Heroin is an illicit drug that is made from morphine, a substance that is harvested from the seeds of poppy plants that grow in Asia, Mexico, and parts of South America. This semi-synthetic opiate is manufactured from morphine that is processed chemically. In its purest form, heroin is white and has a bitter taste, and it can be smoked or snorted. Distributors usually sell this drug as a white or brownish powder mixed with other substances like powdered milk, sugar, or starch.
Common street names for heroin include smack, H, brown sugar, junk, China white, horse, among others. Just One Recovery in Orange County, California, is a specialized drug rehabilitation center with world-class service for inpatient and residential treatment. We welcome patients who are wishing to address heroin addiction.
Statistics of Heroin Use
Heroin was outlawed in 1924, but its use has been on an upward trend. Recent reports indicate that heroin use has doubled from 2007 to 2012. Heroin use is so pervasive that in 2016 alone, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that over 900,000 people were users, and most people aged 18 to 25.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) called this growing addiction to opiates like heroin a national epidemic, especially in the Golden State, where an estimated 5.3 die for every 100,000. The demand for heroin is ever-increasing, and traffickers are responding by growing more poppy plants and bolstering their smuggling operations.
Most users are battling at least one mental disorder like depression and anxiety, so they need the euphoric effect for happiness, albeit temporarily. The number of people who meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) criteria for dependence is on the rise. The current edition of DSM does not separate users from addicts but instead classifies opioid use disorder according to the symptoms they are experiencing.
Ways of Consuming Heroin
Black tar heroin mainly hails from Mexico, and it gets this dark color from the crude processing methods that leave plenty of impurities. This impure form is diluted or dissolved, and then injected directly into veins intravenously or through an IV, and it can also be inserted into the muscles or under the skin.
If injected into a vein, the rush kicks in within 7 – 8 seconds and lasts from 45 seconds to a few minutes. Injecting a needle into a muscle or under the skin takes about five to eight minutes to get the euphoric feeling. This method of use is the fastest way of getting high, but it is more deadly than other methods of application. There is also a high risk of getting infected through sharing needles.
Some users prefer to sniff the white or brown powder up through the nostrils, just like taking cocaine.
This method involves gently heating the powder on a spoon or aluminum foil then inhaling the smoke and vapors through a tube.
People seeking a more potent way of getting high without spending too much find solace in heroin. Unfortunately, there is no standard way of processing this drug, and therefore, whatever is available on the streets is laced with many substances unbeknownst to the user. In some instances, heroin is laced with other illicit drugs like fentanyl that heighten the risk of overdoses.
Regardless of how you get it into your system, heroin enters the brain fast, and you can become hooked with just a few trials. Users feel a rush of happiness and positive feelings and then feel a sense of calm for hours on end. Some people report having several hours where they think and move slowly as if in a dream state where worries don't exist.
What are the Impacts of Heroin Use?
Attitudes toward heroin use have changed so much that some people are trying to make using heroin fashionable. As more people experiment with this drug, it becomes easier to spot the "heroin addict look" among people of all social, cultural, and economic backgrounds. This poignant look is characterized by a blank expression, dark circles underneath eyes, greasy hair, waxy complexion, and sunken cheeks.
Heroin use is no longer a scourge for urban areas. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) finds that suburban and rural communities have witnessed a rise in heroin use and dependency, especially among young adults. Most first-time users are generally in their 20s while regular users are in their 30s. Just like other illicit substances, heroin use comes with a myriad of side effects that can ruin a person's health physically and psychologically.
Drug users don't mainly advertise their harmful habits, so it is essential to beware of what signs to look out for when you suspect someone of using heroin. Euphoria, sleepiness, slowed respiration, impaired mental function, and constricted pupils are common signs of heroin use.
Some of the negative impacts of taking this deadly drug are nausea and vomiting, and this could last for hours or days after smoking, snorting, or injecting. Your normal functions like pain receptors and heartbeat are slower, and the risk of death is high if you take an overdose. Continued use of heroin leads to a build-up of tolerance so your body will need a higher dose to experience the feel-good effect.
