The Descent into Heroin Addiction

Posted in: Drug Abuse

May 28, 2014

A drawn man jumping towards the camera

Every year, millions of people use drugs for various reasons. Some people use them to relax, some to have fun and others because they want to fit in with their friends. Many people start using drugs by taking what are known as “gateway drugs,” like alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. Using these drugs can increase the likelihood of using other, more dangerous drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. However, one of the most dangerous drugs that a person can abuse is heroin, as it can cause permanent damage physically, psychologically and socially. It is essential for people that struggle with heroin abuse to seek out professional help immediately, because in doing so they may save their own lives.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid substance that comes from morphine. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, this drug can be taken in the following ways:

  • Inhaled
  • Injected
  • Smoked
  • Sniffed
  • Snorted

If you or someone you know abuses heroin in any of the forms listed above, then seek professional help to quit.

Effects of Heroin Abuse

Each form of heroin use quickly transports the drug to the brain, which explains its high risk of health complications and addiction. Many people that use heroin will develop a dependency or addiction to it, as it is both a powerful and powerfully addictive substance. The NIDA also describes the following physical and psychological effects of heroin abuse:

  • The body converts it into morphine, which then binds to opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of the body. These receptors are involved in the perception of pain and in the brain’s reward center, so heroin abuse decreases feelings of pain as it increases feelings of wellbeing.
  • Users will probably feel a sudden and intense sense of euphoria immediately after abusing the drug, especially if it is injected intravenously
  • The body then begins to slow down, and the user will experience decreased mental clarity and feelings of drowsiness

Long-term side-effects of heroin abuse can include the following issues:

  • Cardiovascular problems, such as collapsed veins and infections of the heart muscle
  • Digestive problems, such as cramping and constipation
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Respiratory problems, such as pneumonia or decreased lung capacity
  • Contraction of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis
  • Overdose
  • Death

In other words, the risks of heroin abuse are too great to tempt.

Heroin Abuse in the US

Thousands of people abuse heroin each year. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports several significant numbers related to heroin abuse in America: it found that 335,000 people aged 12 and over were current users of heroin. Additionally, 156,000 people had used heroin for the first time in the year before the survey. The survey also found that roughly 10 percent of its respondents said that they had easy access to heroin. Most alarmingly was their finding that 467,000 people struggle with either a heroin dependence or abuse problem, a number that has nearly doubled from 10 years before.

Take a look at a historic timeline of the opioid epidemic in the United States.

For these thousands of people that struggle with heroin dependence or abuse, many treatment options are available. The NIDA lists two main types of treatment: pharmacological treatment and behavioral therapies. Pharmacological treatment is often necessary to help users deal with the uncomfortable and sometimes severe symptoms of detox. Also, behavioral treatment, such as cognitive behavioral and contingency management, are commonly used to treat heroin dependence and abuse. Both of these treatment options can help users learn the reasons behind their heroin abuse, as well as how they can avoid relapse in the future.

How to Get Help with a Heroin Abuse Problem

Heroin abuse is always dangerous, as users can never tell when they might develop a dependency or addiction, nor can they predict if they might overdose on the drug. Because heroin abuse is so unpredictable, it is essential for anyone struggling to seek out professional help as soon as possible. If you are looking for help then please call us at 615-490-9376. Our admissions coordinators are available to help you find a treatment program that will best suit your needs.

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