Users of heroin describe the “high” as a rush of pleasure and euphoria. Heroin is a depressant that slows down messages traveling between the brain and body. When heroin enters the body, it’s converted back into morphine, giving its users an exceptional sense of well-being. Once a person’s brain experiences this effect, it begins to continuously crave it. After the initial “high rush”, users experience “the nod”, which lasts for several hours. During this time, heroin users will alternate between a state of drowsiness and wakefulness. Picture a high school student dosing in and out of his Biology class – heroin users appear in a similar state since heroin is a sedative. Users experiencing “the nod” are in a precarious state because they are at risk of losing consciousness. It’s easy for heroin users to slip into a comatose state, resulting in an overdose where their breathing slows dramatically and eventually stops. Although most heroin users know the risk of overdose, once they are addicted, they no longer think about any potential consequences or experiencing the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.
Those who have never experienced this high often don’t understand the level of addiction that heroin users experience. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, describes it as, “It’s bliss. It removes any sense of discomfort. Things that in the past would produce pleasure no longer do.” (Haupt, A. 2014). Imagine that. Something that can produce so much pleasure and euphoria that you no longer care for other things that once produced pleasure such as family, friends, hobbies and career. All of what was important goes to the backburner. This is very difficult, if not an impossible feeling to comprehend to a non-drug user, but it’s critical to understanding the mindset a heroin user.
Side effects commonly associated to short and long-term heroin use include:
• Inability to focus
• Going in and out of consciousness
• Heart arrhythmia and palpitations
• Decreased respiration
• Low blood pressure
• Anxiety and depression
• Dry mouth
• Itchy skin
• Heavy sweating
If you or a loved one is suffering from heroin addiction, it’s important not to stop using the drug abruptly. Severe withdrawal symptoms include:
• Muscle and bone pain
• Difficulty sleeping
• Diarrhea and vomiting
• Cold flashes with goosebumps
• Uncontrollable leg movements
• Severe heroin cravings
Have you heard of the sayings “quitting cold turkey” and “kicking the habit”? Most of us not only have heard of these sayings but use them in regular day-to-day conversations. Interestingly, these terms are likely derived from the feelings of withdrawal that heroin addicts experience. For example, cold flashes with goosebumps describes that a cold turkey would feel like. “Kicking the habit” is associated with the uncontrollable leg movements that those going through heroin withdrawal experience. Withdrawals from heroin are extremely uncomfortable, if not debilitating, and it’s best to detox under the supervision of a licensed medical professional.
Risks of using heroin
Those using heroin are exposing themselves to many health risks, including death. Heroin greatly impairs one’s judgement making them more susceptible to HIV and hepatitis exposure, whether it be by sharing needles or through sexual intercourse. People who inject drugs (PWIDs) are at greatest risk for contracting hepatitis C (HCV) and are a huge driver in spreading the infection. It is estimated that each PWID infected with HCV is likely to infect 20 other people. Furthermore, it is predicted that as high as 25 percent of PWID have hepatitis B (HCV) (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019). Additives to heroin, especially the black tar form, often contain additives that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys and brain, which can cause permanent damage. Long-term users are likely to have injection-site scarring and/or collapsed veins. Bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves, abscesses (boils) and other soft-tissue infections are likely to occur. Immune reactions to additives found in street heroin can even cause arthritis or other rheumatologic issues.
Due to heroin’s high degree of addictiveness, users often develop a substance use disorder (SUD). Indications that someone is suffering from a SUD include failure to meet responsibilities at home, school and work. SUD victims are at high risk of a heroin overdose. A person can overdose the first time trying heroin. Since there is no way to determine the potency, purity and additional additives that may be in the heroin someone uses, the risk for overdose is particularly high. An overdose occurs when someone uses enough heroin to slow or stop his/her breathing; resulting in a lack of oxygen delivered to the brain. This condition known as hypoxia can leave short and long-term effects on the nervous system, including coma and permanent brain damage. Many overdoses result in death.
Treatment for heroin addiction and withdrawal symptoms
It’s important to eliminate the stigma that comes with heroin addiction and withdrawal symptoms. First and foremost, addiction is a disease. It is not a sign of weakness or indicative of a selfish person. The last thing that someone suffering from an addiction needs is to be judged. This is someone that needs help. Remember, addiction does not discriminate. There are people battling heroin addiction at this moment who come from various social/economic classes, various races and ages. Anyone can develop this disease and that’s why it’s so important shed light on this dire issue.
Daylight Recovery Center prides itself in providing a safe, comfortable and compassionate setting for those wanting to overcome addiction. Our judgement-free approach to heroin addiction treatment begins as soon as you call us. We accept most major insurances and our friendly and helpful team will be more than happy to help you navigate through the process. Upon admission, patients receive a full medical examination and our licensed medical staff takes note of patient history. Based on each patient’s specific needs, our doctor will create a custom treatment plan tailored to the patient. Our staff is onsite 24/7 to ensure only the best care is provided to all patients. Should a patient experience any temporary discomfort due to heroin withdrawal symptoms, our team of medical professionals are available immediately to assist. Regardless of where a patient is on their path to recovery, our team of caring medical professionals is here to provide everyone with the tools and information needed to lead a life free from heroin addiction.
Our modern facility was designed to provide a low patient to staff ratio; meaning more one on one care. Daylight Recovery Center is a 30-bed facility, each of which has its own flat screen television. Amenities include massage therapy, brain gym, psychotherapy, auriculotherapy and yoga. Our onsite Chef prepares each meal from scratch, using only the finest of ingredients as nutrition is imperative to one’s health. Our recreational room is home to a variety of books, games, exercise equipment and a 450-gallon saltwater fish tank. For more information or to speak directly with a member of our staff, please call (888) 708-2602.
Nierenberg, C. (2016, October 27) 10 Interesting Facts About Heroin. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/56604-facts-about-heroin.html
Haupt, A. (2014, February 10) The Facts About Heroin. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2014/02/10/the-facts-about-heroin
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2019) Why does heroin use create special risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/why-are-heroin-users-special-risk-contracting-hivaids-hepatitis-b-c