Heroin is one of the most addictive illegal drugs and is one of the most difficult types to recover from. It will equally ruin the lives of the old, young, rich and poor.
Heroin is in class of drugs called opioids. It is typically injected, but it can also be inhaled or smoked. Most users don’t start with heroin, they use other opiates that come in pill form such as OxyContin or Vicodin. Many times, these pills come from a doctor or dentist for legitimate reasons. However, when the prescriptions run out and can’t be refilled (because they are either too expensive or will not be refilled by the doctor) people will sometimes turn to heroin, because it is easier to access and much less expensive. There are many risks to opioid addiction – beyond the obvious legal risk, the composition and purity is almost impossible to discern and dosage can be difficult to judge which can easily lead to a greater level of addiction, overdose or even death.
Long-term heroin use can create serious health problems including brain changes that can lead to deterioration of the brain’s white matter, which can affect decision-making and overall brain function.
Other long-term health consequences of heroin use include:
- Infectious disease (HIV, hepatitis)
- Collapsed veins
- Bacterial infections
- Abscesses and other soft-tissue infections
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Arthritis and other rheumatological problems
- Liver and kidney disease
- Pneumonia and tuberculosis
The symptoms of heroin addiction can diminish and be managed over time. However, the psychological dependence can remain for years even after the person stops using.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms are some of the most severe and uncomfortable of all types of withdrawal. Symptoms typically begin within 12 hours of the last dose, and peak between 48 and 72 hours after that. Physical withdrawal symptoms usually subside after a week. However, many people will start to use again when they feel these symptoms, just to relieve the pain.
Symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
- Agitation & anxiety
- Restlessness & insomnia
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Excessive sweating
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea & vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
Withdrawal from heroin addiction is best accomplished under the supervision of medical professionals – do not attempt to quit cold turkey. Supervised medical detox is the best way to overcome the intense cravings and dangerous withdrawal symptoms of heroin addiction. Make no mistake, going through the detoxification process by itself is not a cure addiction. Research has shown that a comprehensive addiction treatment program that includes a combination of medicine, therapy and wellness programs, is the best way to overcome addiction and live a healthy and rewarding life.
If you or someone you know is addicted to heroin, the time to act is now – not tomorrow or next week. With commitment and follow-through, you can effectively overcome addiction. Learn more about Enterhealth’s heroin rehabilitation program.