There are many approaches to treating veterans who suffer from heroin addiction. When treating veterans who are struggling with an opioid addiction, we find that one of the most crucial approaches is education. At New Bridge Foundation®, we believe that helping veterans understand the effects of heroin on the brain and body can help to motivate them to begin the recovery process.
If you or someone close to you is using heroin, don’t hesitate to get professional help. Reach out to New Bridge Foundation® online to learn more about our residential San Francisco Bay-Area based veterans’ program as well as our outpatient telehealth services or call us at 866.772.8491.
The Effects of Heroin on the Brains of Veterans
Addiction specialists have been studying the effects of heroin and other opiates on the brain for generations. Veterans — who are more likely to suffer from conditions that often accompany addiction, like PTSD and depression — can be particularly vulnerable.
Chemically speaking, the process by which heroin functions in the brain is not complicated. Each of us has receptors in our brain called “mu-opioid receptors,” or “MORs.” Our brains also contain neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers that allow nerves to communicate with each other and with the muscles. One of the most important neurotransmitters is dopamine, which is a chemical that is released when your body feels pleasure. Heroin causes the mu-opioid receptors in the brain to release dopamine, which results in intense feelings of pleasure. Unfortunately, over time this has adverse effects. Among these are:
The Brain Reduces Natural Opioid Production
One of the most pronounced effects of heroin is that by providing so much stimulation to the mu-opioid receptors, the brain slows down its production of the opioids that occur naturally in the body. Because of this decrease, when the effects of heroin have worn off, the body immediately craves more, which results in heroin addiction.
Heroin Addiction Creates Neurological and Hormonal Imbalances in the Brain
Another effect of heroin on the brain of a veteran is that it changes the physical and chemical structures, which results in imbalances that can cause adverse physical and psychological outcomes. Tragically, these imbalances can continue even after a veteran has stopped using heroin, making early intervention and heroin addiction treatment all the more critical.
Heroin Addiction Can Cause the Brain to Physically Deteriorate
The physical deterioration of the white matter of the brain is one of the most debilitating effects of heroin use. This aspect of heroin use disorder affects decision-making abilities, how individuals react to stress and stressful situations, and the extent to which individuals can regulate their behavior in general.
Heroin Addiction Can Result in Dementia
Prolonged heroin use results in extensive mental impairment that resembles dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The effects of heroin include both a build-up of proteins in the brain and inflammation of parts of the brain that, over time, result in severe mental impairment. There is little question that the short-term effects of heroin, such as mental cloudiness, reduced heart rate, and slowed breathing, are dangerous to veterans in and of themselves. However, the long-term impact on the brain can be more detrimental. This is why seeking a top-quality veterans’ program is so essential.
Identifying the Signs of Heroin Addiction in Veterans
Heroin is highly addictive, and as such, any use of heroin should be considered abuse. If you are worried that the veteran in your life is abusing heroin, you can look for the following signs:
- They have become socially isolated.
- They demonstrate the general signs of use, including dilated pupils, a dreamy or sleepy presentation, or injection marks.
- When they are not using heroin, they experience withdrawal symptoms. These may include:
- Muscle pain and bone pain
- Nausea and vomiting
Not every veteran in the throes of addiction will exhibit all of these signs, but when you recognize them, you must reach out for heroin addiction treatment in a veterans’ program like the one available at New Bridge Foundation®’s San Francisco Bay-Area location for on-site Residential treatment or telehealth outpatient services.
Learn More About the San Francisco Bay-Area Veterans’ Program at New Bridge Foundation® Today
The effects of heroin can be overwhelming, and this is especially true for veterans. However, with the proper care and support, the veteran in your life can overcome heroin addiction. If you or someone you care about needs treatment, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are conveniently located in the San Francisco-Bay Area and are easily accessible. We also offer Telehealth services. Reach out to New Bridge Foundation® today, using our convenient online form or by calling 866.772.8491.