The short term effects of taking heroin are as follows:
- Excessive itching
- Drifting in and out of consciousness
- Limbs feel heavy and therefore difficult to move
- Nauseated feeling and vomiting
- Long terms effects of using heroin include the following:
- Collapsed veins due to too many injections
- Higher risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis
- The heart lining and valves become infected
- Damage to nose tissue
- Women experience irregular menses
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Lung ailments like tuberculosis and pneumonia
- Skin infections like abscesses
- Pregnant users are likely to miscarry
Synthetic opioids are the primary driver of overdose fatalities accounting for a whopping 47,600 deaths in 2017 alone. West Virginia and Ohio are the leading the charts with opioid overdoses while California is among the states witnessing a rise in overdoses, NIDA finds.
As mentioned previously, heroin users are susceptible to overdoses because the drug is typically combined with other substances to increase volume and potency. Overdoses are marked with slowed breathing, pupils appear pinpointed, convulsions start, and the person may eventually slip into a coma. If no intervention is offered swiftly, the user will succumb and die.
If someone has overdosed, you must call 911 immediately, so they get medication to reverse this effect. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved naloxone hydrochloride for overdoses. This drug can be administered using an automated hand-held device. If you have a heroin user in the family, the FDA recommends keeping this drug in the medicine cabinet so you can temporarily reverse the effect before the paramedics arrive.
Factors Influencing Heroin Effects on You
Many factors shape how a single dose of heroin affects your body.
- Age of the user
- Amount and frequency of use
- Method of consumption
- User's environment
- Pre-existing medical or psychiatric issues
- Duration of use
- Use of alcohol or other drugs
What are the Signs of Heroin Addiction?
As you can see above, the rate at which someone experiences the euphoric feeling upon taking heroin is hinged upon many factors. Some people get hooked to this drug after trying two or three times, while others take a little longer to become dependent. The latter group typically uses the drug strictly for leisure and never raises the dose, while those who use regularly develop tolerance over time, so they increase the dosage.
Here are the tell-tale signs that you or your loved one has developed an addiction to heroin:
- Taking heroin more frequently than planned, e.g., even when there is no party
- Being unable to quit or cut back use
- Investing too much time and energy acquiring, using and recovering from opioids
- Falling back on life's responsibilities like work, home, or school
- Feeling overwhelmed by cravings
- Continued usedespite the adverse consequences of opioid use
- Taking heroin in dangerous scenarios, e.g., when babysitting
- Not participating in activities that were once enjoyable
- Building up a tolerance, so you need larger doses to feel the usual high
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping the habit, e.g., if supply is not forthcoming
- Opioid intoxication like losing consciousness or pinpointed pupils
What are the Possible Treatments for Heroin Use Disorder?
Despite the awful side effects of using heroin, overcoming the dependency on this drug is more natural than getting over painkiller addiction. Seeking treatment is the best course of action even when the person has not abused heroin for long, or they seem to be coping well. There are many treatments for heroin usage – medical and behavioral – and both approaches are aimed at restoring normalcy to the user's behavior and brain function.
As a result, the recovering user is more likely to hold down a job, stay away from misfits that tempt further abuse, and they also refrain from criminal actions. While either approach has proven successful in treating heroin addiction, Just One Recovery advises clients to embrace behavioral and pharmacological approaches. Integrating both treatments will yield better results so you can soon start enjoying a normal healthy life with enduring outcomes.
Pharmacological Treatment of Heroin
Empirical research deduces that using medication to treat opioid addiction encourages patients to remain in treatment facilities. It also decreases the risk of continued abuse of heroin or other illicit drugs. In doing so, the patient is less likely to acquire new infections like HIV from infected needles and drug paraphernalia.
Kicking heroin dependency is an uphill battle, especially for people who have been addicted for many years. Patients typically experience withdrawal symptoms, which range from mild to severe, depending on many factors like how dependent the person is to this dangerous drug. In extreme cases, patients develop complex health issues, and if they don't get proper medical assistance, death is a grim possibility.
Even when the user narrowly escapes death, continued use of heroin changes how the brain works, and it may take years before this vital organ resumes normalcy.
What are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?
