Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a substance derived from opium poppy plants, native of Southwest Asia, Mexico and Columbia. Heroin comes in several different forms and colors: white powder, brown powder or black substance, known as tar heroin. Heroin is used by the means of smoking, snorting, injecting and sniffing. Heroin infiltrates the brain with aggressive strength and binds to opioid receptors in the reward system, associated with pleasure, feelings of pain, controlling sleeping, breathing, and heart rate.
Dangerous Effects of Heroin Use
Individuals who misuse heroin are driven by the powerful euphoric effects produced by this drug. However, the pleasure-seeking effects may be offset by more harmful and detrimental impairments:
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- excessive itching
- nausea and vomiting
- unstable and clouded mental functioning
- blacking out
- collapsed veins due to intravenous drug use
- heart problems
- kidney and liver disease
- mental health disorder
- stomack cramping
- clog blood vessels (due to additives in the heroin)
- permanent brain damage
- impaired judgment
- risk of HIV and STDs due to needles sharing and unprotected sex
Heroin overdose may cause respiratory depression, slowed or stopped breathing. This life-threatening effect may lead to a condition known as hypoxia when oxygen flow to the brain is restricted. This condition may cause irreparable brain damage, damage the central nervous system, and lead to a coma.
Heroin and Addiction
Heroin is one of the most highly addictive drugs. If heroin is used repeatedly it may lead to tolerance, that develops the need to take higher dosages more frequently in order to get the same effects. An addiction to heroin or a condition referred to as substance abuse disorder takes precedence when drug use causes health problems, compulsive drug seeking, and neglecting responsibilities.
When individuals who are addicted to heroin stop using drugs suddenly, they may develop powerful withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms may vary from mild to severe, and often include:
- muscle stiffness and bone pain
- vomiting and diarrhea
- cold flashes
- tremors and uncontrollable leg movement
Heroin Addiction Detox and Treatment
The most effective heroin addiction treatment has been proven to be a combination of medications and behavioral therapy. The treatment should be based on the needs of the individual, and address both physical and mental health issues. Medications used during a detox program, the process of ridding the body of toxins and chemicals, may help to ease the effects of withdrawal symptoms.
Heroin detox is performed in a medical setting and monitored by medical professionals. Vital signs may be checked around the clock to make sure the patient is stable and comfortable. Medicines used to curb heroin use are buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. While some medications may help with the physical effects of withdrawal symptoms, other medications are intended to target opioid receptors to reverse to a normal function. According to NIDA, National Insitute on Drug Use study shows that combining approved medications during detoxification makes the process very effective.
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Behavioral therapy is the most critical step after detoxification is completed. Behavioral therapy for heroin addiction includes:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Helps patients alter their drug-use behaviors and expectations, teaches patients coping skills to deal with stress, and provides instructions on how to manage triggers and prevent relapse.
- Motivational incentive program.
Based on the rewards system for positive behavior and abstaining from drugs.
- Individual counseling and group support.
Based on support by peers with similar drug use issues, and helping recovering addicts to understand how to change their behaviors.
Family support is critical in heroin addiction recovery treatment.