Heroin is a highly addictive drug made from morphine. It normally comes as either a white- or brown-colored powder or a black tar-like substance. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain and throughout the body, and it acts as a depressant that affects the brain’s pleasure centers and interferes with its ability perceive pain. It can be injected, smoked or snorted. All of these methods deliver the drug into the bloodstream, which transports it rapidly to the brain. This makes it extremely addictive. In fact, heroin is designated a Schedule I drug by the Controlled Substances Act in the United States. A Schedule I drug is considered to have a high probability for abuse with no known medical benefits.
In 2003, almost 58 percent of people using heroin the previous year were considered addicts or repeat abusers, and an estimated 281,000 people received treatment for addiction.
How Widespread Is Heroin Addiction?
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, around 359,000 people in the United States were physically dependent on heroin in 2010, and an estimated 140,000 people over the age of 12 used the drug for the first time. These statistics illustrate the widespread nature of heroin abuse.
Heroin addiction occurs when one takes the drug regularly over a period of time. Eventually, your body becomes tolerant to it, and this is followed by physical dependency. Dependency results in people putting increasing amounts of energy into obtaining and using a drug. They may withdraw from family and friends. Often heroin addicts resort to increasingly more desperate acts to obtain the drug, including participating in various illegal behaviors.
Heroin addiction symptoms can range from short-term physical ailments to lasting health issues. If you are, or someone you know is, addicted to heroin and would like more information on heroin addiction treatment, please call 1-888-287-0471 today.
Heroin abuse is a problem for all age groups. Of 8th and 10th graders, 1.3 and 1.5 percent respectively have abused heroin at least once in their lives.
Heroin use can have many short-term effects. Heroin works by depressing the user’s nervous system, and users describe a rapid pleasurable sensation after taking the drug. However, heroin also affects the body in many harmful ways. Some immediate side effects of heroin use include:
- Depressed respiration
- Dry mouth
- Slowed cardiac function
Depending on the dose and tolerance levels, these symptoms can vary in strength. Occasionally, depressed breathing can lead to death. The purity of the drug can also be questionable, depending on the source. An overdose can occur if the dose is too great.
Experts estimate that 23 percent of all people who use heroin become addicted.
The greatest effect of long-term heroin use is addiction. Health-related heroin addiction signs and symptoms may also be prevalent. Many addicts contract bacterial infections and diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C because they share syringes with other users. Using needles can also lead to collapsed veins or abscesses or, worse, they can infect your heart lining and valves.
An estimated 3.7 million Americans have used heroin at least once in their lifetimes.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Many medical and behavioral treatment options are available for those experiencing heroin addiction symptoms. Treatment generally begins with a medically supervised detox, which removes all traces of heroin from the body. Often patients are given a drug called methadone that binds to the same receptors in the brain as heroin and reduces an addict’s desire to take the drug. Methadone has been used to treat heroin addiction for over 30 years.
“Many medical and behavioral treatment options are available for those experiencing heroin addiction symptoms.”A newer drug called buprenorphine is now commonly being used to treat heroin addiction. It produces less risk of overdose and lowers withdrawal effects when compared to methadone. The creation of buprenorphine has given doctors and patients greater options for dealing with heroin addiction. The downside to buprenorphine is that some patients do not respond to it, and they must continue to take methadone.
Detox is a necessary step in treating heroin addiction symptoms; however, detox is only the first step and has not been shown to prevent relapse. After detox, patients normally begin behavioral treatments that have proven effective in preventing relapses. Therapy can occur at a treatment facility or on an outpatient basis. Individual or group counseling are major forms of heroin addiction therapy. Helpful methods include teaching recovering addicts to manage their expectations and thoughts about using heroin. They are also taught ways to deal with stress and anxiety that do not involve heroin use.