What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an illegal Opioid derived from Morphine, a naturally occurring substance found in a variety of poppy plants, which are predominantly grown in South America, Central Asia, and East Asia. Heroin can be snorted, smoked, or injected. While most often depicted in its purest form, white powder, it can also be a brown powder or a black tar-like sticky substance (primarily coming from Mexico). “Black Tar” Heroin get its color and texture, and subsequently its name, from being the most crude and full of impurities. However, because the white powder form of heroin is almost always mixed with other substances it is impossible to determine purity from color alone.
Street names for Heroin include Big H, Dope, Horse, Hell Dust, Smack, Boy, H, and Brown.
The Effects of Heroin Use
People who have used Heroin report feeling a “rush,” or a sense of euphoria. This works because Heroin binds itself to certain Opioid receptors in different areas of the brain and cause a release of dopamine, the “feel good” chemical. These areas include the parts of the brain responsible for feelings of pain and pleasure and the control of heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.
The “high” primarily comes from the triggering of the pleasure response in the brain in the same way our brain rewards us for positive behavior, such as eating when we’re hungry or exercising. This trigger, like all things that create a positive stimulus in our brains, is what leads down the path of addiction.
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Heroin, like most Opioids, is highly addictive. Yet, more people every year are trying Heroin for the first time. It seems like an easy thing to rationalize. “I can’t get addicted if I only do it once.” However, the reality is more complicated than that. 25% of people who try Heroin will develop an addiction. This is due to the “rush” Heroin induces. It isn’t actually the drug people get addicted to, but the chemical process it triggers. The release of Endorphins and Dopamine is the brain’s way of rewarding someone for good behavior. Opioids, like Heroin, trick the brain into releasing these chemicals faster than natural stimuli. Because of this reaction, people desire the substance more after trying it for the first time.
Because Heroin is most commonly injected, it is an especially dangerous drug from a health perspective. The sharing of needles is one of the most common vectors by which a number of incredibly serious diseases spread. Of these, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the disease that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), is the most feared and deadly. However, rates of other diseases, especially various forms of Hepatitis, are considerably more common. Some studies have found that more than 90% of intravenous drug users in some areas either are or have been infected with Hepatitis at some point.
In 2016, nearly one-million people reported trying Heroin for the first time. That is 250,000 people who potentially became addicted. Someone using Heroin may tell themselves that they can quit when they like, but it isn’t an easy thing to look at logically, especially when your brain is now craving the substance. A few signs of a budding addiction include:
- Requiring Heroin to function
- Requiring more Heroin to get the same high
- Engaging in increasingly risky behavior
Looking in from the outside, it can be hard to detect if a loved one is abusing Heroin as the drug has a euphoric effect on users and they could be at the point where they are using it to function normally. It will take close inspection but if you have noticed changes in behavior of someone you know, and you suspect drug abuse, then be on the lookout for:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Constricted “pinpoint” pupils
- Sudden weight loss
- Secretive behavior
- Changes in appearance
- Lack of motivation
- Extreme drowsiness or nodding off
- Financial problems, borrowing money
Any one of these indicators, though easily written off, are potential signs of Heroin abuse.
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Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Like any addiction, recovery starts with ridding all traces of the substance from the body. Recovery can’t start until someone is completely off of whatever drug they’ve become dependent on.
For an addiction like Heroin, it is highly recommended to go through a clinic where symptoms of withdrawal can be treated medicinally. Doctors can prescribe medication, like Methadone and Buprenorphine, to reduce the severity of the physical symptoms of withdrawal, such as:
- Dilated pupils
- Abdominal cramping
- Muscle aches
Checking into a clinic will also open the door to keeping tabs on the psychological symptoms of withdrawal, like depression and anxiety, that could potentially lead to relapse or self-harm.
Get Help for Heroin Addiction Now
If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, do not try to tackle it on your own. It can be a serious issue that is more complex than one might realize. Instead, reach out to your friends, family, and community. If you don’t know how or don’t have anyone, then reach out to a dedicated treatment specialist who can help with any questions you may have.
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