The opioid crisis in America has been all over the news in recent years. And for good reason. Addiction affects not just the user but the family, too. Heroin addiction affects, directly or indirectly, almost every kind of person regardless of income, education, or geography. When heroin has taken hold of you or one of your loved ones, heroin addiction can be confusing and seem hopeless. While it is difficult for friends and family to watch someone they love struggle with heroin addiction and abuse, you are not alone, and at Boardwalk Recovery Center, we are here to help.
Recent Trends in Heroin Use
Over the last decade, heroin use has increased significantly. Overdoses from heroin have increased dramatically at the same time. Contributing to the problem is the growing trend of prescription strength opioid pain relievers being used misused and overprescribed. Many people who become addicted to these painkillers (like Codeine, Vicodin, and Oxycontin) often begin using heroin because it is cheaper, easier to get, and produces similar effects.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens notes that over 80% of people who have used heroin report that they first tried prescribed opioids. Sadly, the amount of people who experiment with heroin for the first time continues to rise despite an overwhelming amount of people knowing how dangerous even trying heroin just once is. In fact, 65.6 percent of young people between the ages of 12-17 understand the risks of using heroin even only once. Each day, though, over 300 people in the US try heroin for the first time. According to a study published in Spring 2018, “about 30 percent of new users become dependent on the drug” somewhere between one to twelve months after trying it.
What Is Heroin
Heroin is an extremely addictive opioid. It is made from morphine, a substance extracted from the poppy plant. It is similar to pharmaceutical pain relievers like oxycontin, morphine, hydrocodone, and codeine. Unlike other drugs, heroin can look very different because of the variety of ways to make it and the various substances added to it. Sometimes it will be a white or brownish powder or dry substance, or it can be a brown or blackish, sticky substance (often called “black tar”).
Part of heroin’s popularity with addicts is the different ways it can be used. It is easily injected, ingested, inhaled, and smoked. Paraphernalia often includes syringes, tourniquets, blackened foil, and burnt spoons. The way that heroin is used is only part of its allure for users.
Symptoms and Effects of Using Heroin
Heroin’s effects on the brain are crucial to understanding the complexities of heroin abuse. When heroin enters the body, it enters the bloodstream, and once it reaches the brain, it binds to and mu-opioid receptors. Once activated, these receptors, which are naturally occurring neurotransmitters that regulate pain, hormones, and happiness, order the brain to release dopamine. As dopamine is released, the user feels an intense high, a rush of endorphins, which reinforces the habit of using.
Heroin is a depressant. Some of the symptoms of heroin use include:
- Drowsiness (often called “nodding out”)
- Slowed breathing and heart functions
- Decreased mental and cognitive abilities
The slowing of the respiratory system poses a significant threat because it leads to coma, permanent brain damage, and even death.
Once the high wears off, many users experience what is commonly called being “dopesick.” Withdrawals caused by heroin addiction are especially painful, but they are not deadly like alcohol withdrawals can be. However, vomiting, diarrhea, restless leg syndrome, and moderate to severe body aches and pains make quitting heroin very difficult without medical supervision.
You’re Not Alone
Heroin use and addiction are at alarming highs. But you are not alone if you or a loved one is suffering. As the opioid and heroin epidemic continues, treatment options and success stories are also on the rise. Recovery from heroin addiction is possible, and new approaches to recovery have provided new hope to thousands of addicts, families, and parents.
Recovering from heroin is about more than just not using. At Boardwalk recovery, we have a caring and expert staff of doctors, nurses, and therapists to provide a safe place for addicts to recover from heroin and work to overcome their addiction. Our primary concern is helping the heroin addict become a healthy and happy person and family member.
With advances in science and health, as well as integrated mindfulness and experiential treatments, Boardwalk Recovery can help those who used to be heroin addicts begin living their lives and get back to being sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends, and amazing success stories.