Heroin Addiction

Published on March 2nd, 2014

According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health there was 605,000 Americans, ages 12 and older, who had abused heroin at least one year prior. Out of the hundreds of thousands abusing heroin only a small percentage have sought out treatment. The number of those who have suffered the fatal consequences to heroin abuse are staggering.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive drug that is processed from morphine. It usually appears as a white or brown powder or as a black, sticky substance that is injected, snorted, or smoked. Heroin is an opioid drug that eases pain, when abused it produces a surge of euphoria and clouded thinking followed by alternately wakeful and drowsy states.

Heroin has many adverse effects associated with its use, it can cause depressed breathing, increasing the risk of fatal overdose. Those users who inject the drug are also at great risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

How Does Heroin Work?

Heroin is like any other opioid drug, it is a pain-killer with very addictive qualities. It acts on the brain’s natural processes of seeking pleasure and mimics it. Heroin affects opioid receptors, dopamine and endorphins in the brain’s pleasure center and produces pleasure, relieves pain, also affecting the individual’s cognitive process.

Heroin can be injected, smoked, swallowed or used as a suppository. It is a central nervous system depressant that creates many short term effects such as euphoria, sedation, reduces pain and anxiety, it can cause breathing complications and nausea. There are many risks involved with its use such as contracting HIV/ AIDS, hepatitis, skin infections, or developing bacterial or viral infections, collapsed veins, lung infections as well as the risk of death from overdose.

Easing Pain With Heroin

Many heroin addicts abuse this drug as a way to ease physical pain like aches and burns; and emotional pain like heartache, painful memories, guilt, sadness, insecurity and anxiety. They will use heroin as a way to mask these pains and find pleasure in its use.

Developing An Addiction To Heroin

Each use of heroin causes the body to develop a tolerance, requiring increased doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects. As the dose increases as well as the frequency of its use, the individual is at risk of developing a physical and psychological dependency to heroin.

As heroin acts on the individuals opioid receptors in the pleasure center of the brain, it tricks the body into believing that it no longer needs to produce its own pleasure-giving and pain-reducing chemicals. This is the point where the individual is addicted to the drug and can no longer function normally without heroin use.

When an individual is addicted to heroin and unable to stop its use despite the knowledge of its negative effects on their health, as well as the personal, social and professional life. When abruptly stopping the use of heroin the individual may experience a wide array of withdrawal symptoms that can be painful. For many these withdrawal symptoms are too much to bare and turn back to heroin for comfort, only to continue the destructive cycle of addiction.

Heroin Withdrawal

Within 10 hours of its last use the heroin addict will begin to feel anxious or agitated, their eyes begin to tear-up and they begin yawning a lot. They may begin sweating and getting feverish, starting to have stomach cramps and diarrhea, they may have muscle cramps and spasms and experience chills at this point. The addict will experience a rise in physical and emotional pain and discomfort around three days that can last for nearly ten days. The effects of heroin withdrawal vary by the individual and the severity of the addiction, some state that they feel as if they are dieing without the drug and turn back to its use for comfort.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

There are various treatments and treatment combinations that may be effective in helping you overcome your heroin abuse problem and dependence.

Many heroin addicts begin their treatment within a detoxification program. There they are cleansed of the chemicals and toxin related to heroin abuse, using medical aid to ensure their health, safety and comfort.

Various talk therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing and therapies which include contingency management will help you to work through the mental and emotional strain caused by addiction. You will be able to identify the dysfunctional thoughts, behaviors and actions associated with heroin abuse and make the changes needed to create sober lifestyle.

Heroin addiction often requires medically assisted treatment or replacement therapy (Methadone or Suboxone) or antagonist therapy (such as Vivitrol) to help the patient recover. These medications help to replace the effects of heroin and are gradually reduced over time. Patients will also undergo various therapy services during this form of treatment.

Joining support groups (such as Narcotics Anonymous) will help you in maintaining your sobriety in your day to day life. There you will find support, guidance and understanding from others in recovery. You will be helping yourself heal while helping others.

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