Many people begin heroin abuse with the thought that the experience will just be a one-off, or a passing phase of drug experimentation.
“I’ll just try it once.”, or “One time can’t hurt.” are some of the common misconceived ideas about heroin.
Sadly, most do not simply try it out.
As one of the most addictive, illegal drugs in the world, all too often it’s those same experimentative individuals who wind up on the rocky road towards addiction. It takes incredible strength, courage, commitment, plus the support of loved ones and professionals to turn things around for the better. Is is important to keep in mind, however that there is help available and there’s hope.
What is heroin?
Heroin belongs to the opiate class of drug. Its biological beginnings are rooted deep inside the pod of a seemingly innocent poppy flower. Sap-like opium is extracted, and subsequently refined and processed to make morphine. A further refinement takes place in order to form different types of heroin, such as brown (‘street heroin’), white or tar.
Originally during the Civil War Era, many soldiers became dependent on morphine. In order to combat this, researchers attempted to develop a drug that would be far less addictive. The result? Heroin. However, the addictive properties of heroin meant the drug was found to be even more potent than morphine. When morphine is made into heroin to be used as a medicine, it’s referred to as diamorphine, which is a lot stronger than morphine or opium.
Like many drugs (opiates) made from opium, heroin is a very strong painkiller.
Causal links with addiction
To understand more about why so many struggle to free themselves from the grips of addiction, we have to consider the drug’s properties and their effects on the brain and body. A small dose of heroin gives the user a feeling of warmth and well-being, and larger doses can make you sleepy and very relaxed. Unlike drugs that are consumed orally, most heroin users will exploit fast methods of delivery into the system, such as smoking or injecting – both of which hit the body at full pelt and overwhelm the user. Very quickly, the individual can enter new mental realms and experiences.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, receptors for heroin are located in reward centers of the brain and the area responsible for how the body perceives pain. This means that people who take heroin feel no pain or discomfort at all, and the portion of their brains that record and remember pleasurable experiences are working overtime. The experience might be considered remarkably pleasurable as a result, and therefore one that’s highly addictive.
Since an addiction is characterized by a psychological and physical need to score, the user ultimately hands over their power to the drug. While the chemical structure of heroin and its effects on the brain may be responsible for its addictiveness level, the ways in which heroin users employ the drug, might also play a role.
Effects and risks
Taking heroin involves a number of risks including:
- Dizziness and vomiting
- Likelihood of addiction
- HIV or hepatitis C due to injecting and/or needle sharing.
- Damaged veins and arteries
- Risk of gangrene and other infections
- Developing abscesses or blood clots
- Coma and even death due to respiratory failure
- Risk of inhaling and choking on vomit
If heroin is taken with other downers, such as benzodiazepine tranquillizers, methadone or alcohol, the risk of an overdose is far more likely. Regular heroin users may have built up some tolerance, but if use stops abruptly – even for just for a few days – tolerance will rapidly drop. If a user resumes abuse in the same doses as before the period of abstinence, they’re at risk of a fatal overdose. Withdrawal from heroin should always be under medical super supervision in order to minimize these risks.
The road to recovery
Opting for the right treatment program symbolizes an important step on the road to recovery. A typical treatment program requires a commitment of between 30 – 90 days of treatment with a transitional living plan in place to avoid distractions which can see the user settling back into old patterns and behaviors. Remaining in the same places, with the same same people can often hinder the recovery process and retrigger substance abuse.
A safe and comfortable environment is needed so that underlying issues can be addressed such as where, when and why the heroin abuse began.
A treatment center which can offer full clinical support, is one of the best ways to start the journey to sobriety so the client can concentrate fully on their recovery program. Learning how to deal with stress and anxiety in better ways without the need of deadly crutches such as heroin or other substances, helps that individual stay free of drugs long-term.