Heroin is an opioid drug that is derrived from the opium poppy and is in a class similar to morphine. Prescription painkillers also fall in the opioid class and many of the people who became addicted to those pills have gone on to using heroin. The heroin abuse and overdose rates in the country have increased dramatically in the past few years.
We work to help people from all over the nation who are addicted to heroin find successful rehab options to be able to find solutions to their substance abuse and related problems. If you would like more information, contact us today.
How Is Heroin Used?
While all forms of heroin use can be dangerous, people who inject the drug (versus snorting or smoking it) are at greater risk. IV drug users can develop additional health problems related to their veins as well as the transmission of more disease such as hepatitis or AIDS.
What Happens When Heroin is Ingested?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), when heroin enters the brain it is converted back into morphine, which binds to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors. Opioid receptors are also located in the brain stem, which controls automatic processes critical for life, such as blood pressure, arousal, and respiration.
Heroin overdoses frequently involve a suppression of breathing. This can affect the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can have short- and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma and permanent brain damage.
After an intravenous injection of heroin, users report feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, heaviness of the extremities, and clouded mental functioning. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Users who do not inject the drug may not experience the initial rush, but other effects are the same.
Researchers are also investigating the long-term effects of opioid addiction on the brain. One result is tolerance, in which more of the drug is needed to achieve the same intensity of effect. Another result is dependence, characterized by the need to continue use of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Studies have shown some deterioration of the brain’s white matter due to heroin use, which may affect decision-making abilities, the ability to regulate behavior, and responses to stressful situations.
In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin often contains toxic contaminants or additives that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage to vital organs.
After someone becomes dependent on heroin, they can start to experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the drug. These unpleasant feelings are part of the reason why many heroin addicts have a hard time stopping. These can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and kicking movements. Users also experience severe craving for the drug during withdrawal, which can precipitate continued abuse and/or relapse.