Heroin is ranked as a class A drug. Produced from morphine, it is also categorized as an opiate substance, which means that it is derived from the poppy opium plan. Although the medication is sometimes used for the treatment of sleeplessness and pain, it can still lead to a substance use disorder or an addiction.
Heroin is produced from the flowers of the opium poppy plant that grows naturally in South America, Mexico, and Asia. It comes with a high addictive potential and is illegal within the US since 1924. The substance is available in the form of a brown or white powder as well as a sticky black chemical. On the streets, it is also known as brown sugar, junk, smack, and horse - among other names.
As an opioid drug, it is produced from morphine - which is the natural substance that is extracted from the poppy plant's seedpod. Users sometimes mix it with water or any other solution before taking it intravenously. However, others will snort it right up their noses or smoke the drug.
It is important to note that all these routes of administration will send heroin quickly into the brain. For this reason, the drug is highly addictive and can cause a wide range of mental, physical, and behavioral problems.
Some of these problems include but are not limited to overdose - which could lead to death - as well as heart infections, miscarriages, and many other issues. If you take the drug intravenously, you also run the risk of contracting such infectious diseases as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS especially if you share needles with other drug users.
That said, using the drug on a regular basis will lead to the development of tolerance. Once this happens, you will find that you have to take it more often or on a more regular basis before you can experience its alleged pleasurable effects.
Over time, these higher doses will cause your body to develop dependence on the drug. When you get to this point in the course of your heroin use and abuse, you might not be able to stop using it. This is because doing so could cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as cold flashes, vomiting, goose bumps, bone pain, muscle aches, and restlessness - among others.
Irrespective of how you use this drug, it will reach your brain rather quickly. This is one of the main reasons why heroin is so addictive. In fact, you might develop addiction after using it just a couple of times.
But how does addiction to this substance develop? Essentially, you are going to experience a rush of intense happiness and good feelings immediately after you use it. For several hours afterwards, you will start feeling like the world has started slowing down. This means that you will walk slowly and even think slowly. Users sometimes explain that this experience feels like being in a dream-like state.
That said, using the substance will cause it to block the sensations of pain in your body. Your breathing and heart rate may also slow down. In case you suffer an overdose, there is a high risk that you may completely stop breathing - which could lead to fatal outcomes.
You may start using the drug to cope and deal with various stress factors, worries, and anxieties in your personal or professional life. In fact, research studies have reported that over 75 percent of heroin users also suffer from other medical and mental health disorders, including but not limited to bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, and depression.
Other studies report that over 9 million people use the drug currently. If you fall in among these people, your addiction will eventually start taking over your life. As a result, you may find yourself seeking out, purchasing, and using this substance even in light of the negative consequences and side effects that it has started causing in your life.
Examples of these consequences include struggling in your personal and professional relationships, experiencing financial difficulties, and harming your physical and mental health and wellness.
Heroin is classified as a depressant drug. Its depressant properties will cause you to experience intense euphoria, happiness, and relaxation when you take this substance. This is due to the fact that it will cause an alteration to the chemicals inside your brain.
It is similar to other opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone in the sense that it will block the ability of your body to experience sensations of pain. Due to this numbing effect, you may end up masking the mental and physical health issues and disorders that underlie your substance abuse. It is these issues that may be cause significant stress and distress in your life. It is also for this reason that very few people abuse heroin only casually.
Initially, you may find that it is relatively easy for you to conceal the signs and symptoms of your growing substance use disorder. Over time, however, the people who are closest to you may start noticing these symptoms.
Some visible symptoms of a growing addiction to heroin may include but are not limited to:
Over time, your tolerance to the drug will start building up. Once this happens, it will become much more difficult for you to stop using heroin. Increasing the amount of the drug as well as the frequency of use will cause you to experience the pleasurable effects of pain relief, euphoria, and wellbeing that your brain has come to associate with the substance.
