Understanding the Effects of Using Heroin
Heroin is an Opioid with powerful effects and serious risks. Although Heroin is illegal to use or possess in the United States, many people use Heroin as a recreational drug to experience intense euphoria. It is usually manufactured as white or brown powder or in a form known as black tar. The most common way to administer the drug is by injecting it into the veins, although heroin can also be smoked, snorted, or inhaled.
Heroin affects the brain and nervous system by binding to Opioid receptors. The brain naturally produces neurotransmitters that bind to Opioid receptors to regulate feelings of pain and pleasure. When someone injects Heroin into their body, the drug quickly reaches the brain and binds to these receptors in place of Morphine and other natural Opioids.
This effect disrupts the normal functioning of the brain and overcharges the production of dopamine, a chemical which regulates emotions and plays a role in reinforcing behavior. The sudden abundance of dopamine in the brain causes a surge in feelings of happiness and positivity, the characteristics of a Heroin “rush.” As the brain begins to adapt to the presence of Heroin, the “rush” gives way to several hours of a dream-like trance. These effects of Heroin are so potent that many people become addicted after using the drug only once or twice.
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What are the Initial Effects of Using Heroin?
The most overwhelming effect of using Heroin is the “rush” of intense happiness and the subsequent hours of drowsiness. Users may experience the sensations of a “rush” as early as 10 seconds after injecting Heroin intravenously.
There are also several side effects to using Heroin, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Feelings of warmth throughout the entire body
- Feelings of heaviness in the arms and legs
- Nodding in and out of consciousness
Many people who have used Heroin testify that the drug relieves pain and suppresses anxiety. However, using Heroin comes with serious risks. For example, when someone is experiencing a Heroin “rush,” their blood pressure falls, their heart rate slows, and their breathing becomes more shallow. These effects could result in a medical emergency if the person stops breathing altogether or suffers heart failure. In addition to cardiac and respiratory issues, people have reported slipping in and out consciousness after using Heroin, a distressing effect which could ultimately result in a coma. Moreover, it is important to understand that injecting Heroin with needles can increase a person’s risk for contracting diseases, especially HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Using Heroin?
Someone who uses Heroin repeatedly may eventually suffer brain damage. This is because Heroin alters the brain’s complicated neural systems, sometimes permanently. There is also evidence that Heroin significantly degenerates the brain’s white matter, responsible for regulating behavior and decision-making. Additionally, some batches of Heroin are adulterated with other substances and drugs which may harm a person’s lungs, liver, kidneys, and other vital organs.
Other consequences of long-term Heroin use include:
- Collapsed veins (in those who inject Heroin)
- Damaged nose tissue (in those who snort Heroin)
- Infection in the heart’s linings and valves
- Pneumonia and other lung diseases
- Stomach pain
- Swollen, abscessed skin
Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal
The most well-known, long-lasting effect of repeated Heroin use is addiction. In fact, about 25% of people who experiment with Heroin will become addicted. Heroin addiction typically arises after someone develops tolerance to the effects of Heroin and uses more of the drug to keep experiencing a “rush.” Someone who uses Heroin repeatedly will quickly become dependent on the drug to feel normal or at peace. Consequently, they will experience withdrawal when they lose access to the drug. Someone with a Heroin addiction will compulsively use Heroin to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Heroin withdrawal usually lasts for about one week. The symptoms of withdrawal become most intense within 24 to 48 hours of the last dose.
Heroin withdrawal usually lasts for about one week. The symptoms of withdrawal become most intense within 24 to 48 hours of the last Heroin dose. The symptoms of Heroin withdrawal are:
- Intense drug cravings
- Muscle pains
- Severe irritability and anxiety
- Stomach problems
Above all, when Heroin addiction has taken hold of someone, cravings for the drug may overtake their life and destroy even their closest relationships. Heroin addiction also increases the risks of getting arrested for possessing illegal substances, contracting diseases from unclean needles, and suffering an overdose.
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What are the Symptoms of a Heroin Overdose?
An overdose is one of the most dangerous possible effects of using Heroin. When someone uses more Heroin than their body can handle, they may stop breathing and ultimately die from suffocation. An overdose may also restrict the brain’s oxygen supply and cause brain damage. Moreover, an overdose can also cause someone to feel extreme confusion and drowsiness and experience muscle spasms.
Fortunately, it is possible to save someone’s life from a Heroin overdose by quickly administering the medication Naloxone, which reverses the effects of Heroin by blocking and dislodging Heroin from the brain’s Opioid receptors. Anyone suffering a Heroin overdose requires emergency medical care. Drug overdoses kill thousands of people every year and no one can be sure whether an overdose will be fatal.
How to Find Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Heroin addiction is a life-threatening and chronic condition. Someone who is compulsively using Heroin is at high risk of overdose and requires treatment and support to overcome the effects of the drug. Fortunately, there are recovery centers available where anyone can start living life substance-free. Most treatment programs for Heroin addiction will involve detox, medication, and therapy. If you or someone you know is struggling with Heroin addiction, please contact a dedicated treatment specialist today for more information on where to go for rehab.
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