Effective Recovery from Heroin Abuse and Addiction
Heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs in the United States. Heroin plays a major part in the current opioid epidemic that is pervasive in communities nationwide, which leads us to want to learn more about this extremely dangerous substance. What is heroin, why is it so heavily abused, and what are the consequences of addicts being unable to receive effective treatment?
If you’re struggling with heroin addiction, you should seek help urgently, from experts in addiction treatment and recovery. Call us at (877) 711-4673 to learn more about the services and support available from Palm Partners.
What is heroin?
Heroin is an illicit drug made from morphine, which is a natural byproduct of the opium poppy. When consumed, heroin enters the brain and binds to opioid receptors, or the parts of the brain that send messages of happiness to the central nervous system. People who don’t use heroin have these opioid receptors filled naturally when they experience happiness, such as after eating their favorite foods. For people who use heroin, the substance fills these receptors artificially, which is the root of many of the problems that come along with using heroin and related drugs.
Heroin can be a powder of varying color, ranging from almost pure white to deep tan, and is also observed in a form that resembles sticky, black tar. It can be smoked or snorted, but the most common and most effective intake method is to cook it and inject it directly into the bloodstream.
- Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from the opium poppy plant.
- Heroin is a central nervous system depressant.
- Heroin can be used in a variety of ways, depending on user preference and the purity of the drug.
- Different types of heroin can vary greatly in appearance. Usually, it is a powder that ranges from dark brown to white; in general, the whiter the powder, the purer the drug. In some parts of the US, heroin comes in a dark, tar-like form, known as “black tar” heroin.
- Heroin users have a death rate 50 to 100 times that of the general population.
- Many prescription pill addicts eventually turn to heroin because it is less expensive.
- Users of heroin are at risk for serious health complications. Intravenous use can result in the contraction of AIDS or hepatitis C, endocarditis, or abscesses. Heroin targets the part of the brain stem that controls respiration. Because of this, heroin abuse causes pulmonary complications. In addition, most heroin overdoses result from respiratory depression.
Why do people become addicted to heroin?
Heroin is an extremely addictive and dangerous drug. When heroin is used, the user experiences:
- A rush of euphoria
- Overwhelming mellow, calm feelings
- Relief of stress, pain, and other negative feelings
The first time a person uses heroin, the sensation is so intense that it can only take one time to become physically dependent and even addicted. This is why there are typically no distinctions drawn between heroin use and heroin abuse. To abuse heroin is to use it once.
However, addicts report that over time, the sensation of using heroin becomes more and more dull. To counteract this growing tolerance for the drug, heroin addicts take more each time in an attempt to recreate the sensation of the first use. This leads to overdoses, which can be deadly.
Heroin addicts typically come from two populations. The first group includes people who start using heroin and develop an addiction.
The second is a group that stems from the use of prescription pain relievers. Most prescription pain relievers on the market today are opioids, meaning that they share a class with heroin. They temporarily bind to opioid receptors in the brain to provide relief from chronic and acute pain, and with serious injuries, these drugs can be prescribed over a long period of time.
Opioids are very addictive, and with so many people using them in the United States, dependence is very common. When a person can no longer access or afford their prescription, they often turn to a street drug that creates the same sensation: heroin.
Who is most at-risk to develop a heroin addiction?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, risk factors include:
- Previous addiction to opioid pain relievers
- Non-Hispanic whites
- 18 to 25 years olds
- People with Medicaid or no insurance
- People who abuse alcohol and other drugs
How can you tell if you or a person close to you may be struggling with addiction to heroin?
First, there will be a number of physical effects. Depending on the user’s method of intake, they’ll have track marks on their arms from injections, or may experience frequent nosebleeds from nasal consumption of the drug. Other physical signs include:
- Scabs and bruises on the arms and legs
- Very small pupils
- Fast weight loss
- Vomiting and frequent illness
There are also behavioral signs to look out for if you suspect someone close to you is abusing heroin, including lying and deceptive behavior, theft, wearing long sleeves regardless of the temperature, slurred speech, and inconsistent sleep patterns.
Also, be on the lookout for anything that suggests that the person in question is dealing with any of the following mental effects of heroin addiction: delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations. These can be caused by several different factors; however, if you suspect someone close to you has access to heroin or exhibits any of the behaviors listed above, there is reason for concern.
Heroin Addiction: Detox
Once a person’s body becomes dependent on heroin, quitting or cutting down on use can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can include extreme pain, tremors, muscle cramps, sweating, chills, rapid heartbeat, itching, restless leg syndrome, runny nose, sneezing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness.
Heroin detox is the process of weaning a person off opiates and controlling the withdrawal symptoms. The aim is to make the withdrawal process as safe and comfortable as possible.
There are medications that are used to lessen the symptoms of heroin detox. These include “replacement” medications to lessen the effects of withdrawal. Beyond the “replacement” medications like buprenorphine or methadone, those in heroin detox are also sometimes given medication to treat muscle spasms, high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia.
Heroin Addiction: Treatment
Beyond treating the physical addiction to heroin addiction in detox, successful treatment involves treating the psychological aspect of the addiction as well. Integrating behavioral and pharmacological treatments is the most effective approach when treating heroin addiction. Behavioral treatments include both residential and outpatient approaches.
Heroin Addiction: Recovery
Recovery from heroin addiction is possible, but it is not easy. Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs out there, and true recovery takes time. It is important to remember that recovery is a process, not an event. Psychological treatment, family therapy, a strong support system, healthy new habits, and holistic medicine can all aid a heroin addict on the path of recovery.
Heroin Addiction and Abuse Statistics
Heroin abuse statistics underline the enormous danger of even a single use of this drug:
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as of 2016 there were an estimated 626,000 heroin users in the United States—around three times as in 2002.
- The CDC claims that between 2010 and 2016, heroin overdose deaths increased fivefold, resulting in over 16,000 in 2016.
- Sources studying the current opioid crisis have suggested a further increase from these benchmark years to the present.
It’s clear that heroin addiction is a pervasive and harmful factor in communities across the United States, highlighting the need for effective treatment. To learn more about how Palm Partners helps patients recover from heroin addiction, call us today.
Struggling with heroin addiction? Call (877) 711-4673 for help.