However, this will only cause you to experience an increase in the physical symptoms of substance abuse. These may include but are not limited to:
As you make the transition from drug tolerance to dependence and addiction, you may find that your body increasingly requires heroin to be able to function normally. At this stage, you might not even be able to quit the drug because you will start getting afraid of the withdrawal symptoms of doing so.
When you get to this point in the course of your heroin abuse and addiction, it is necessarily that you talk to an addiction treatment and rehabilitation professional such as a doctor. They can help you get started on the recovery process, such as by recommending a center that can offer medically supervised and managed detoxification services. These services could help you avoid the withdrawal symptoms and their potentially fatal consequences and complications.
That said, there is no given cause that can lead to the development of heroin abuse, dependence, tolerance, and addiction. However, studies have pointed out that the reasons why you take this drug may include but are not limited to your genetics, biological factors, the environment, and psychological issues.
Since 2007, the United States has seen an increase in the total number of people who use this drug. This could be attributed, at least in part, to the rise in the number of prescriptions that doctors have been writing for opioid pain relief medications, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.
These medications are produced from the poppy opium plan. As such, they have a chemical structure that is somewhat related to heroin. If you have been misusing these prescription drugs, you may eventually find yourself seeking out a cheaper and stronger high. This is where heroin might come in - because it is much more affordable, more potent, and increasingly more available.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the drug is also much more dangerous than these other medications. For instance, you might not be able to know what it is you are taking even though a drug dealer might have said that they sold you heroin. Further, it is impossible to know the exact strength of the dose that you are taking.
In terms of the dangers of abusing this drug, consider the fact that death rates from an overdose involving this chemical rose for close to 400 percent from 2010 to 2017. A number of these deaths were caused by the fact that users did not take pure heroin. This is not exactly surprising when you think that the substance is often laced using other chemicals - such as fentanyl, which is a potent pain relief medication.
That said, the drug can cause a number of side effects, both in the short term as well as in the long term. Examples of these side effects and consequences of abusing heroin include but are not limited to:
As mentioned above, abusing pain relief medications can be a major risk factor for the eventual development of heroin abuse and addiction. This is because all these drugs are opioids. Pain relief drugs tend to produce the same effects as heroin. However, they are also quite expensive and difficult to acquire illicitly. In the course of your ongoing substance use disorder, you may find that you have start looking for heroin due to the fact that it is much more accessible as well as cheaper to acquire.
When you are still in the course of taking heroin, you may think that nothing is going to happen to you. To this end, what might initially seem like a harmless habit to you may eventually cause you to develop tolerance, addiction, and dependence. Essentially, you will find that you cannot feel normal as you used to in the past unless you take the drug. This is because your brain would have stopped producing dopamine in natural amounts on its own without the aid of the drug. This could lead to an overdose.
On the other hand, you may suddenly stop abusing heroin with the goal of quitting altogether. Even though you may have been through an addiction treatment program, the risk of suffering a relapse still exists. In case you relapse and go back to taking the drug at the same doses that you were accustomed to before your treatment, you may experience a drug overdose.
Irrespective of the cause of the overdose situation, you can be sure that it will typically be accompanied by the following signs:
Only one medication has been approved for use in the management of a heroin overdose situation. You, a loved one, or an emergency medical expert can administer the drug naloxone. It is effective at the blocking and eventually stopping the effects of the drug overdose. However, it needs to be used as soon as possible after the overdose symptoms have started manifesting themselves.
The most effective way to overcome your heroin abuse and addiction is by seeking addiction treatment and rehabilitation services. The rehab process will start with a medically managed detoxification process designed to deal with the withdrawal symptoms that arise when you give up this drug. This process may take anywhere between a couple of days to several weeks to complete.
After that, you can get started on the recovery and rehabilitation part of your long term health care plan. This could involve the use of behavioral therapy, medication management, case management, group counseling, family therapy, individual therapy, and couples counseling - among many other services. If possible, you should consider seeking heroin addiction treatment on an inpatient basis especially if your opioid use disorder has been diagnosed as severe or if it has been going on for a long period of time.