What is Heroin & Heroin Abuse?

Heroin is a semi-synthetic opiate that is both illegal and highly addictive. It originates from the opium poppy seed plant and then synthesized from morphine. The opium poppy seed plant contains a natural occurring alkaloid responsible for pain relief.

But, when synthesized these alkaloids become more strong and more addictive leading to Heroin abuse. Heroin is usually found as a white or brown powder but is also found as a black tar or as a solid black chunk. The most common form of heroin use is injection through a syringe and needle, but is also snorted or smoked.

What Causes Heroin Addiction and Dependency?

A lot of times, heroin addiction stems from an addiction to opioids. Opioids are synthetic opiates such as Norco, Percocet, Dilaudid, Fetanyl, Lortab, and Demerol. It can even start from an addiction to other opiates such as Codeine and Morphine.

Since these are narcotic prescription drugs, they are accessible. After a while they become “tolerable” for those seeking a high from these medications. While seeking a greater high, they usually turn to heroin. Yet, some people turn straight to heroin because of the euphoric type high that it produces. Abusers describe the feeling as a “rush”. Descriptions of this rush include pleasurable, painless and confident.

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

Most signs and symptoms are obvious, but others can be hard to detect. Visible signs and symptoms during and after taking the drug may include:

  • Slow movement
  • A period of wakefulness followed by immediate sleepiness, known as “nodding out”
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Sleepiness
  • Change in behavior

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Other signs and symptoms are more long term. These signs and symptoms may include:

  • Lying to friends, family and co-workers
  • Stealing
  • Extreme change in behavior
  • Sores, scratches or bruising from “digging” at the skin
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of job, friends or family members
  • Several injection sores or infections, known as “track marks”
  • Sleeping a lot

There are also objects to look out for when trying to determine signs or symptoms. These may include:

  • Syringes and needles
  • Burned spoons
  • Burned aluminum foil
  • Any kind of suspicious or burned pipe
  • Missing shoelaces (used for “tying off” injection site like a tourniquet)
  • Plastic bags with white or brown powder residue

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin is highly addictive and causes both physical and psychological withdrawals. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Visible shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability or lashing out
  • Loss of appetite

This is not an extensive list, but are the most common symptoms. Please seek medical attention if symptoms become extreme.

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Man with heroin abuse and withdrawal

Effects of Heroin Abuse

Heroin not only affects the user but affects everyone around them. Heroin can cause users to lie and steal, lose their jobs, and sadly lose their lives. Heroin overdose is a real problem and thousands of people are losing their lives every year. When someone dies from overdose, the family has to deal with the grief and pain. They are also left with the cost of burying their loved one.

If the drug abuser has children, their children become exposed to harmful experiences.  They are at times taken from their homes or left in another family member’s care. If the user is pregnant, they are threatening both their lives and the lives of the fetus. Heroin use while pregnant causes miscarriage and stillbirths. It also causes the baby to be born addicted to the drug and must undergo withdrawal treatment.

Heroin affects the user’s health and well-being. Long term heroin use can cause heart problems and lung complications. It causes irregular menstrual cycles in women and sexual dysfunction in men. Infections in the heart and on the skin are common as well as sleeping disorders. Sharing of equipment such as needles and syringes can result in Hepatitis B or C and HIV.

Heroin Abuse – Overdose

Heroin overdose deaths are on an extreme rise. Approximately 2,000 in 2001, to over 10,000 in 2014 (National Institute of Health, 2015). You can prevent overdose using Narcan, which is an emergency medicine in the form of a nasal spray. But Narcan is not always effective or always available on hand to revive a person who has overdosed.

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Am I addicted to heroin? How to Get Effective Treatment

If you believe you may have an addiction to heroin, please do not hesitate to seek out help. Methadone and Suboxone are in the same class as opioids and can be just as addicting as heroin. Instead, try therapy, drug rehabilitation clinics, and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings. Find Addiction Rehabs is here to help. Call anytime 7 days a week 24 hours a day. And never forget the help your family is willing to give to help you get clean.