Does it mean 'addiction'? I can't find the exact definition which fits in with the following context in the English dictionaries.

If you use heroin for 20 days, by day 21, your body would physically crave the drug ferociously because there are chemical hooks in the drug. That’s what addiction means.
The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think

  • What is a "hook"?
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 17, 2017 at 0:53
  • 1
    And why did I think your avatar read oblivionist?
    – Phil Sweet
    Apr 17, 2017 at 1:42
  • Only certain chemical compounds found in opioids bind themselves to the opioid receptors found in the human body. The author is suggesting that the presence of these compounds over a period of time is the cause of addiction. It is the chemical properties of the opioid compounds that enable them to "hook" onto (or bind to) the receptor.
    – epsilon
    Apr 17, 2017 at 2:49
  • I appreciate your clear and easy explanation. Thank you again! Apr 17, 2017 at 16:25

1 Answer 1



A curved device used for catching or holding things, especially one attached to a surface for hanging things on. (Cambridge)


The need or strong desire to do or to have something, or a very strong liking for something. (Cambridge)

The key here, is in the sentence you have quoted. The chemical hooks are the cause of:

...your body physically crav[ing] the drug ferociously.

Addiction (per above definition) is:

The need or strong desire to do or to have something...

Whereas a hook (per above definition) is:

...used for catching or holding things...

Chemical hooks is a reference to the way heroin effects the brain (it works chemically), creating hooks which catch and hold the user to want more of the drug.

The chemical hooks are the means by which someone would be caught. Once that someone is caught (on the drug) then you could say they have an addiction, as they would have a strong desire to do or have (the drug).

How does heroin chemically hook the user? By altering their experience of pain and pleasure as explained by heroin.net:

The effect heroin has on the brain was not well understood until 1972, when a group of researchers from Johns Hopkins University revealed that the human brain possesses specific protein receptor sites for opiates, including codeine, opium, morphine and even heroin. Not long after these opiate-specific receptors were identified, researchers also discovered that the body produces its own endogenous opioids, including dynorphin, enkephalin and endorphins.

When opioids bind to these opiate-specific receptors within the brain, they are able to decrease the body’s perception of pain and elevate mood by increasing levels of dopamine. When the body is introduced to heroin, the body gets flooded with these opioids, leading to enormously high levels of dopamine.

So, in short, the chemical hooks are not synonymous with addiction. The chemical hooks are the means to the end, and the end is addiction.


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