What is Heroin Addiction?
It is not rare to have heard of someone who uses heroin or is addicted to this substance. In fact, heroin addiction affects the country at large. Heroin is an opioid, which means that it is made from poppy plants and opium is extracted from the plant. A substance called morphine, which is also used as a painkiller in hospitals, is extracted from the opium and used to create the drug. Heroin can be sniffed, injected, or smoked. Some people even mix it with other substances, which can be very dangerous.
About 652,000 people age 12 and older had a heroin use disorder in 2017.
As soon as the drug is used, its effects will be felt shortly, as heroin affects the opioid receptors of the brain. After using this drug, the user will experience a kind of euphoria; however, this is short-lasting. As soon as it passes, the person using heroin will eventually start craving more. With extended usage, the body will become more resistant to the effects of the drug.
Heroin is highly addictive, so it is extremely easy to abuse it. This will escalate to physical dependency which leads to the craving-use cycle. This might be when someone could be considered addicted to heroin.
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What Are the Symptoms of Heroin Addiction?
It can be distressing to see a loved one getting addicted to a harmful substance. Fortunately, there are symptoms which can indicate that someone is getting addicted to heroin. These are important indicators for the family and the loved ones of the person using heroin, as they will be able to discover the problem and, possibly, help.
Most of these symptoms develop over time. Some of them come earlier while others take some time to occur. While using the drug might feel pleasurable, as soon as the addiction phase begins, the negative effects will be more prominent and people who use heroin eventually start to use more and more to feel “normal” and the pleasure increasingly fades.
Short-Term Heroin Addiction Symptoms
Euphoria: possibly the most famous short-term symptom. It is the “rush” that is felt as soon as the drug is used.
Dry mouth, itching, and a warm flushing of the skin: these three symptoms are the most common and can happen together or separately during the initial euphoria phase.
Heavy arms and legs: the person feels as if their arms and legs are weighted down, following a sensation of “laziness.”
Mental drowsiness: drowsiness follows euphoria and it is generally felt by almost all people who use heroin. Sometime after the drug is taken, the person goes into a state of alternating between conscious and semi-conscious, often called “going on the nod” or “nodding out.”
Nausea and vomiting: some people feel nauseated after using the drug. This reaction is considered somewhat common.
Long-Term Heroin Addiction Symptoms
Constipation: the heavy usage of heroin can make someone constipated.
Reproductive system difficulties: Men can find it difficult to maintain an erection, while women can start to have irregular menstrual cycles.
Insomnia: the drug affects the brain and the person using heroin is generally more relaxed after using it. This can cause insomnia, as the body will enter a poor sleep-wake cycle.
Weight loss: it is also common to lose weight using heroin. This is partly because many people using heroin do not feel well enough to eat, nor do they take proper care of their nutrition during this time.
Memory issues: the brain is heavily affected by the drug, so difficulty remembering is a common long-term effect.
What Are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?
When someone stops using heroin, withdrawal symptoms will appear quickly. They often peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose. The initial period is the hardest because the symptoms will be considerably stronger.
Restlessness: a common withdrawal syndrome from most drugs. The person feels as if they need something they’re not getting and this can cause irritability. People can become very nervous at this phase of the withdrawal. This is generally one of the first symptoms to appear.
Sleep problems: insomnia doesn’t stop when someone stops using heroin. Most of the time, sleep will get worse before it gets better.
Muscle and bone pain: heroin can be used for pain relief when used as prescribed. During withdrawal, a person with heroin dependence will experience more “pain” as their body attempts to stabilize their internal pain management system.
Hot flashes and goosebumps: this is a little-known symptom of withdrawal that can take people aback. These occur usually within the first few days.
Craving: when the person using heroin is feeling all the effects of stopping the drug, an obvious thought will emerge: it’s easier to just use it again. The drug is associated with good feelings and with the ending of pain. This is possibly the most powerful of all the symptoms.
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What Are the Dangers of Heroin Addiction?
There are various dangers of using heroin. They range from social dangers such as losing control of your own actions or harming other people due to the “need” for the substance. There are several physical dangers to heroin use.
Collapsed Veins or Damaged Nose Tissue
The way that the drug is used can harm the person using it. Injecting a substance over a long period of time can cause the veins to collapse. People who snort heroin can suffer from damage to their nose tissues.
Lung, Liver, and Kidney Complications
Organs can be affected by the use of the drug. As heroin is not a legal drug, it often contains additives such as sugar, powdered milk, or starch. None of these should be injected directly into your system and they may harm several vital organs.
Heroin will enter the bloodstream upon use and travel to the brain. Because of this, it will be pumped through the heart, causing cardiac disease.
HIV and Hepatitis B and C
People who use intravenously are more at risk for bloodborne diseases due to sharing dirty needles. These diseases are fatal if not treated, and can cause lifelong problems.
Heroin is not only bad for physical health, but it can also put a severe strain on relationships. Negative behavior after heroin use can interfere with work, friends, and family relations.
Overdoses are generally caused by using too much of the substance in too short a period. This causes respiratory arrest, in which the person will stop breathing, and will cause death if not treated immediately.