Image of Heroin

In this article we’ll cover the following:

Heroin is an opioid drug (which is one of the addictive prescription drugs). This illegal and addictive substance is made from morphine. Morphine is a natural substance that came from the opium of various poppy plants. These poppy plants are usually grown in Southwest and Southeast Asia, Colombia, and Mexico. The substance is then modified chemically to make heroin.

Heroin is known for its many street names like big H, hell dust, smack, dope, and junk. When a person uses heroin, he’ll feel a surge of euphoria which will last for a while.

Forms of Heroin

Heroin is available in many forms:

  • White or brown powder
  • Black tar heroin (black sticky substance)
  • Solid black chunks

How is Heroin Used?

Heroin is used in many ways. It could depend on the form of a substance being used by the abuser. Heroin can be:

  • Smoked
  • Injected to the skin, muscle, or veins
  • Snorted

Some abusers use heroin with crack cocaine. This method is called as ‘speedballing.’

What are the Effects of Heroin?

When you use heroin, the effects go right into the brain and binds to your opioid receptors in many areas of your body. They go right through receptors that control your feelings of pain and pleasure. Heroin goes right through the receptors that control your sleep, heart rate, and breathing.

In the long run of using heroin, you’ll likely become addicted, tolerant, and dependent on it.

Heroin addiction is marked by an added effort to get and use the substance even if problems from use are present.
Tolerance of heroin is marked by the increased need for the substance. You’ll want a higher dose of the substance as time goes by, and this will gradually lead you to want a higher dose of the drug.

Dependence on heroin is marked when your body needs heroin to feel normal, and you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms without the presence of the substance.

Short-term Effects

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Severe itching
  • Warm flushing of the skin
  • Clouded mental function
  • Heavy feeling in the arms and legs

Long-term Effects

  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Collapsed veins (for those who inject heroin)
  • Pus-filled swollen tissues
  • Heart lining and valves infection
  • Damaged tissue inside the nose (for those who sniff heroin)
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Mental disorders
  • Sexual dysfunction (men)
  • Irregular menstrual cycles (women)

Additional side effects of using heroin may include acquiring HIV infections for abusers that inject the substance. It may also cause chaos in your relationships with family and friends. A heroin addict may also become violent and engage in multiple crimes.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of heroin?

If you’re addicted to drugs, it takes you to a roller coaster ride. When you have drugs in your body, you’ll feel like you’re at the top of the world, but you’re not. By the time your body becomes tolerant with your usual dose, you’ll feel the lowest lows and crave for a higher dose.

When you become dependent on heroin, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when you’re not able to use the substance. The symptoms start to show up after 6-12 hours from the last dose and continue for several days. It may last for a week or more.

The withdrawal symptoms may differ in every heroin addict. The severity of the symptoms may depend on the duration of heroin usage, the dose, and how dependent is the user to heroin.

The heroin withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Shaking
  • Depression
  • Muscle spasm
  • Relapse
  • Agitation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Extreme cravings for heroin

Is Heroin Overdose Possible?

Yes, heroin overdose is possible. It happens when a person has used too much heroin to the point that his body develops life-threatening reactions. Over the years, the cases of heroin abuse have increased.

The usual symptom of a heroin overdose is slowed breathing, or worse the breathing stops. If this happens, hypoxia may occur. Hypoxia is a condition where there’s a decreased amount of oxygen in the brain. This condition may have short and long term effects on the person’s nervous system which could include coma and permanent brain damage.

How is Heroin Overdose Treated?

Naloxone, a drug which can treat opioid overdose but it has to be given right away. This medication works by binding the opioid receptors so it the effects of heroin will be blocked. It’s advisable that the patient is brought immediately to the hospital to avoid further complications.

How is Heroin Addiction Treated?

Many treatment options may help you or your loved one free yourselves from heroin addiction. It’s best to choose the best treatment option that will help most. There are available medicines and therapies that a heroin addict can try to treat his addiction.

Medication Management

This is one treatment option that you can try to treat heroin addiction. Naltrexone, Buprenorphine, and Methadone are drugs that can help heroin recovery. These drugs work by binding the same opioid receptors just like heroin while some block the effects of heroin. Medications mentioned will help reduce their heroin craving and treat withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral Therapy

This treatment option can be inpatient, outpatient, or in a residential setting like sober living homes. Therapies aim to make you aware of your substance patterns and help you find a way to change them to healthy alternatives. These behavioral therapies are most effective when paired with medications.

Behavioral therapies may include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

This therapy helps heroin addicts to recover by changing your drug-use expectations and behaviors. It’ll also help you manage stress and triggers effectively.

Contingency Management

This therapy helps heroin addicts to recover by providing you with motivational rewards like vouchers or gift certificates for staying drug-free.

If you’re suffering or worried with your use of heroin, it’s important that above all other treatment options, you are the key to your recovery. You need to accept that you have a problem and you have to be determined that you need help.

If someone you love is suffering from heroin addiction, make sure to give them your understanding and support. This way, they’ll be more determined to live a healthier life without drugs.