Learn About One of America’s Deadliest Drugs
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid drug derived from morphine, a naturally occurring chemical found in the opium poppy plant. When consumed, heroin is chemically synthesized into morphine that then interacts with the brain’s opioid receptors.
Opioid receptors are responsible for controlling the brain’s pain and pleasure centers, as well as managing the body’s blood flow and breathing patterns. By influencing the brain’s reward center, heroin is capable of sending the user into a state of euphoria or into an unresponsive stupor.
Heroin is considerably more powerful than opioid prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Despite its potency, illegal heroin is much cheaper than its medically administered counterparts. As a result, many people who begin abusing heroin are actually continuing a substance abuse pattern that began with prescription opioid addiction. Research performed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that almost 80 percent of Americans using heroin initially misused prescription opioids.
Individuals who abuse heroin experience a large spectrum of negative short-term effects. In some cases, users ramp up their heroin use in an effort to offset the negative side-effects of the drug, leading to a self-destructive cycle of substance abuse. Potential short-term effects of snorting, smoking or injecting heroin include:
- Respiratory failure
- Dry mouth
- Heavy limbs
- Limited cognitive abilities
- Falling into a stupor state
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe itching
Extended heroin abuse causes significant harm to the mind and body. In many cases, this damage is permanent. For instance, repeated heroin use can upset the delicate balance of the body’s hormonal and neuronal systems, causing irreversible degradation. Studies have shown that heroin use can cause the brain’s white matter to deteriorate as well. The list of negative consequences related to heroin use is extensive. The following are just a few of the destructive, lasting effects that the drug can have on the body:
- Weakened immune system
- Inflammation of the gums and poor dental health
- Infections of the heart and valves
- Infectious diseases related to injection (HIV/AIDS, hepatitis)
- Collapsed veins related to injection
- Skin abscesses
- Intense constipation
- Stomach cramping
- Liver and kidney disease
- Lung complications and diseases
- Partial paralysis
- Long-term impotence (in men)
How Do Rehab Centers Treat Heroin Abuse?
It is vital that friends and family members of those struggling with heroin addiction recognize the need for medically assisted detoxification. Without necessary medical supervision, heroin’s intense withdrawal symptoms threaten to derail the recovery process from the beginning. Common withdrawal symptoms related to heroin include impaired breathing, hypertension, anxiety and depression.
Inpatient treatment facilities are an ideal place for those struggling with heroin addiction to safely detox and move past their withdrawal symptoms. Further clinical treatment and behavioral therapy can help the body to work through its dependence on heroin. Additionally, holistic treatments such as equine-assisted therapy, yoga and reiki have proven extremely beneficial and effective during addiction recovery.
At Reflections Recovery Center in Prescott, Arizona, we take a two-part approach to drug addiction recovery: clinical treatment and holistic therapy. This approach ensures that we address the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of a patient’s addiction. Our goal is to help clients prepare for a lifetime free from substance abuse. Contact one of our admission representatives at 866-790-7979 if you have more questions about heroin addiction and treatment.