Heroin: Effects on the Body
Heroin is an opioid drug synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the poppy plant. Prescription opioid pain medication, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, can have similar effects to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed by a doctor. Despite the high risks and negative reputation of heroin, it continues to be among the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. Also among the most abused drugs in the United States are prescription pain medications, research shows that these drugs may open the door to heroin abuse.
How is Heroin Used?
Heroin can be inhaled by snorting or sniffing, injected, or smoked. Each route delivers the drug to the brain extremely rapidly, contributing to health risks and to its high addiction risks. Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease caused by changes in the brain and characterized by uncontrollable drug-seeking no matter the consequences.
Effects of Heroin on the Brain
Upon entering the brain, heroin is converted back into morphine, which binds to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors. These receptors are located throughout the brain and are involved in the perception of pain and in reward. Opioid receptors are also located in the brainstem, which controls automatic processes critical to life, including blood pressure, respiration, and arousal.
Symptoms and signs of heroin abuse:
Immediate Symptoms of heroin use are often experienced and may include-
- Dry mouth
Additional symptoms may be experienced following the immediate effects of heroin on the brain-
- Foggy mental state
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heart rate
- Alternating between periods of being asleep and awake
Signs of continued heroin abuse include-
- Bruising and needle marks
- Abscesses and infections
- Disease in liver and kidneys
- Heart problems
- Collapsed veins from repeated injections
Heroin is a drug where addiction progresses extremely quickly and is an extremely dangerous drug due to varying strengths an individual may receive. There is no way to tell how strong a dose of heroin is until it has been used. The amount used one day may deliver less of a high compared to the same amount used another day which could be far more potent and even deadly.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
There are a variety of effective treatments available for heroin addiction which include both behavioral and pharmacological (medications). Individuals seeking treatment for heroin addiction will typically undergo a period of assisted detox before continuing on to inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment where individual and group therapies will be incorporated into their treatment. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy have been shown to effectively treat heroin addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is designed to help modify the patient’s expectations and behaviors related to drug use and to increase skills in coping with various life stressors.
If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction, do not hesitate to seek help now. The team of addiction specialists at A New Start, Inc. are here to help you begin the path to recovery. Our IOP facility in West Palm Beach is equipped with a team of caring and compassionate staff ready to help. To learn more about treatment at A New Start, Inc., please call us today at 1.844.TALK.ANS.