Heroin Addiction and Rehab Facts
Heroin is an opiate drug that is derived from the opium poppy; which makes it a close relative, pharmacologically, to morphine. It often causes a "downer" affect; which means a slowing of heart rate, breathing, and other bodily functions. People who take this drug usually feel relaxed and free of pain due to its morphine-like effect. The most common street nicknames for the drug are China, Big H, Black Tar, Chiva, Hell Dust, Smack, and Thunder.
It is often in the form of a white powder, but it can come as a brownish powder or a thick black sticky mass (known as black tar heroin). According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, this is a drug that is often "cut" with other materials, such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk, as well as with other more dangerous and toxic substances by unscrupulous dealers. The added substances can clog the veins, kidneys, and liver as the body tries to process the harmful mixture.
How is Heroin Abused?
The most common method is to inject it directly into a vein, which is called "mainlining". This causes the quickest reaction and biggest rush from the narcotic. Unfortunately, the high doesn't last as long when it is mainlined, so users will more frequently administer the drug to maintain the rush or avoid withdrawal. It is also snorted or sniffed. The tissue in the back of the nose is thin and has a great blood supply which allows the drug to be quickly absorbed though the membranes and into the bloodstream for a quick rush.
A user can also smoke it; usually by itself, or mixed with marijuana or other drugs in an attempt to create a different type of high. Some abuse occurs by inhaling the smoke through a straw, known as "chasing the dragon." If the purity is very high, it is more likely to be smoked in a pipe or snorted.
How Heroin Makes a User Feel
A "rush" or a feeling of euphoria occurs from its use. This feeling quickly becomes addicting and the user will constantly seek the drug to experience that rush again. The narcotic acts on the opioid receptors in the brain that help to determine reward, pain and relaxation sensations. When under the influence, common effects are dry mouth, heaviness in the limbs, flushed skin and mental fogginess.
After the initial rush wears off, the user experiences going "on the nod." This means that they will feel drowsy, but wakeful. The mental fog will continue for a period of time and the user might experience slurred speech, difficulty walking, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, poor night vision and constipation.
Negative Effects of Heroin Abuse
The number one negative side effect of heroin addiction is becoming dependent on the drug. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, about 23 percent of users who try it the first time become dependent on it. This is due to the psychological addiction to the false euphoria state that is created by the drug. The body also quickly becomes accustomed to the narcotic, and the person needs to administer higher dosages and more frequently to produce previously similar effects.
There is also a physical addiction that is quickly created, which when not taking the drug can cause a number of unpleasant side effects. Physical symptoms can start as early as just a few hours after the last dose, and they get progressively worse as time goes on. Symptoms include strong cravings for the drug, restlessness, pain in the muscles and bones, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, gooseflesh, and kicking movements. If someone with an addiction attempts to stop abruptly, the action could be fatal. Therefore, it is important to seek recovery assistance from a qualified heroin rehab center.
Side effects of withdrawal peak after 48 to 72 hours, but can persist for up to a week and sometimes much longer. The cravings often become worse during times of stress or when the person is exposed to old habits, friends, or places that he associates to the drug usage.
There are other side effects, as well. Besides overdosing from injecting unknown amounts of heroin, users can contract infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B. The veins that are used for injection can collapse, and infections of the heart, heart valves, and skin are common. Continued use can also cause liver and kidney damage because these organs must work abnormally hard to filter the toxic substance. Trouble with the lungs, such as pneumonia, is another side effect that occurs due to the slowed breathing caused by the drug.
Overdose is a very real possibility when taking the narcotic. Many users do not know how much actual heroin is in any given product due to the diverse cutting practices of dealers; and often users end up overdosing thinking their batch was less potent than it actually was. As with nearly all drugs, the body's ability to build up a tolerance forces users to consume ever increasing doses to continue experiencing the high they are looking for; which is another common reason overdoses occur.
An actual overdose affects multiple body systems. Someone in an overdose can experience slowed or shallow breathing; or no breathing at all. Users typically have a dry mouth, small pupils and a discolored tongue. They likely don't have a very strong pulse, and their blood pressure will be low. Usually a blue tinge to the skin, nail beds and lips is noticeable. An addict can experience muscle twitches, delirium, disorientation, drowsiness, and at the extreme, coma and death.
Overcoming Heroin Addiction
An addiction can be overcome; but no one should attempt to come off of it on their own. The withdrawal can be painful, deadly and usually unsuccessful. Professional assistance from a trained heroin rehab center gives the best chance of success in the most convenient way possible.
However, not all heroin rehab facilities are the same, nor deliver quality treatment. Many drug rehab centers administer powerful prescription drugs as a major part of their treatment methodology. The most popular of these drugs are methadone and buprenorphine. They both are highly addictive and merely result in the addict swapping their original addiction to now a prescription drug.
Keeping a person dependent on any substance is not true rehabilitation and is why the best heroin rehabs apply holistic and completely drug-free treatment programs. Various mental health techniques are used to help individuals understand and overcome their addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most commonly used and best approach to help the person learn to cope with their emotions without resorting to escaping through drugs.
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