What is Heroin Addiction?

Are you or someone you know addicted to heroin? Heroin is a highly addictive, dangerous drug produced from morphine from opium poppy plants. Heroin appears as a white or brown powder, or in some cases a stick black goo that is called black tar heroin. If you’re addicted to heroin, chances are you’re familiar with some of the effects of heroin use, but you may not know or understand all the facts. Let’s look at the heroin drug effect and how it affects its users.

Heroin Drug Effect

Heroin is a highly addictive member of the opioid family. Whether it’s called by it’s street names like horse, smack, big H, H, dope, or hell dust, heroin is injected, snorted, smoked, or sniffed. Sometimes it is mixed with cocaine and injected. That form is called a speedball.

Heroin works on the opioid receptors of the brain’s neurotransmitters. When heroin binds to them in the part of the brain which regulates feelings of pleasure and well being, it causes the body to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine which causes a sense of euphoria. The effects of heroin use is often described as a “rush” and the good feelings are often accompanied by:

  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Heaviness in the extremities

Later, as the initial effects of heroin use decrease, the heroin user experiences these symptoms:

  • Feeling sleepy or drowsy
  • Slower heart rate
  • Slower respiration (breathing)
  • Impaired mental function

These slower functions can lead to breathing and heart stopping leading to death, depending on the dosage, the potency of the heroin, and the physiology of the heroin user.

Heroin Long Term Effects

Heroin is not a safe drug and the changes it makes on a person’s body is quite profound. Heroin long term effects include psychological changes, brain structure changes, high tolerance for heroin (requiring that the drug user use more to get a high), physical dependence, addiction, and increased risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis. Other long term effects include collapsed veins, bacterial infections, abscesses, boils, heart problems, lung problems (including infections), perforated nasal septum, pneumonia, liver disease, kidney disease, sexual dysfunction in men, irregular menstrual cycles in women, and arthritis.

Long Term Effects of Heroin Use on the Cardiovascular System and Lungs

As mentioned above, heroin causes severe problems with the heart and lungs. Many users suffer from collapsed veins due to injecting heroin. The veins can also become clogged due to substances used to “cut” the heroin and cause blood clots and embolisms. These substances can cause infections in the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and other organs that can be so severe as destroy parts of vital organs. Heroin addicts can suffer bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves. Autoimmune responses to these foreign bodies can cause arthritis and rheumatologic problems.

Snorting heroin can cause a perforation in the nasal septum (the divider in the nose). Furthermore, heroin can cause bacteria pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other bacterial infections in the lungs as it lower’s the body’s resistance to fight off these infections.

Heroin Psychological Effects

Heroin psychological effects are very pronounced. Heroin is a CNS (central nervous system) depressant and can severely affect behavior. Chronic use of heroin actually changes the brain’s overall structure and destroys white matter in the brain, thus affecting an addict’s ability to make decisions and control their behavior and emotional responses.   Furthermore, heroin emotional effects are evident because it changes the hormonal and neuronal systems.  Many chronic heroin users have mental health issues such as antisocial personality disorder and depression.

What to Do About a Heroin Addiction

If you’re struggling with a heroin addiction, you know how hard it is to go “cold turkey” and quit.  The withdrawal symptoms of heroin are intense and should not be faced alone. Elevate Addiction Services provides a safe detox which is monitored and adjusted to suit the client’s needs by experienced doctors.  They won’t simply substitute one drug for another, but rather evaluate the client’s withdrawal symptoms and come up with a plan to reduce the severity.  Some clients claim that they detox was nearly pain-free under Elevate Addiction Services.

Detox is just the first step. Once the recovering addicts have rid the poisons in their systems, they must then work toward total freedom from drugs. Heroin changes the chemistry and structure of the brain, thus making it imperative for a recovering addict to heal and learn new coping skills. Detoxing simply eliminates the chemical; it does not treat the addiction.  That’s why it is important to continue therapy.  Those who continue therapy, both inpatient and outpatient, have a better chance of success and less likely to relapse.

If you’re a heroin addict, we can help you kick your heroin habit.  Contact us today at Elevate Addiction Services.