Heroin use and addiction has been a health concern in the United States for over 50 years, and although painkillers have begun to replace heroin in addiction, the drug is still a very large part of addiction today. Depending largely on geographical location, heroin can come in two forms. It can be a fine white or light brown powder, usually found in the northeast regions of the United States. This is the purest form of heroin available in America. As of 2004 Afghanistan was the largest supplier of heroin to the United States, however from 2007 -2011, Mexico has increased its production to become the second largest supplier of the drug to America.
Heroin can also come in a form called black tar heroin, which is most prominent in the western and southern regions of the country. Mixed with morphine derivatives other than heroin, and not utilizing the complex lab equipment to produce its purer powder version, black tar heroin is produced in higher quantity from clandestine labs, most of which are in Latin America.
Effects of Heroin
Heroin is a depressant drug, and as such the effects literally depress the functions of the human body. Some examples of this are
- Shallow breathing
- Lowered heart rate
- Lowered blood pressure
- Slurred speech
- Heavy eyelids
- Constricted (pinpoint) pupils
Heroin produces an extreme rush of euphoria for the user and he or she is immediately immersed in a warm sensation throughout the body. Commonly described as the best feeling in the world by addicts, heroin is extremely addictive as result of the flood of dopamine in the reward system of the brain. It is human nature to seek out reward, and when a reward is as massive and intense as that which is perceived with heroin use, repetition of its use is extraordinarily likely.
There are a number of effects of heroin on users. As psychological dependence is inherent to addictions of all kinds, heroin also produces a physical dependence that can create a excruciating experience for addicts as soon as 12 hours after their last dose. Often considered to be one of the worst feeling withdrawal symptoms across all drugs of addiction, the physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal (or dope sickness) are not life-threatening, but can be severe and include:
- High fever
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Cold sweats
- Goose bumps
When heroin withdrawal is impending, addicts know it’s coming with autoimmune reactions like frequent yawning and sneezing, having nothing to do with being tired or ill.
Additionally, long-term heroin use can result in health complications for addicts, which vary depending on the form of administration of heroin.
Snorting heroin is arguably the least addictive administration method and least effective means through which to get high from the drug. However, prolonged snorting of heroin can cause permanent damage to the nasal tissue, and immediate reactions like an uncontrollably runny nose and/or nasal bleeding.
Smoking heroin generally consists of melting the drug on aluminum foil, and inhaling the smoke through a tube. The effects of heroin peak within a few minutes with this form of administration. When heroin is smoked, there is significant damage done to the lungs, and long-term smoking of heroin can cause irreparable damage to lung tissue, and may cause chronic bronchitis and other lung diseases.
Intravenous use of heroin is the most common form of administration, and produces the fastest effects of the drug. Most users who may begin using heroin through other methods of administration, eventually evolve to i.v. use. Long-term injection of heroin can result in a number of health issues and complications including:
- Collapsed veins
- Abscesses on the skin
- Transmission of disease like Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS from sharing or using dirty needles
- Higher potential of overdose
No matter what the means of heroin administration, it is a dangerous drug, and overdose is always a risk. The most common health effect from long-term use of heroin is heart disease, and many individuals who suffer from heroin addiction also suffer from heart disease.
When an individual becomes addicted to heroin, he or she is caught in a vicious cycle of trying to avoid dope sickness and increasing his/her dosages to get high. As the brain increases tolerance to the drug’s effects, more is needed to achieve the desired high. This creates a dangerous situation, bringing the addict closer to overdose with each time he or she uses heroin.
