It is not uncommon for Americans to hear stories or reports on the connections between drug abuse and the local or nationwide crime rate. In many communities, drug abuse, addiction, and crime are all connected. However, some drugs can be more impactful on a community’s crime rate. One of these drugs is heroin. But, what is it about this substance that impacts a community and links it to crime?
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a natural but powerful and extremely addictive depressant drug. The primary ingredient in it is opium, a product of certain varieties of poppy plants. When consumed, opium attaches to pain receptors and blocks the signals sent between the brain and body. In doing so, it provides a consumer with significant pain relief.
However, this is not the only effect heroin provides. Heroin is also a depressant. This means that heroin will slow interactions and reactions in the brain when ingested. This not only produces a calming effect but a numbing sensation. Sadly, these effects can be deadly if bodily functions slow down too much and not enough oxygen reaches the brain.
Most often, heroin can be obtained as an off-white powder and a black, sticky tar. In either form, most people who consume heroin prefer to do so via injection. This can lead to several complications such as an increased risk for infections as well as a higher risk for overdose.
Heroin Addiction and the Brain
While some of the effects of heroin abuse can seem beneficial, consuming this dangerous substance can lead to a number of consequences. Heroin abuse can take a sizable toll on a person’s health and wellness, and it can also affect their relationships, occupation, hobbies, finances, education, and so much more. However, one of the most alarming consequences of a heroin addiction occurs in an individual’s brain.
Heroin abuse causes the brain to release large quantities of dopamine, a chemical which makes a person feel happy. These large quantities typically contribute to the euphoria a person feels when consuming heroin. However, as a person continually ingests heroin and forces these large releases of dopamine, the brain is forced to adapt. It simply cannot keep up with what is being demanded of it.
Naturally, the brain begins to change when a person abuses heroin. It will release less and less dopamine – whether a person consumes heroin or not. However, the brain has become so accustomed to the presence of heroin in the body that it has developed a mental and physical dependence on the substance. In order to ensure that the body receives what the brain believes it needs, the brain restructures itself.
In doing so, the brain makes it more likely that a person will engage in addictive behavior. Usually, this means a person is more likely to seek and engage in immediate, repeatable pleasures like heroin abuse. Once this restructuring has taken place inside a heroin abuser’s brain, it is highly improbable to undo.
Heroin Addiction and Crime
Heroin addiction and crime are connected in more ways than one. Because of this, the path from one to another is not always clear. However, one is always capable of leading to the other – the direction is not set in stone.
How Heroin Addiction Can Lead to Crime
Developing a heroin addiction can have an immense impact on a person’s brain. In doing so, it not only modifies a person’s mood but their behavior as well. This makes a person more prone to depression, anxiety, and addictive behavior.
However, what happens in the brain is only part of the problem for a person addicted to heroin. The body also develops a dependence on heroin when becoming addicted. This means a person will experience uncomfortable and even painful withdrawal symptoms when not consuming heroin.
In order to remedy one’s withdrawal symptoms or poor mental health, a person will engage in addictive behavior to receive the substance they require. For some, if the symptoms of withdrawal or the cravings for a substance become great enough, they will engage in crime to help them acquire heroin. This can take a number of forms but will often include theft – either theft of items to sell for drug money or theft of drugs themselves.
While having a heroin addiction does not make crimes like theft permissible, it does prompt a greater discussion on why people choose to become involved in crime and how solving drug abuse can reduce crime.
How Crime Can Lead to Heroin Addiction
However, having a heroin addiction does not always lead to crime. In fact, being in a community with a high rate of crime can make a person more likely to develop an addiction to heroin. Although any person is capable of developing an addiction, some individuals are more likely than others due to certain factors researchers have identified. One of these factors is a person’s environment.
If an individual lives and works in an environment with a higher crime rate, they often experience higher anxiety, a greater potential for depression, and more exposure to dangerous drugs like heroin. These factors can influence a person’s perception of heroin and their ability to obtain it. If a person does abuse heroin due to the influence of these factors, it is likely to lead them down a path toward addiction.
Why Rehabilitation is More Effective Than Punishment
In the United States, people arrested for drug crimes, drug related crimes, or even crimes that could be due to drug use are nearly all given the same consequence: punishment. Although justice is an important American ideal and crime should be punished, for many, rehabilitation is more useful than just punishment.
Rehabilitation can allow a person to work through and overcome something like a heroin addiction and help them create a new life. In doing so, a person with a heroin addiction is less likely to return to crime upon their release. This is because they no longer have physical cravings, are better prepared for mental cravings, and have a life to return to without resorting to crime to stay alive.
Searching for Treatment for Heroin Addiction?
If you or a loved one is currently living with a heroin addiction, recovery is possible. At Knoxville Recovery Center, our team of experienced addiction specialists offer healing treatments and therapies in order to help rehabilitate a person – not punish them. Our goal is to help our patients become sober and remain sober. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you!