What Addiction To Heroin Looks Like

Drug addiction is no joke. It’s an issue that plagues this world and it never shows any signs of slowing down. More specifically, illicit drugs have become a huge issue in the United States. Studies show that illicit drugs cost the United States more than $193 million in healthcare, criminal, or lost work productivity costs. One of the most dangerous illicit drugs out there right now is a drug called heroin. This drug is one of the most addictive ones out there and dependency on this substance can be a tough thing to break. Today, we’re going to talk about what addiction to heroin looks like and why we need to keep people informed on its dangers. 

What is heroin?

To better understand heroin addiction, we’ll first want to define what this substance is. Heroin is an extremely potent opioid that is derived from the opium poppy plant. The substance is often grown in Southeast/Southwest Asia, Colombia, and Mexico (areas where the plants thrive). Growers take the pod of the plant and process them down into a white or brown powdery substance, sometimes even a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. This illicit substance can go by many other names such as smack, hell dust, junk, horse, big H, and many others.

How is heroin used?

Heroin is a substance that can be used in a variety of different ways. Heroin users will often inject the substance by heating it up on a metal spoon, waiting for it to become a liquid-like substance, and using a needle to inject it into their veins. Other users will snort, smoke, or even sniff the substance to get the full effects of it. Users who desire a more powerful high will even mix the substance with other substances like cocaine; this is called speedballing. Originally, this substance was created in the late 1800s to be used as an opioid, similar to morphine. It wasn’t until the 1940s and 1950s that we started to see the first incidents of heroin abuse. Heroin addiction truly started to take shape in the 60s when the Vietnam War was at its peak. 

What are the immediate effects?

Due to its potency, heroin can have some powerful effects on users, both physically and mentally. The way this drug works is the chemicals in the substance rapidly enter the brain and bind to opioid receptors across the brain. Some of the areas that are directly affected are the pain and pleasure areas. Heroin greatly affects the way a person experiences pain and pleasure, the way their heartbeats, their sleep patterns, and their normal breathing patterns. Some other effects this drug can cause a person to experience are:

  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Extreme euphoria/Warmth
  • Severe itching
  • Mental fog
  • Semi-consciousness/Drowsiness
  • Feelings of heaviness (in the limbs)
  • Dry mouth

This drug can cause people to experience many of these short-term effects, but they can also experience some alarming effects in the long-run.

What are the long-term effects?

Heroin has some short-term effects that may be enticing to people who are curious about using, but what many do not realize is that it also has some long-term effects that would deter most people. For those that habitually use heroin, abusing it for its short-term effects, they will more than likely develop some of these long-term side-effects:

  • Collapsed veins from needle injections
  • Infections or damaged tissue from continual use (injecting, snorting, etc.)
  • Insomnia 
  • Liver/Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Abscesses
  • Troubles with breathing
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Constipation and stomach cramps
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Impaired judgment
  • Contracting infectious diseases like HIV, HCV

One side-effect a person could easily experience with habitual heroin use is overdosing. The longer a person uses this kind of substance, the greater their dependency becomes. When a person’s dependency grows stronger, they will have greater desires to use in higher doses and more often. This is how addiction develops.

Heroin Addiction

When someone continues to abuse a substance, they are putting themselves in danger of developing an addiction. But addiction doesn’t form overnight, it takes some time. The first initial use or a drug like heroin could entice people to use more because of the extreme euphoric effects that encountered while on the substance. If a person cannot squash these desires, they could easily begin to use heroin habitually. When they use this drug more and more frequently, they develop a dependency. 

Once a person develops a dependency, they start to feel as though they need to use heroin in order to feel normal or ‘okay’. Users aren’t always in a dark room in a sedated state, some go as far as to use the substance and continually go about their day or attending functions. It’s hard for someone who has developed a dependency to go a day or even a few hours being sober. When the dependency gets this severe, they have surely developed an addiction, causing them to need the drug more often and in higher doses. This can be extremely dangerous because this increases a person’s chances of overdosing.

An overdose can happen when someone uses enough of a substance to produce a life-threatening effect or even death. When a user experiences an overdose, their breathing will often slow or even stop, causing a severe lack of oxygen going to the brain. This effect is called hypoxia which can result in long-term mental effects or even cause a person to fall into a coma. There are many side-effects that would normally deter a person from using this kind of substance, but it can be hard to fight against curiosity when you’re peer pressured, you live in an environment that accepts drug abuse, or you have not been given proper substance abuse education. 

Heroin addiction is no joke, it can be a very scary thing to deal with. Heroin has a habit of having a tight grip on users and it can be seemingly impossible to rid oneself of. However, there are plenty of options for people to use when it comes to addiction education and substance abuse recovery treatments. Reach out to your local addiction recovery center to see what sort of options they have for heroin addiction treatment so you or someone you know can get the help they need.