Heroin is a highly addictive drug with a long and rich history of narcotic and pain-relieving effects. Heroin is produced from morphine, which is an organic compound itself derived from opium, a latex substance that leaks from the poppy seedpod when damaged. Opium has been used in its original state for thousands of years. Evidence dates the first cultivation of opium poppy back to ancient Mesopotamia in around 3400 B.C. In Egypt, a thousand years later, poppy farming was conducted under King Tut. The popularity of the opium poppy continued to grow around the world, traveling along the Silk Road – a series of travel routes between Europe and China – making its way into culturally diverse and ancient societies.
Within the last four hundred years or so, chemists discovered they could derive morphine from opium, leading to the further discovery of heroin. The commercial-scale production of heroin for medical use in the U.S. started in 1898 by the Bayer Company. It was seen as a wonder drug that was more effective than codeine in respiratory diseases. Not long after, the addictive qualities of heroin became evident. From the 1910s onwards, heroin turned from a medical wonder to a banned narcotic that could cause a serious drug conviction. International treaties came to regulate its production, use, and distribution. Today, the plant grows in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia, but its exact origin is uncertain due to its extensive cultivation dating back to ancient times.
The Effects of Heroin
On the street, this infamous drug is sometimes nicknamed big H, horse, hell dust, and smack. It can be injected, snorted, or smoked. Some will mix heroin and crack cocaine which is termed speedballing. Others abuse prescription drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin because they have similar effects. Heroin acts fast and interacts with opioid receptors in various areas of the brain associated with feelings of pleasure and pain, in addition to controlling heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. Users report experiencing a rush of pleasure and euphoria, but it can also cause vomiting and one to nod in-and-out of consciousness. Long-term impacts on the body may include liver and kidney disease, infection of the heart lining and valves, and mental disorders like depression and antisocial personality disorder. Some studies have found a loss of white brain matter associated with heroin use. This may impact decision-making, behavior control, and responses to stressful situations. Another primary health concern is sharing needles, which can put a user at high risk of contracting an infectious disease, notably HIV and hepatitis C, both of which can be life-threatening.
The Dangers of Buying Heroin Today
When a person buys heroin on the street, there is a chance that it will be bulked with other compounds like sugar, starch, or powdered milk. These additives can clog blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, and brain, which may cause permanent damage. This is part of why the risk of a heroin overdose is notably high and not uncommon; users usually do not know what the contents of their last purchase were. In recent times, heroin has been found to be cut with other potentially life-threatening opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanyl. Thus, the actual strength of the drug could be a total mystery.
The Dangers of Overdose
Heroin is very addictive, and the associated overdose risk is very high. During an overdose, a person’s breathing slows and may stop. This can reduce oxygen in the brain, which can have long-term mental and nervous system effects like coma and permanent brain damage. During an overdose, naloxone is administered and works quickly to reduce the chemical effects of heroin in the brain. This emergency medication can be life-saving.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Detox is a necessary first step when treating heroin addiction. When an individual stops using heroin, the body will go through withdrawal symptoms that require medical management. The detox process may include the administration of medications like buprenorphine and methadone, in addition to behavioral therapy to manage withdrawals.
Like other forms of addiction, the recovery process may include long-term therapy to monitor a person’s condition. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, therapy can help patients “build skills to resist drug use, replace drug-using activities with constructive and rewarding nondrug-using activities, and improve problem-solving abilities.” It can also help a patient improve interpersonal relationships like those with family and friends.
Opium, heroin’s natural form, has been around for thousands of years, used by ancient societies in China, Egypt, Rome, and others. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the Western world discovered the best and worst parts of the drug. From opium came morphine, and from morphine, heroin was produced on a commercial scale for medical use. Today, heroin is looked at entirely differently, and new drugs have been created to combat heroin addiction and overdose. When an individual uses heroin, they are at high risk of developing an addiction. Heroin alters the brain’s reward pathway, making it feel impossible to quit. At Oceanfront Recovery, we have experience handling the crisis of heroin addiction. We also know how challenging it may be to reach out for help. If you or someone you know is in this desperate situation, don’t hesitate to call. Our Heroin Addiction Treatment Center will take you from detox to recovery and help you transition back into the world safely and with peace of mind. Call Oceanfront today at (877) 279-1777.