In 2016, close to one million Americans reported using heroin in the past year. While many look at heroin addiction as a distant problem, anyone who suffers from heroin addiction — or who has a loved one who suffers from heroin addiction — knows just how bad it can get.
If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, you’re not alone — but it’s crucial to get treatment as soon as possible. Heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs out there, and the faster you act, the better chance you have of helping someone out.
This article will walk you through everything you need to know about heroin, and how to get over an addiction.
What is Heroin?
Despite the extremely toxic and dangerous nature of heroin, it actually comes from nature. It’s processed from morphine, which is a substance extracted from seeds of certain varieties of poppy plants. It’s highly illegal and highly addictive.
Heroin is usually sold as a whitish-brownish powder cut with various non-intoxicating substances. Heroin, most stereotypically, is melted down and injected into the skin. However, more pure variants can be smoked or snorted.
Heroin has a long and stories usage among some of the world’s most famous people. Great artists as disparate as jazz legend Charlie Parker, grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, and writer William S. Burroughs had heroin addictions at different points in their lives, usually contributing to their ill health and early deaths.
Why is Heroin so Addictive?
Heroin is so addictive largely because of the intensely positive high it gives off. People high on heroin report feelings of warmth/ contentment, a reduction of anxiety, pleasant drowsiness, and apathy to troubles. Many have compared the relaxing but intense rush to orgasm.
People who experiment with the drug usually don’t realize how negative it can be, since it’s such a mellowing experience. There usually isn’t a comedown afterward, so it can seem like it has no ill effects.
However, this is an extremely incorrect line of thinking.
While it might feel alright to use heroin, it’s extremely easy for your body to build a tolerance. In order to relieve that experience, you get the first time, you’re going to have to use more. As this pattern builds, addiction is far more likely to develop.
Heroin is extremely easy to overdose on. As one starts to use more and more, the likelihood of overdose increases drastically.
Effects of Heroin
People who are addicted to heroin often develop trouble with sleeping. They can also experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Both of these symptoms are made worse when one feels as though one’s life revolves around heroin.
But that’s not all.
There are more concrete physical effects of heroin use, such as lung problems, liver and kidney disease, heart issues, and constipation. People begin to develop clouded thinking, and their brain capacities generally diminish.
Heroin is so dangerous because it eats away at someone’s insides. While it makes people feel great, and they might stay away from an overdose, it still has tons of terrible effects.
Heroin Addiction Symptoms
If you’ve noticed a loved one with any of the above symptoms, they may be suffering from heroin addiction. Those that use the drug intravenously also might have holes in their skin or “track marks” where the needle has gone. This might cause them to wear long sleeves or pants in the summer.
You can also see that someone is battling addiction by looking at their personal belongings. If their shoelaces are missing from a pair of shoes, they might be using those shoelaces to “tie off”. (Many heroin users tie off parts of their body so that their veins pop out more, making it easier to inject.)
Possession of a burnt spoon is another dead giveaway since heroin users often melt their material in spoons. Obviously, if they have needles, syringes, or glass pipes, they might be using drugs.
One of the most common symptoms of heroin use is “nodding off”. People using heroin often can’t control when they sleep and might lose consciousness in the middle of a conversation.
There are external symptoms of heroin addiction as well.
If someone has been missing their responsibilities, not showing up for work, and failing in their personal relationships, there may well be a drug addiction going on. There’s a direct link between drug use and unemployment status, that’s backed by numbers.
Admit the Problem
There’s no way you can get better unless you admit the problem to yourself. Many people believe that they’re casual heroin users — but casual heroin users don’t exist. The symptoms appearing above aren’t going to slow down soon, and you’re putting yourself at risk for overdose.
There’s a reason why the first step in the twelve-step program is admitting that there’s a problem. In the famous fairy tale, Rumplestiltskin cannot be defeated unless you guess his name. There is wisdom in this, you cannot fight a problem if you don’t know what it is.
Cognitive dissonance is the very real feeling that occurs when one holds two contradictory ideas. One can know that their heroin addiction is a problem, but keep using it anyway, afraid to admit the problem to themselves.
Break up your cognitive dissonance, and admit you have a problem as soon as possible.
Heroin Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one is suffering from heroin addiction, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible. While support groups, sober-living friends, and changes in the environment can help drastically, treatment will give you the tools you need.
Inpatient treatment — also known as “hospitalization” or “residential treatment” — is a type of treatment where you go to live at the facility. It’s especially useful for those undergoing a life-threatening addiction, or an addiction that’s linked to suicidal ideation.
In inpatient treatment, your personal belongings are confiscated. Doctors monitor you constantly to make sure that you don’t slip back into old ways. You spend time visiting many different types of professionals, engaging in multiple types of therapies, and relaxing in a generally positive environment (just take a look at the facilities such as Recovery Beach for heroin addiction treatment).
For many, the first step of inpatient treatment is medical detox. Significant heroin use means that your body has built up a dependence on the drug. When you stop taking heroin, your body will most likely go into withdrawal.
Symptoms of withdrawal depend on the severity and length of drug abuse. One will often experience painful muscle spasms, frightening hallucinations, abdominal pain, nausea, and sweating. It’s important to withdraw in a medical facility, to make sure you don’t give up and use to stop the pain.
Medical facilities are also able to provide medication — such as methadone — which helps out your addiction symptoms safely and without a high.
Outpatient therapy is important for those who feel that their drug use cannot be controlled by standard therapy and support groups. An outpatient program, depending on the intensity, will usually offer 10-20 hours of treatment per week.
This allows you to continue your obligations at school and work while still focusing on therapy. While you won’t be entirely uprooting your life, you’ll give yourself a significant amount of time to work on adopting the crucial mentalities to staying clean.
In outpatient therapy, you’ll still have enough time to explore therapy options. You’ll likely meet one-on-one with a therapist, talk to psychiatrists, and engage in group therapy. A good rehab facility will offer outpatient therapy as well as residential treatment.
A crucial part of outpatient therapy is the simple fact that you’re spending so much time devoted to one thing. This will keep you away from boredom, which often leads to drug use. It will fill your brain with the thoughts that are key to recovery, and hopefully, keep them sticking there even when you “graduate” outpatient treatment.
The battle doesn’t end after you’re out of treatment. One is never a “former addict”, but someone who is constantly “in recovery”.
When you leave treatment, you still have to put in work every day to make sure that you don’t backslide. You might have to say goodbye to an old group of friends, change your habits, get in touch with your spirituality, and change your worldview.
Take up a new hobby — whether intellectual, spiritual, physical, or artistic. This will help you feel as though your life is moving forward as a result of your recovery. You can count the extra time in your life you have now that you’re not using, and take solace in the fact that you’re using it for better things.
Get Over Your Heroin Addiction
Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. Fortunately, it’s extremely possible to stop heroin use and gain back your life from the depths of heroin addiction. First, understand all of the negative effects that heroin can have; then, understand your treatment options; lastly, figure out how to change your life when you’re out of treatment.
If you take this advice, your chances of recovery from your addiction will greatly improve.
For more information, contact us today.