The Dangers of Heroin Addiction
When it comes to drugs, heroin is one of the most powerful, dangerous and frightening illicit substances today. It has one of the highest rates of fatal overdoses, and it is highly addictive due to its potent effects and users’ tendency to develop tolerance relatively quickly. Heroin can be snorted, smoked or injected, and can be found in both white or brown powder form as well as a dark sticky substance called black tar heroin.
Heroin belongs to a class of drugs known as opiates, which are typically used as sedatives or painkillers because they decrease activity in the central nervous system. Opiates are known as depressive drugs because they depress, or slow down, most of the reactions that occur in your brain. Heroin’s depressive effects create an intense numb, dreamy high that users find calming and pleasurable. But frequent recreational use can quickly become compulsory as tolerance builds, and the times between highs become increasingly unpleasant.
Heroin addicts will destroy all of their personal and professional relationships if they do not get help at a professional heroin addiction rehab center, like Oceanfront in Orange County.
Heroin in the Brain
Your brain has specific pathways that are designed to respond to opiate drugs like heroin and substances with similar chemical structures. Your body even produces some of its own similar substances, often referred to as endogenous opioids — one common example is endorphins, which are produced when you do things that make you feel good like exercising, laughing or taking a hot bath. These pathways regulate feelings of pain and pleasure and help give your brain and body a sense of reward when you do something healthy or enjoyable.
When you use heroin, it works with these pathways in your brain to block pain and make you feel calm and happy. At first, using heroin gives you the same sense of rewarding pleasure that naturally enjoyable activities do. This trains your brain to want heroin — the first stage of addiction, known as cravings.
As you continue to use heroin, the drug floods your brain with more of the drug than it is built to process. Other pathways in your brain become reprogrammed to respond to heroin and other opiate-like substances. But after the drug wears off, these pathways are left empty — your body doesn’t produce enough of its natural chemicals to use them. As your brain struggles to fill the void, you experience the uncomfortable “comedown” after a high. Over time, the building up of these pathways has the effect of requiring you to use more and more heroin each time so that you can keep up with your brain’s increasingly higher capacity — this process is known as building a tolerance.
As your tolerance increases, your brain becomes even more accustomed to the happiness and pleasure you feel when you are high. Your natural happiness and pleasure pathways suffer, and it becomes difficult for you to feel normal without drugs. In the times in between your highs, you will begin to notice withdrawal symptoms like depression, anxiety, and irritability. As heroin use continues toward addiction, these symptoms will spread to your body and you may experience nausea, vomiting, chills, sweating, muscle spasms, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and hallucinations. Because these withdrawal symptoms are so fierce, heroin addicts often become desperate to get more heroin, in many cases resorting to illegal measures. Those who are fully addicted to heroin will begin to destroy their livelihoods, their health, and their personal and professional relationships as their focus narrows to only achieving their next high.
You can fight these symptoms by going to the heroin addiction treatment center in Laguna Beach, California. Our programs and dual diagnosis treatment center in CA help you overcome addiction and rebuild your relationships with family and friends.
The mental effects of heroin feel calming, but the depressive or slowing effects extend to the body, too. As your brain relaxes into the high, your body responds by slowing your breathing and your heart rate as if you were sleeping. Taking too much heroin leads to dangerously low blood pressure, shallow breathing and slowed heart rate. If help isn’t found quickly, overdosing can be fatal — your breath and your heart can come to a complete stop or will slow enough to stop supplying the necessary blood flow to your brain.
Heroin overdoses led to over 15,000 deaths in the United States in 2017 alone. According to a recent CDC study, these rates have been rising steadily since the early 2000s — between 2008 and 2016, the number of recorded deaths due to heroin overdose increased from 1 in 100,000 to nearly 5 in 100,000. Adults aged 25 to 54 are currently at the highest risk.
The real danger is that overdosing on heroin is difficult to predict or correct for. Since users build a tolerance to heroin, they continue to use more and more of the drug, often without paying attention to exactly how much they are taking each time. What’s more, heroin is unregulated, which means that when users buy it, they cannot tell its strength or what it contains. Many heroin suppliers add other substances that appear similar to powdered heroin, from flour to crushed low-grade painkillers, to their product so that they can sell more. They know that heroin users will not be picky, and won’t question the contents of what they buy. It’s crucial that a heroin addict seeks an appropriate heroin addiction treatment center as soon as possible — it truly could be the difference between life and death.
Signs of Heroin Addiction
Heroin addiction is difficult to hide. A person often seems to go through a complete personality change as everything they once cared for or prioritized takes a backseat to their drug habit. Heroin can have physical effects, as well, especially with long-term use. If you’re concerned about a loved one, watch for some of these signs, and be sure to seek help immediately from a heroin addiction treatment center if you think their behavior is pointing toward heroin addiction.
- Difficulty focusing
- Shortness of breath
- Track marks at injection sites
- Unexplained financial difficulty
- Legal trouble
- Sensitivity to pain
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Lying or secrecy about whereabouts
- Using drug-related slang
- Presence of drug paraphernalia (needles, balloons, pipes or baggies)
- Flu-like symptoms
- Depression, anxiety or general irritability
The best way to find out if heroin is a problem in your life or the life of a loved one is to talk to a healthcare provider. A doctor, mental health professional, addiction specialist or counselor can connect you with the right resources to get the help you need.