Withdrawal symptoms often feel like a terrible bout of flu, and patients who are unable to cope with these signs drop out of treatment and start using again. If you are planning to enter rehab for heroin addiction, you can expect the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts
- Hallucinations and nightmares
- Extreme muscle and stomach pain
- Breathing and heart rate complications
- Inability to sleep
- Tremors and convulsions
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Getting over the above withdrawal symptom is immensely tricky, and it is not something you wish to do alone. Our addiction experts advise heroin addicts to seek professional assistance, so they have a proper intervention on their quest to become clean and free of opioids. We often prescribe medications to help patients cope with physical and psychological symptoms during the detoxification stage, so they don't relapse.
Without proper medication, the cravings may be too much to bear, thus pushing you to use it again. A relapse only gives you a temporary high before frustration kicks in, and you feel like a loser for failing. People without a proper support system could relapse and resume their bad habits again, thus eroding past efforts to get clean.
There are three kinds of medications used to treat heroin users.
- Agonists – they are responsible for activating opioid receptors in the brain so the person can feel the full opioid effect. Agonists opiates like fentanyl and morphine mimic the effects of endorphins, thus raising their potential for abuse and subsequent dependency.
- Partial agonists – they activate opioid receptors but yield less significant response.
- Antagonists – these drugs block the receptor and obstruct the rewarding effects of heroin, so the chances of addiction are lesser. Naloxone, Vivitrol, and Narcan are great examples of antagonists.
Your doctor will prescribe medication as per your medical needs. A single dose of naloxone can reverse an overdose situation, but some dire circumstances call for several rounds of treatment.
Behavioral Treatment for Heroin
Behavioral treatment is another alternative method of managing heroin addiction, and you can receive it through outpatient and inpatient settings. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps patients identify and confront self-defeating thoughts that promote heroin use. This approach is also helpful for patients who are battling other issues like eating disorders and mental health problems.
We often find that people struggling with substance abuse disorders are stuck in negative thinking and destructive thoughts that make a recovery far-fetched. CBT helps to alter these harmful thought patterns by practicing different ways of thinking, and this controls distressful emotions. The overarching goal of cognitive therapy is to help the addict to improve their wellbeing and alleviate the need for opioids gradually if you are happy and content with life, the desire to get high wanes over time.
Patients who opt for cognitive behavioral therapy are strongly advised to sign up for an inpatient rehabilitation program, so they are entirely removed from bad influences. During these sessions, we shall help you discover the underlying factors that make you or your loved one turn to drugs.
Apart from the above effects, there are other dangerous traps that users must watch out for, like combining heroin with other controlled substances or prescription meds. When these drugs enter the bloodstream, the results are unpredictable and sometimes fatal. Criminality is another reality that users quickly become accustomed to as they do anything on the search for the next high.
Why Enter a Drug Rehabilitation Program?
Drug Rehab applies diverse methods of rehabilitation comprising of counseling, prescriptions, sober living, behavioral therapy, group therapy, and faith-based recovery. Addiction is a multifaceted condition influenced by genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors that you may not overcome without professional intervention.
Helping patients overcome this dependency by dealing with the underlying factors saves them from the adverse effects of drug use on their lives. Patients who come to us can opt for inpatient or outpatient rehab programs depending on their unique needs, and recommendations from our resident experts.
Outpatient programs can be the primary channel or a transition channel after completing an inpatient program. These programs are ideal for people whose treatment can be programmed around their schedule. The patient must attend scheduled counseling and medical therapy at the rehab facility, and if done successfully, they can find enough stability to overcome their drug inclinations.
Inpatient drug treatment is the gold standard for managing addiction as patients have access to full-time care, and trained professionals, and the concern extends to an enduring arrangement. The goal here is to help the recovering addict or drug user remain clean even after they rejoin society and start life anew. Just One Recovery offers residential, luxury, or executive inpatient programs at various price points.
Find a Drug Rehabilitation Center Near Me
Addiction is a relapsing disease, so patients must be fully devoted and remove any triggers from the environment to negate reversion. Considering the overwhelming number of heroin users in California, there is a need for rehab to help those who are far along the addiction path. Just One Recovery is a one-stop center for addiction treatments in Orange County, California, and our compassionate staff is ready to help you heal. If you wish to be free of heroin use and addiction, contact us today at 714-538-8085 for a consultation.