spikes in these chemicals that go far beyond what the body produces naturally. The brain craves these higher levels, and since it cannot produce them on its own, the drive to take more heroin is created. Over time, the brain becomes tolerant to the drug, requiring more and more of the drug to achieve a ‘high’ feeling.
Eventually, the user becomes addicted and cannot function without the drug. Withdrawal symptoms of heroin are highly unpleasant and uncomfortable, so the user is driven both by the desire to feel good and by the desire to avoid withdrawal.