Heroin addiction not only creates a high risk of overdose, but a number of safety, social and legal concerns as well. There are several effects of heroin addiction that can be signs to loved ones that an individual is addicted. Some of these signs are as follows:
- Track marks from injection on arms, legs, feet, hands, and/or neck
- Paraphernalia such as pipes, aluminum foil, spoons, lighters, hypodermic needles, and cotton balls
- Increased isolation from friends and family
- Decreased sexual drive
- Weight loss
- Legal troubles
- Sudden financial troubles
- Missing school, work, important activities, and social events with no viable reason
- Frequent absences or trips to the bathroom during visits or events
- Long sleeves and pants in very warm weather
- Constricted pupils, especially when in dimly lit areas
- Nodding off (momentary periods of sleep and awake)
Heroin addicts suffer a series of consequences that make their lives unmanageable and can plummet them into such depths of despair and desperation that they often resort to doing things that they may have previously considered reprehensible. Addiction is so powerful that an individual’s entire existence revolves around drugs, having enough drugs to get through the day and night, and how to get more drugs when this stash is gone. Nothing is more important than ensuring there is a way to get more heroin, and as funds are depleted, and possessions are sold to get money for more heroin, addicts reach a crossroad in their addiction. When an addict is faced with either getting dope sick or finding some way to get money for more heroin, the sad but common choice is to do whatever he or she can to get more money. This endeavor can include activities or behaviors such as:
- Stealing from friends and family
- Fraud and/or forgery
- Performing sexual favors for a dealer in exchange for more heroin
- Engaging in highly risky and illegal activities for dealers in exchange for more heroin
It is a sad reality, but heroin addiction causes addicts to do things that break the hearts of loved ones and put themselves at extraordinary risk of injury, death and/or incarceration.
Heroin Addiction Treatment
Although heroin addiction is a gruesome condition, and creates horrible devastation to all those associated with the addict, there is help, and millions of heroin addicts have found their road to recovery.
Addiction treatment programs around the world have been helping heroin addicts for decades, and the only thing that is required on the road to recovery is for an addict to accept the help. The very first, and most crucial step in addiction recovery is for the addict to admit that his or her life is out of control and become willing to accept the help that treatment has to offer.
Once an addict can accept help, he or she can begin the process of healing which includes:
- Detoxification – This is the removal of heroin from the body. This can done with medical supervision, and there are various methods through which detox can be completed.
- Addiction Treatment – Addiction treatment allows a heroin addict to examine his or her life, past traumas and internal issues that may have contributed to addiction and other destructive behaviors.
- Group Therapy – Group therapy helps build trust, fellowship, and friendships between recovering addicts, and establishes continued support for individuals along their journey in recovery.
- Aftercare – A plan is developed between the recovering heroin addict and his or her counselor to determine various courses of action and supportive activities, groups, and individuals once the addict has completed addiction treatment. This is all in an effort to create the strongest routine and supportive environment as possible to prevent relapse.
In order to ensure continued sobriety and recovery, aftercare works with recovering heroin addicts to develop a plan to stay sober which includes the following:
- understanding potential triggers
- maintaining a healthy lifestyle
- continuing with individual therapy
- involvement in support groups
- establishing safety contacts if trouble should arise in maintaining sobriety
Getting Addiction Help
If you or a loved one is suffering from heroin addiction, there is no need to continue the suffering for another day. Addiction is a progressive disease, and nothing will get better until something changes. The change must come from the addict personally in the form of accepting addiction treatment. Often, the acceptance of treatment is the hardest decision an addict will make throughout the course of the addiction, and loved ones may encounter a great deal of resistance in attempting to compel an addict to get help. In this case, it is recommended that an intervention be conducted with the help of an addiction treatment professional. Commonly used and generally successful, the goal of an intervention is to express love and concern in such a way that an addict can be compelled to accept treatment without feeling judged or guilty.
At addiction-resource.com, we understand the hardships of heroin addiction, and we are here to help. If you or your loved one is addicted to heroin, and need help in achieving sobriety, please call us now to speak with a trained counselor about how to find the most effective detox center and addiction treatment program for your needs, or the needs of your addicted loved one. Heroin addiction is a dangerous condition, and there is help available that works. The most important part of getting help for heroin addiction is to find the addiction treatment that most closely relates to the needs, preferences, and spiritual beliefs of the addict. Please call us, and let us help you narrow down the options to provide the best chance at prolonged sobriety and a life of freedom from addiction.