Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug made from morphine, found naturally in the poppy plant, but manufactured into a dangerous street drug. Known for the rapid pace at which it enters the body and affects the brain, heroin can become quite addictive quickly as it manipulates the brain’s pleasure and pain receptors.
What is heroin?
“Heroin is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” It is a highly abused drug, with nearly 948,000 American reporting heroin use in 2016.
It is known by various slang terms, including Black Tar and Hell Dust, indicating the two forms by which heroin can be used. The white or brown powder may be smoked or snorted; the brownish-black, tar-like substance, when mixed with water, is often injected. All three methods of use send the chemical quickly to the brain and cause the user to feel many effects.
The effects heroin users seek include the reputed “rush” of pleasure or euphoria, followed by a relaxed state of drowsiness. However, heroin use also comes with a whole host of unpleasant side effects, both short and long term, and all physical and mentally unpleasant.
Short-term effects of heroin use
Heroin is one of the quicker acting illicit drugs, meaning the body feels its effects almost immediately and has flushed about half of the heroin out of its system within 30 minutes. In this short period of time, however, you may feel a number of symptoms, including:
- Dry mouth;
- Warm flushing of the skin;
- Constricted pupils;
- A weighted feeling in the arms and legs;
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Drifting in and out of consciousness and semi-consciousness;
- Respiratory depression.
Just because heroin affects and leaves the body relatively quickly, it does not mean that it takes all its side effects with it. Heroin use, as with any synthetic drug, leaves a number of potential problems in its wake.
Heroin’s long-term effects
The most significant side effect of heroin on the body is the increased potential for addiction. Many become addicted to the effects of the high, and fail to consider the threat this addiction has to their health.
Effects of long-term use of heroin include:
- Increased risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C viruses as a result of sharing needles;
- Collapsed veins from injections;
- Damaged nasal tissues from snorting;
- Heightened risk of depression and other mental health conditions;
- Stomach cramping/pain;
Long-term heroin use also negatively affects multiple organs in the body.
- Risk of liver and kidney disease is increased;
- Compromised lungs heighten the risk of pneumonia, among other lung diseases;
- The lining and valves of the heart may become infected.
Additionally, many heroin manufacturers do not keep their products pure, meaning fillers are added to increase profits. Heroin additives may include:
- Powdered milk;
Black tar heroin has been found mixed with dirt and shoe polish, and some contaminants like Strychnine, a common ingredient in rat poison, have even been discovered in heroin. Needless to say, these ingredients can have some seriously damaging effects, including clogging vessels which leads to restricted organ functioning.
Treatment for heroin addiction
Heroin addiction is one where the user requires more and more of the substance over time to get the same high, known as building tolerance. The higher one’s tolerance, the more challenging recovery may be, especially if the addiction has been happening for an extended period of time.
The good news, however, is that many who seek treatment can, and do, find freedom from addiction and comfort in the lifestyle of recovery.
Addiction treatment for heroin first involves proper assessment of each case, as personalized and holistic treatment is crucial to the success of recovery. Then, following the assessment process, clients will be recommended to the treatment program most suitable for helping them achieve their treatment goals. At Rehab After Work, we offer both a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient (IOP) program.
Detoxing will help clients physically cleanse their bodies of heroin under the proper observations and care of medical professionals, giving them a clean slate on which to begin the recovery journey.