Heroin Addiction and Abuse
Heroin is an opioid derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance found in the seeds of the poppy plant. When it enters the system, it reverts to morphine, a pain-killing opioid that dulls pain and also affects pleasure receptors. Heroin is probably considered to be one of the most addictive substances in the country, and heroin addiction and abuse is, and may always be, a major drug epidemic throughout the entire world (let alone, the US).
There are several medicinal pain-killer opioids that work very similarly to heroin, including OxyContin and Vicodin. These drugs may act as “gateway” drugs to heroin use, with users seeking stronger and more readily available highs as their addiction grows.
Heroin is usually found as a white powder or a black viscous fluid, and is most commonly injected. It can also be smoked or snorted, and may also be mixed with other drugs such as crack cocaine. The euphoria associated with heroin, as well as the fast-acting nature of the drug when taken via these methods, makes it highly addictive.
Common Street Names for Heroin
The common street names for heroin are:
- white lady
- China white
- black tar
- brown crystal
- brown sugar
Heroin is an opioid that falls under Schedule I of the controlled substances act. This means that it is considered to have high potential for abuse, and high potential for physiological and psychological dependence. Heroin has no accepted medical use and carries strict penalties for its use or distribution.
History and Trends in Heroin Addiction and Abuse
Heroin is derived from the opium poppy, which has been cultivated since antiquity. However, heroin was first synthesized from morphine by Bayer in the late 1800s, whereupon it was marketed as a safe form of morphine – one that wasn’t addictive. Used in cough medicines, heroin was soon realized to be highly addictive, and was banned in the US as a narcotic in 1914.
According to the CDC, heroin use has increased across most age groups and all income levels, though has doubled in young adults aged 18-25. Many people are using heroin in addition to other substances, including other opioids, and almost half of heroin users are also addicted to other painkillers. Heroin-related overdose deaths in the US nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.
Side effects of Heroin
The short term effects of heroin include euphoria, impaired mental functioning, a semi-conscious state, feeling heavy and lethargic, flushed skin and a dry mouth. When taken over a longer period, users may develop collapsed or abscessed veins, heart problems, digestive issues, and lung complications including pneumonia, liver or kidney disease.
Additionally, heroin obtained off the street may also be “cut” with other substances that may lead to damaging interactions or health complications. Those addicted to heroin may also engage in risky behavior relating to the sourcing and taking of the drug, including sharing needles. This behavior can lead to the transmission of hepatitis and HIV.
Habitual users of heroin build up a tolerance that requires them to take higher doses more frequently in order to maintain their high or to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Moreover, overdoses from heroin are common, especially when users adjust their doses, take heroin sourced off the street, or if they’re suffering from a compromised immune system. An overdose of heroin slows the heart and breathing, inducing a comatose state and potentially death.
Withdrawal symptoms of Heroin
Heroin is highly addictive, and those who undertake a heroin detox will invariably suffer withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can begin within hours and may last up to a week. They include severe muscle, bone and joint pain, difficulty sleeping, vomiting and digestive problems, chills and fever, twitching and seizing and intense craving for the drug.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction and Abuse
Heroin abuse is a serious and widespread problem, and as such there are several paths to heroin addiction treatment. These include drug-based approaches such as methadone and buprenorphine, which act in a similar but less powerful way to heroin, and help “wean” people off the drug, as well as naltrexone, which stops the effects of heroin.
Because of the severity of the addiction, the likelihood of relapse and the challenges of withdrawal, heroin rehab programs are another alternative. They incorporate behavioral approaches that encourage positive drug-free behavior, and help the individual to manage their routines, expectations and triggers. Such approaches are often incorporated into a heroin detox program wherein a user is taken in to break their addiction and manage its underlying issues.
Heroin addiction can be deadly. If someone you know is in need of heroin addiction treatment, contact us at White Sands Tampa about our heroin rehab programs today.