The number one negative side effect of heroin addiction is becoming dependent. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, about 23 percent of first time users become dependent. This is first a psychological addiction to the false euphoria state that is created. The body then quickly becomes accustomed to the narcotic and more frequent and higher dosages are needed to produce an effect.
Heroin is an opiate drug that is derived from the opium poppy. It is a close relative, pharmacologically, to morphine. It causes a “downer” affect; which includes slowing of heart rate, breathing and other bodily functions. Users feel relaxed and free of pain due to its morphine-like effect.
It acts on the opioid receptors in the brain to produce a euphoric sensation. This quickly becomes addicting and the user will constantly seek the drug to experience that rush again. When under the influence, common effects are dry mouth, heaviness in the limbs, flushed skin and mental fogginess.
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. The best heroin rehabs apply holistic and completely drug-free treatment programs with various mental health techniques 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.
The most common method is to inject it directly into a vein, which is called “mainlining”. This causes the quickest reaction and biggest rush. Unfortunately, the high doesn’t last as long, so users will more frequently administer the drug to maintain the rush or avoid withdrawal.
It is also snorted or sniffed, which allows the drug to be quickly absorbed though the membranes and into the bloodstream for a quick reaction.
It can also be smoked by itself or mixed with marijuana or other drugs in an attempt to create a different type of high. Some inhale 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.
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 or brownish powder, but it can come as a thick black sticky mass (known as black tar heroin). According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it 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.
Besides overdosing, users can contract infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B. The veins that are used for injection eventually collapse, and infections of the heart, its valves, and skin are common. Continued use causes liver and kidney damage because these organs must work abnormally hard to filter the toxins. Trouble with the lungs, such as pneumonia, is another side effect that occurs due to the slowed breathing caused when high.
Most users do not know how much actual heroin is in any given product due to the diverse cutting practices of dealers. Users as a result overdose from 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 which creates slowed or shallow breathing or no breathing at all, muscle twitches, delirium, disorientation, drowsiness, and at the extreme, coma and death. Their pulse will weaken, and their blood pressure will be low. Usually a blue tinge to the skin, nail beds and lips is noticeable.