Heroin Addiction and Intervention
Heroin addiction is a reality for many users who started off believing they would use the drug only for recreation purposes. Heroin is a highly-addictive opiate that originates in the poppy plant as morphine. Processed from morphine, heroin is typically a white or brown powder. Sometimes it also appears as a black sticky consistency, known as black tar heroin. In all of its forms, this drug is considered very addictive with an estimated 23% of heroin users becoming dependent. According to NIDA Infofacts website, heroin usage increased from 153,000 to 213,000 from the year 2007 to 2008.
Physiological Effects of Heroin Addiction
Heroin can be smoked, snorted or injected and attaches to opioid receptors in the brain. The “high” that heroin users seek is reported as a rush, or feeling of euphoria. Like so many other drugs, heroin users require larger doses of the drug to achieve the same level of euphoria as a tolerance to heroin develops over time. Accompanying the euphoria are impaired mental focus, a feeling of heaviness in the arms and legs, flushed skin and dry mouth. After the rush of good feeling, users experience alternate cycles of drowsiness and alertness.
Heroin Addiction Health Risks
Fatal overdose is always a major concern for heroin users. When a user overdoses, it is frequently the result of respiration problems. Since a user can never be certain about the purity of heroin purchased, they are also always at risk for ingesting toxins that are often used to cut the heroin as fillers. These toxins can block blood vessels causing permanent damage to vital organs like the lungs, kidneys and brain. Heavy heroin users often develop heart problems, due to infections in the heart lining and valves. Other health concerns consistent with heroin use include pulmonary complications like pneumonia. For users who inject heroin, concerns over HIV/AIDS and hepatitis are also warranted.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
Withdrawal from heroin is best completed in a treatment facility for safety considerations. While withdrawal symptoms are not typically fatal, they can be in some instances. Symptoms can begin within a few hours of the last heroin dosage and usually peak around 48 to 72 hours, continuing for up to a week in most cases. Vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, insomnia, restlessness, cold flashes, bone pain and kicking movements are symptoms associated with heroin withdrawal. While the worst of these symptoms are usually over for most people within a week, for some, the symptoms can continue for months. Cravings for heroin can also last much longer, with some people reporting that they craved the drug for years after they stopped using.
Treatments for Heroin Addiction
Methadone has been a common treatment drug administered to combat heroin addiction. Used consistently for over 30 years, this drug mimics heroin as a synthetic substitute that binds to the same receptors as heroin. It reduces the desire for heroin, while preventing withdrawal symptoms. A new drug on the heroin treatment scene is Buprenorphine, which is considered to have a lower risk for withdrawal symptoms and dependence, however this is questionable. Many people feel that the only real treatment for Heroin is abstinence based, and consider that using a mood altering substance to minimize cravings for long periods of time only reinforces the problem.