The heroin supply that's found throughout the United States comes from foreign sources which include Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, and Latin America. Heroin is trafficked throughout the U.S. and ends up in the hands of teens, young and older adults sadly destroying their lives as well as those who love and care about them.
Unfortunately the use of heroin is increasing in many areas throughout the United States and continues to threaten the psychological and physical health of anyone who uses the drug.
That's why we thought it was important to do an updated versoin of the original article Heroin Addiction and Treatment written in 2007.
Heroin is a dangerous drug that's derived from morphine and can lead to addiction when the user becomes tolerant after repeated use. Because heroin is such a powerful and addictive drug it doesn't take long for some people to become addicted because the rush can be so intense, they can't wait to repeat their rush-full high again.
For the most part heroin comes in powder form and is white or brownish in color. There is also a form called black tar heroin which is a sticky black substance that many people abuse as well. Heroin users inject, snort, or smoke the drug during use, but it doesn't matter how heroin is administered, heroin is extremely dangerous and addictive when used.
Many people choose to inject heroin because they're seeking an intense surge of euphoria that takes place quickly. During the euphoric rush the user's mouth becomes dry, they experience warmth and flushing of the skin, their limbs feel heavy, and their mental functions become cloudy. Once the initial intense rush is experienced the user goes back and forth between wakefulness and drowsiness which is referred to as going 'on the nod'. The surge of euphoria may not be as intense for heroin users if they don't inject the drug, but they still experience the other feelings associated with a heroin high.
When Heroin Reaches The Brain
When a person uses heroin the drug enters the brain and is automatically changed into morphine which then grabs hold to the opioid receptors and binds to them. Opioid receptors are not only found in the brain but in the body too. The opioid receptors are responsible for various important brain and body functions such as pain, reward, breathing, blood pressure, and arousal.
Not everyone becomes addicted to heroin immediately but some people can very quickly it just depends on the person, how heroin is administered, and how often. With repeated use no matter how the drug is abused, the dose of heroin needs to be increased in order to experience the initial euphoric rush the user once experienced. This means the user has become tolerant and it takes more of the drug to achieve the same rush the user is looking for. Unfortunately heroin use leads to tolerance and addiction and the user is now dependent on the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms when they're unable to use or if they try to stop.
Very dangerous and serious health problems develop due to heroin use, a person doesn't just become emotionally and physically dependent on heroin with repeated use, their health is being destroyed at the same time. Many heroin users eventually become chronically addicted to the drug because no matter how much they may want to stop using, it's impossible emotionally and physically to stop on their own.
Health Risks Associated with Heroin Use
- Fatal overdose
- Spontaneous abortion if pregnant
- The user's veins can collapse
- Infections can take place in the heart lining and valves
- Abscesses can develop
- The user's liver or kidneys can become diseased
- Lung problems can develop
Heroin use can also cause permanent damage to vital organs due to clogged blood vessels that lead to major organs such as the lungs, kidneys, or brain.
If a person frequently or chronically uses heroin and develops dependence then stops using the drug all at once or reduces their use, they will experience symptoms that can be serious and very uncomfortable. The symptoms of heroin withdrawal can be experienced in just a few hours after the person last used the drug. This is how a person can become chronically addicted to heroin so quickly, the user repeats use not for the intense rush but because heroin withdrawal symptoms are so uncomfortable and the cravings can be very intense.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
- Heroin cravings (for some people very intense)
- The individual becomes restless
- Pain in the muscles or bones can be experienced
- The individual can experience cold flashes and goose bumps (referred to as cold turkey)
- Uncontrolled kicking movements (referred to as kicking the habit)
Everyone is different as far as how severe and intense their heroin withdrawal symptoms will be and how long they may last. There are some people who experience these symptoms for months after they stop using heroin while others may after about a week.
Treating Heroin Addiction
There are very effective treatments available today for anyone seeking help for heroin abuse or addiction. It's understandable that many heroin users are fearful to seek treatment and many don't until they're dependent or chronically addicted and their health is severely compromised as well. Today there are a variety of different substance abuse programs available that help their clients successfully manage heroin cravings, reduce heroin withdrawal symptoms, and develop the skills a person needs to effectively manage their recovery.
Medications such as methadone or buprenorphine are provided by many substance abuse treatment centers for heroin or other opioid dependence. Suboxone and Subutex are both trade names for buprenorphine and are very effective when treating heroin addiction for the management of cravings, withdrawal symptoms and preventing relapse. Medically assisted detoxification is much less scary and uncomfortable for the patient and is monitored and overseen by medical professionals at all times.
Heroin treatment options have to meet the individual's needs. If a person is a chronic heroin user and their health is seriously affected, medical attention is a priority first. Effective heroin treatment programs provide a variety of services to help their clients effectively manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse and work on their recovery.
Substance abuse treatment centers that provide psychiatric and physical evaluations or complete assessments are very important and necessary for providing clients with individualized treatment for heroin addiction and recovery. Treatment has to meet each client's own personal needs in order for a person to manage their recovery successfully. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is very effective during treatment for heroin addiction because the individual learns to identify areas such as thoughts, habits, and behaviors that feed into their unhealthy choices and drug use.
Many people have successfully stopped using heroin and learned to manage their recovery with effective treatment programs and healthy positive support.