What You Need to Know About Heroin Addiction and Treatment
Heroin addiction claims the lives of thousands of Americans every year. Almost every state in the nation has seen an increase in heroin use and related hospital visits in recent years, pointing toward a desperate need to take action.
Spreading awareness of the serious mental and physical health risks of heroin, as well as the availability of treatment, can reduce this widespread epidemic and save lives.
What Is Heroin Addiction?
Heroin is made from the psychoactive chemicals in the opium poppy and has been in use since the 1870s. Before the medical community realized its potential for addiction and causing fatal overdoses, heroin was legal in the U.S. for several years and used for a variety of conditions and health complaints.
Today, people use the now-illegal heroin to experience its euphoric, calming, pain-relieving effects. Users may smoke, snort or inject heroin. Once heroin reaches the brain, it binds to opioid receptors. This results in relief from pain and anxiety and creates a euphoric effect. The effects of heroin can last for several hours, depending on the method of use.
The euphoric effects of heroin and its relatively cheap price on the black market make it one of the most popular illicit drugs in America. Heroin is highly addictive, taking over the user’s brain and creating a dependence on the drug – sometimes after just one use.
Heroin addiction may stem from psychological, biological and/or social factors. People with underlying trauma or feelings of depression or anxiety run a higher risk of heroin addiction. Many people turn to heroin to try to escape their pain, uncomfortable feelings or the realities of life.
Heroin addiction can easily become fatal when a user develops a tolerance to the drug and uses more and more of it to try to achieve the same effects. In this way, a user can unknowingly take too much of the drug and suffer a fatal slowdown of the central nervous system. Ultimately, heroin overdose deaths stem from failing respiration.
The Many Consequences of Heroin Use
In the short term, heroin can cause a rush of euphoria, followed by warm flushing of the skin, heaviness of the limbs and dry mouth.
Other short-term symptoms include:
- Clouded mental function
- Slower heart rate and breathing
Users will often experience drowsiness for several hours after the initial effects of heroin wear off. Slow breathing can lead to coma, permanent brain damage and even death. Heroin affects the emotions, but can also have serious physical health consequences.
Long-term heroin use can lead to:
- Cardiovascular complications
- Pulmonary diseases
- Liver disease
- Neurological problems
The societal effects of heroin use include isolation from friends and family, loss of interest in favorite activities and a broken family unit. Heroin can destroy a person’s life, leading to financial ruin and legal trouble. Coming off of heroin is very difficult due to the potency of the drug and its strong effects on the brain.
National Heroin Abuse and Overdose Statistics
The following statistics tell the talk of the current heroin epidemic in the United States:
- There were nearly 260,000 emergency department visits related to heroin use in 2011, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- From 2009 to 2011, the number of patients seeking detoxification from heroin increased by 36 percent, with roughly 20,000 more hospital visits in 2011 than in 2009.
- In 2014, there were about 435,000 ongoing current heroin users in the U.S. About 914,000 reported past-year heroin use. These estimates are higher than most years from 2002 to 2013.
- Since 2014, heroin use has seen a steady increase across the United States, hitting a 20-year high in 2016. The annual number of heroin-related overdose deaths has increased fivefold since 2000.
What Is Behind the Rise in Heroin Use?
The increase in heroin use in the U.S. is directly linked to the rise in prescription opioid abuse. Overly lax painkiller prescribing practices have contributed to the rise in people of all demographics becoming addicted to opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.
Many people suffering from real injuries and chronic pain receive legitimate painkiller prescriptions from their doctors, failing to realize the high risk of addiction. Soon, drug use to mitigate pain becomes drug use to feed one’s addiction.
Eventually, many prescription pill addicts turn to heroin, also an opiate, for its cheaper price and stronger effects. Heroin and prescription painkillers are both in the opiate class of drugs, generating the same effects.
The transition from prescription pills to heroin led to the infiltration of this dangerous street drug in upper-class communities around the country – a new demographic for heroin. Due to the potency of heroin and users’ lack of knowledge about its dangers, heroin overdoses take the lives of thousands of people every year.
Treatment Options for Heroin Addiction
Professional treatment is available for heroin users all across the nation, including here at The Treatment Center of the Palm Beaches. Our experienced, professional staff can help with every step of the rehabilitation and recovery process, from detox to aftercare and preventing relapse. It is possible to overcome a harmful heroin addiction with the right professional help.
Now Is the Time to Help Yourself or a Loved One Get Back on Track from Heroin Addiction! Call The Treatment Center to Learn How We Can Personalize the Path to Recovery.