Heroin is one of the most addictive substances currently available. Addiction to this drug should be treated early, as it only worsens with time. It is an extremely risky substance to use, and its effects can often be fatal.Despite its deadly nature, heroin use is on the rise in some areas and is affecting younger populations. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that from 1995 to 2002, first-time heroin users increased from 121,000 to 164,000. In 2003, nearly 300,000 people sought assistance for heroin abuse and dependency.Heroin is an opiate derived from morphine, a substance naturally found in the opium poppy. It typically appears as a white or brown powder, or a black tar-like substance. Users smoke, inject, and snort the drug, and using heroin by any of these methods can cause dependency. Effects of this drug include a euphoric feeling, a warm rush over the body, and a lucid state known as “the nod,” in which users are in a flux between a waking and sleeping state.
Both the short- and long-term effects for this drug impact the user negatively. Heroin is a drug that puts an individual at risk every time he or she uses it. The increased danger for contracting an infectious disease or HIV/AIDS is high among heroin users due to shared needles. The general health effects as well are alarming. Consequences of chronic heroin use can range from spontaneous abortions in women to kidney or liver disease and collapsed veins.
Other side effects include:
- Bacterial infections
- Deterioration of the lining of the heart
- Respiratory Issues
Treatment for heroin addiction is absolutely critical as early as possible. Once in the bloodstream, heroin metabolizes into morphine and affects the brain by binding to opioid receptors. One main receptor is located in the brain stem. This area of the brain controls automatic functions like respiration, arousal and blood pressure. This is why many heroin overdoses are attributed to lack of breathing, or suppression of respiration.
First-time heroin users make up 23 percent of those who become dependent on the drug. The brain and body develop a tolerance to the drug, so more is needed to get high. This dependency can be so consuming that many users spend all their time and resources looking for more heroin. The drug changes a person in ways that are often recognizable even those the closest of loved ones.
Because of the powerful feeling that users get when on heroin, quitting can be quite difficult. Withdrawal symptoms typically occur between six to 24 hours after use and peak anywhere between 24 to 72 hours. While opiate withdrawal is rarely fatal, the symptomatic effects can be a large deterrent to abstaining from use. Because heroin turns into morphine in the body, the brain and body both crave its release from pain. Withdrawal symptoms only make the body feel more pain and discomfort, so individuals continue use of the drug.