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Heroin

Heroin – Dangers Associated with the Drug and its Addictive Factor

Heroin – Dangers Heroin is classified as an opioid drug because it acts on the opioid receptors in the brain. The drug is mostly used recreationally to produce euphoria in the user and also results in relaxation, drowsiness, and reduces any pain experienced by the individual.

In the United States, heroin is not accepted as medically useful whereas in countries such as the United Kingdom it may be prescribed as a strong pain reliever for the following situations:

  • Severe trauma.
  • Post-surgical pain control.
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Chronic pain caused by terminal illnesses and end-stage cancer.
  • Maintenance therapy for those who are addicted to heroin, even being considered more useful than methadone. This is somewhat of a controversial use of the drug though.

Does heroin cause have any adverse effects?    

 

The use of heroin as a recreational drug is extremely problematic and there are major adverse effects associated with its use such as:

  • Contracting blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV due to sharing infected needles and syringes to administer the drug intravenously (into the bloodstream through a vein).
  • Developing fungal or bacterial endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart).
  • Formation of abscesses at the injection sites due to the introduction of harmful bacteria into the soft tissue when injecting the drug.
  • Accidentally becoming poisoned with products used to “cut” the drug.
  • Overdosing on the drug which can suppress the central nervous and respiratory systems enough to result in death.

How addictive is heroin?

Heroin is an extremely addictive drug because of the way it works on the brain. The mentioned opioid receptors are involved in the reward system of the brain and when they are stimulated, the result is a relaxed state, or a “high”, that makes the user feel pleasant.

The steps to full-on addiction to the drug are as follows:

  • Frequent and regular use of heroin leads to tolerance to the drug which means the individual needs to use more of the product to reach its desired effect.
  • Dependence develops when stopping the drug causes withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, agitation, cold flashes, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, muscles aches and pains, insomnia, and severe cravings for heroin. This results in the continued use of the drug to avoid these symptoms from occurring.
  • Continued use of heroin then leads to issues such as health-related problems, failure to meet responsibilities at school or work, and even getting into trouble with the law. This is termed as the user having a substance use disorder and the most severe form of it being referred to as an addiction to the drug.

Long-term effects

Individuals who use heroin over the long term may develop problems such as:

  • The collapse of veins that are used to inject the drug into.
  • Sleep disturbances that are difficult to manage.
  • Damage to the mucous membranes in the noses of those who snort the drug.
  • Damage to the valves of the heart due to endocarditis.
  • Liver and kidney disease usually caused by the additives in the drug.
  • Development or worsening of mental health disorders such as depression.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles in women.
  • Sexual dysfunction in men.

Consequences of Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a powerful, illegal opioid drug that has serious side effects, produces major addiction, and results in many negative consequences for the user. According to the National Institutes of Health, heroin use is up in the United States, with around 20 million people admitting to using this deadly drug.heroin addiction

Your Brain on Heroin

Repeated use of heroin changes the physical structure of the brain, and it also affects the brain’s function and physiology. Long-term imbalances occur in the brain’s hormonal and neuronal systems that are not easily reversed. With heroin use, studies show that there is deterioration of the brain’s white matter. This affects the ability to regulate behavior, decision-making abilities, and responses to stressful situations.

Repeated heroin use almost always results in full-blown addiction. A chronic relapsing disease, addiction goes beyond physical dependence. It is characterized by psychological, uncontrollable drug-seeking behaviors that continue regardless of consequences.

Withdrawal Syndrome

Heroin produces profound degrees of tolerance, as well as physical dependence. Tolerance occurs when a user takes more and more of the drug each time. With physical dependence, the body grows adjusted to heroin and adapts to the presence of the drug in the bloodstream. Because the body gets dependent, withdrawal syndrome occurs after 4-8 hours since the last drug use episode.

Major withdrawal symptoms occur between 24-48 hours after the last dose of heroin. It takes 5-7 days for these symptoms to subside, but studies show they can persist for months. Symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold chills with goosebumps
  • Involuntary leg movements

Loss of Work

Drug use is associated with loss of employment, and heroin is no exception. People who use/abuse this powerful opiate have problems functioning on the job, either due to the effects of heroin or the withdrawal symptoms. Heroin use leads to being fired, laid off, or quitting jobs, simply due to the severity of its addiction potential.

Loss of Family and Friends

Heroin has serious social and family consequences for the user. Heroin addicts often steal from friends and family members to fund their habits, or they cannot contribute financially, and become a dependent person in the friendship or family unit. This leads to resentment, anger, and conflict among the user and his/her friends and relatives.

Health Problems

Heroin bought on the street often is mixed with other substances, some of which can be toxic to the body. Heroin users are at risk for lung, liver, kidney, and brain damage. These organs become permanently damaged from the substances mixed with the opioid drug. In addition, IV drug users and those who snort heroin are at risk of contracting hepatitis B or C or even acquiring the HIV disease.

Legal Problems and Incarceration

Because heroin is an illegal substance, being caught with it could lead to many legal problems and/or incarceration. A person using heroin could have a car accident, resulting in a vehicular assault or homicide charge. Because it changes thinking and behavior, users are at high risk for committing theft, assault, and/or homicide.

Heroin Overdose

Heroin users are in danger of fatal overdose, or many end up in the emergency room or hospital, barely surviving a respiratory depression. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 11 Americans die every day due to a heroin overdose. Because the drug is majorly intense, users cannot tell that there is a problem until it is too late. Heroin affects a person’s breathing, and this drug slows breathing until a person no longer takes breaths.

Resources
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2015). Nationwide trends: Heroin. Retrieved from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends