When you think of heroin addiction and abuse, it might conjure up visions of street junkies. The face of heroin users and addicts have changed. This was largely due to how prescriptions were managed for opioid painkillers. Heroin addiction and abuse is incredibly dangerous, especially now that fentanyl is often laced into the drug.
If you have an addiction to heroin, or know someone who does, getting help is important. We will explain what heroin is and why heroin is addictive.
In Seattle, Washington, heroin addiction isn’t slowing down. For example, a Renton man, who was arrested after a high-speed car chase was found with 7 oz of heroin and meth. Another incident included 7 people overdosing in Seattle. This all happened within a short time of each other. It was suspected that fentanyl was responsible. They found traces of fentanyl in one of the needles. It is showing the great challenge that local officials have with opioid abuse in the Seattle area.
Local officials are determined to fight and win against the opioid epidemic however. They are willing to put it all on the line in Seattle. Safe injection sites are forbidden. The US attorney has made this very clear. Despite this, two city council members in Seattle want to proceed. With safe injection sites like this in Europe and Canada, it’s surprising that none have opened in the US. Especially being that the opioid epidemic is primarily happening here and knowing it could save lives.
In 2016, representatives of Seattle and King Country formally recommended the opening of safe consumption sites. The city of Seattle has budgeted $1.5 million for the project and have proposed the location for the site. The cities that have passed ordinances to ban safe injection sites include: Federal Way, Bellevue, Renton, Kent, and Auburn. Safe injection sites have been found to reduce overdose deaths. Opponents say the sites are enabling illegal activities and harmful behaviors.
This video on heroin in King County spells out the problems happening there. While there are many organizations that are volunteering their time and efforts, there are many overdosing on heroin. The face of heroin addiction has changed and you’ll hear stories about kids from good families or a upstanding citizens downspiraling on this drug.
A local Seattle radio station went out on the streets to talk to the homeless about the drug situation. Many of homeless living on Seattle streets were using meth while 17% said they used heroin. These drugs are mainly coming in from Mexico. Yakima is said to be the main drug distribution center in all of North America. The cartels use creative ways to smuggle the drugs across the borders. Keith Weis, who is a special agent a the Seattle division of the Drug Enforcement Administration says he’s seen it all.
This same route is now smuggling fentanyl primarily in the form of counterfeit oxycodone pills. They look the same as the 30 milligram pills that are doctor prescribed. Criminal organizations see fentanyl as a ‘godsend” because they can make more while spending less. They certainly don’t care about the citizens that overdose on these drugs. This is the major fear that the Drug and Gang Task Forces have.
There are undercover agents buy drugs like heroin from drug cartels. This year, the dealers are asking if they want fentanyl also. These drugs will come from China mostly. A few men from Snohomish County are in prison for importing fentanyl and pressing them into oxycodone pills. They received the fentanyl by mail from China.
It's important to know the truth about heroin addiction and heroin abuse. Heroin use is on the rise in the United States because many people addicted to prescription opioids have turned to it. People may have a hard time financing their addiction or choose to continue using. They’ll turn to heroin as the high is greater for less money than their prescription. If you are currently using heroin, you may already have formed an addiction to it. You’re not alone in your struggles. If you are just using addiction at the moment, know that the risks of addiction or death by overdose are high.
Most people get hooked on heroin from the first time they use. You might feel like you have no choice but to use heroin. You may not be aware of how dangerous this drug can be. Regardless, it's so important for you to learn as much about heroin as you can. The more you know about heroin addiction, the more you will see a need to recover from it.
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A commonly asked question is what is heroin? Also known as dope or smack, it’s comes either as a white or brown powder. If it’s black tar heroin, it will be a sticky, darker substance. It’s known as diamorphine. Being part of the opiate family, it derives from the opium poppy. The effects are euphoria and a pleasurable high. People quickly, sometimes instantly get addicted to the feeling.
The effects of heroin are not worth the elation however. When the high is over, you feel lower than you did before. The body and mind want more instantly. Heroin is made from morphine and becomes morphine again upon entering your brain. It will bind to opioid receptors in the brain. This is where your pleasure and mood is governed. The part of the brain that morphine influences is responsible for your blood pressure, breathing, and arousal.
You can ingest, snort, smoke, or inject heroin. As it’s so potent and fast-acting, you’ll experience the high almost immediately.
Heroin also goes by many different names on the street. Some of these include:
People who use heroin frequently use the term "chasing the dragon." People frequently use this term to refer to seeking after the high that was experienced with their first heroin use. It can also be used to refer to the act of heating the heroin in liquid form, and keeping it hot.
Humans have been using the opium poppy for medicinal and recreational purposes for 5500 years ago. It was documented that the ancient Sumerians were using the resin from the opium poppy. Ancients Greeks and Romans used opium to relieve pain. It was documented as a product transported on the Silk Road from Asia to Europe in medieval times.
Purified morphine was extracted from opium at the beginning of the 1800’s. At this time, it was the most powerful painkiller ever found. Morphine is 10 times more potent than opium itself. It was at this time that Western physicians turned their focus to morphine and other drugs like it. In 1874, Charles Romley Alder Wright, a British chemist first synthesized heroin. Him and his team studied effects on animals. There was no practical use from what they found during this time.
In 1897, Felix Hoffman synthesized heroin in an effort to convert morphine into a narcotic analgesic, codeine. The drug he created was twice as potent as morphine. Bayer put the drug on the market with the name “Heroin.” It was named after the German word “heroish”, which translates to English as heroic. The drugs would be presented as a cough suppressant and an analgesic for painful respiratory illness. Bayer marketed the drug as a non-addictive alternative to morphine and codeine.
At the time, doctors all over the world believes heroin was a safe and non-addictive drug that would eliminate the need for morphine. Evidence quickly found the drug was highly addictive and there was danger of overdose. Patients developed a tolerance, needing more of the drug over time to kill the pain.
Eventually, heroin was discontinued in the medical industry. It is manufactured and sold illegally in a white or off-white powder. Manufacturers will often mix heroin with other substances which can be a cause of concern. The latest concern is the addition of fentanyl that is coming from China.
The abuse of heroin has increased over the past few years. This is believed to be a result of prescription opioid abuse and addiction. Overprescribing and mismanagement of prescription painkiller medications was the main cause of the opioid epidemic. The government recently intervened, changing regulations of how the prescriptions were managed. There would be no more doctor shopping or being given liberal prescriptions of Vicodin or OxyContin.
Statistics from last year show that there is a reduction in opioid prescription addiction. This is largely due to the changes in prescribing opioid medication. However, heroin abuse and addiction has increased. There is a direct relationship to these statistics that can’t be ignored. Sadly, more people are taking to the streets and abusing heroin at a time it’s most dangerous. With the addition of fentanyl on the streets, more people than ever are suffering from opioid overdose.
To make matters worse, the CDC indicates that:
Many people don’t start with abusing heroin. It is the prescription opioids that were overprescribed for a decade that caused the opioid epidemic. Now, more people than ever before are abusing heroin. This is a fallout from the government tightening up on how prescription opioids are given out. It is easier and cheaper for someone to get heroin than it is for them to get their opioid that was prescribed to them. You now have the average Joe with a family abusing heroin. It’s not just the street junkie using heroin anymore. Let’s take a real life scenario and talk about Oxycodone.
Prescription opiates are often what draw people to using heroine. The drug Oxycodone is one of the more popular opiates that leads to heroin use.
Oxycodone is very similar to heroin in its chemical makeup and structure. Doctors will frequently prescribe Oxycodone (Oxy, OxyContin) to patients with severe pain. It's often given to patients after major surgical procedures as well. Unfortunately, doctors will also prescribe it for long-term use among people with chronic pain. Herein lies the problem.
When it is prescribed for long-term use, people can become addicted to it easily. This is even true when they take the drug exactly according to the prescription instructions.
Most doctors, even those who prescribe Oxycodone for long-term use, will terminate the drug at some point. When this occurs, patients will usually do one of three things. They will get the help they need with professional addiction recovery help. They will visit additional doctors to get prescriptions for Oxy. This is known as doctor shopping. It’s not as easy to do anymore. It is much easier to get heroin which is the third option in the scenario of OxyContin dependency.
For many, heroin serves as a good stand-in for Oxycodone. The effects of it are similar, it's cheaper, and it's more readily available.
Heroin overdose has become sadly too common across the US. With prescription opiate addiction becoming the epidemic that is it, it’s caused heroin deaths by overdose to erupt. These opiates are interchangeable and feed the addiction. So you have normal family members who can’t get prescription painkiller heading to the streets. People have died, family have been ripped apart. Heroin use is extremely risky. Everytime you abuse it, you’re at risk of falling further into addiction or dying from an overdose.
As an addict, your chances of these risks increase every time you use. Eventually, your luck will run out as it has for many others. If you, or someone you know is suspected of heroin addiction, you’ll need to get help. Heroin is a strong drug that takes control of your mind, meaning that professional help will be necessary. This includes detox and rehab. As a loved one, you may need to intervene because often a heroin addict won’t admit they have a problem. Heroin withdrawal is uncomfortable and shouldn’t be done at home. Here are some of the problems that occur with heroin addicts. They are part of the symptoms of addiction to watch out for:
Physical Symptoms of Heroin Abuse and Addiction
If you're like many people, you may admit to using heroin once or twice, but deny heroin abuse. The fact is that any use of heroin at all – even one time – is called heroin abuse.
This is because heroin is an illegal drug. The more you continue to use heroin, the further you slip toward addiction.
It's important to note that just because you are abusing heroin, that does not mean you have an addiction. While the two are related, they are not the same thing. Even so, it does not take long to form an addiction to heroin for most people. Some people even become addicted to it the first time they use it. After all, addiction involves certain behaviors. If you’ve used heroin once and strive to get more, this is an indication that it already has it’s claws in you.
If you're frequently using heroin recreationally, but don't feel a need to use it, you are participating in heroin abuse. You don't have a heroin addiction yet, but chances are, you will develop dependency and addiction. It will start with a tolerance for the drug. The more you take, the greater chance the mind and body become dependent on it. Eventually, you’ll need heroin to function. You’ll spend your time seeking it out, obtaining it, and doing it. Heroin abuse will rarely just be something you dabble in.
If you’re currently abusing heroin, you may be questioning whether you need help. The answer is yes. If you don’t get help, it will eventually swallow up your whole life. You may think you’re merely abusing heroin but you may already be addicted. Denial is one of the traits of heroin addiction.
If you really are just abusing heroin at this point, an outpatient rehab program can help you. You get information on what addiction is and how heroin is affecting your life. This might be enough to scare you into never using it again. With any rehab program, you’ll be asked to look into yourself. There might be an emotional reason you turned to heroin in the first place. When you can figure out what it is you’re repressing, you’re stronger against the drug.
If you think that your abuse is at the point of addiction, you might feel that an IOP is best. This is an Intensive Outpatient Program. You’ll have greater care and one-on-one therapy daily. This helps you to dig deeper into the psychological reasons for your heroin abuse. This is extremely beneficial if you’re just abusing heroin at this point. If you can stop now with the valuable knowledge you gain from IOP and aftercare, you can turn your life around. As a heroin addict, it’s much harder to do that.
If you continue to abuse heroin, it will eventually lead to an addiction. Breaking it down, heroin addiction is when you use it enough that the body becomes dependent. Your brain gets rewired by the drug, changing your character and behaviors. The brain will believe that heroin is essential to your survival. You will feel like you have to get high no matter what. Heroin works on the brain in the same way other opioids do. This is why if you have a OxyContin addiction, you can use heroin to ease the withdrawal symptoms.
Opioids increase how much dopamine is released to your brain’s “reward system.” This system is what drives pleasures such as eating or sex. When you abuse heroin, it takes over your reward system. You experience a dopamine rush which makes you feel great pleasure and euphoria. Once it’s worn off, many users will want to seek it out over and over again. This is what can create dependency quickly. That’s why heroin is so addictive and many fall into it’s trenches.
To stop using heroin on your own is extremely challenging. It also comes with risks. You have lost tolerance for the drug when you take time away from it. If you should relapse, you will often take the same amount as you had before. This is when overdose can occur because the body is no longer used to it.
When you are addicted to heroin, there are certain signs that you will exhibit. In many ways, some of these signs are similar to what's experienced with heroin abuse. However, in addiction, the signs and symptoms tend to be a bit more pronounced. Of course, there are also some more dangerous signs when heroin addiction sets in too.
Some common signs of heroin addiction include:
If any of these describe you, you can be fairly certain there is a heroin addiction in place. If you are still unsure, it can help to look for some behavioral signs of heroin addiction too.
Heroin addiction leads people to do things they never thought they would do. These behaviors are clear indicators of an addiction. They are also associated with abuse but the behavioral signs will be more frequent and intense.
You can be fairly certain that you are a heroin addict if you:
Do any of the above sound like they describe you? If they do, you can be sure you have a heroin addiction. However, if you're still not sure, you may want to try taking an addiction quiz. This might help you see your heroin use in a clearer light.
Heroin is a potent drug that can have a profound effect on the mind and body. If you have been using heroin for a period of time, you need to know what these effects are. Once you know, you may be able to see how dangerous this drug truly is.
Heroin will influence side effects the more time goes on. Most people experience slight effects with short-term use, and more severe effects with long-term use.
There is no way of telling when you might start experiencing the long-term effects of heroin. This is different for everyone.
In the short-term, your heroin use is bound to have an effect on you. Many people describe the short-term heroin effects as:
As you can see, some of these short-term heroin effects might seem appealing. For many people, these are the reasons why they continue to use. However, what they don't realize is that these "positive" effects are going to be short lived.
The long-term heroin effects are much scarier than the short-term effects of this drug. With frequent heroin use, these and other long-term symptoms may begin in as little as a few months. For others, it may take years to begin to see them.
The long-term effects of heroin include:
Psychological effects for long time users include:
The long-term effects of heroin are definitely not worth continuing in your addiction. Heroin is an extremely dangerous drug that can have profound consequences. If you are addicted to heroin, it's so important to get help so that you can stop.
It's possible that you weren't aware of how dangerous heroin is. As you have gone over this information, you may be tempted to simply stop using it. You might be surprised that many other people feel the exact same way that you are feeling.
Even so, stopping heroin cold turkey is not a good solution for anyone. If you have an actual addiction to heroin, you need professional treatment. Otherwise, you are likely to experience heroin withdrawal symptoms that drive you back to the drug. This can have its own dangers, which we will talk about in just a moment.
It's important for you to know what heroin withdrawal symptoms are like and what you can expect.
Heroin withdrawal occurs when someone stops using heroin for a period of time. You may have even experienced heroin withdrawal if you have had to stop for a brief time. Please note that if that's the case, what you experienced has the potential to be much worse.
It's likely that those heroin withdrawal symptoms were mild compared to what it's like when you stop the drug completely.
It is even possible for heroin withdrawal to be fatal if you suffer from other medical conditions. Sometimes these conditions can be hidden, or ignored because of the focus on heroin use.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms will begin within 12 hours of the last time you used. The peak time will be from 24-48 hours. They last up to 7 days usually. Some symptoms can last for months. The drug will be out of your system after a week. It is more of a psychological addiction after detox has ended.
Here is a more detailed account of what you can expect as you go through detox. This explains the progression of withdrawal symptoms from heroin.
For most people, heroin withdrawal begins slowly. You may notice one or two mild symptoms, and they feel quite controllable. They may begin within a few hours after your last dose of heroin.
As the hours continue on, you will notice additional symptoms begin to surface. These symptoms will become much more severe until they reach a peak. For most people, this peak is reached by the third day after heroin is stopped. At that point, their severity will start to decrease. When you go to professional detox, they may put you on a medical detox plan. This is where you’ll be given drugs that will help ease the discomfort and keep you safe during the process.
You may be at risk for post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This is when heroin withdrawal returns, without warning. Some people experience hard-to-manage withdrawal symptoms, for weeks, months, or even years.
Heroin statistics tell us that prescription drug abusers and addicts have the highest risk for heroin abuse and addiction. However, there are other risk factors that may also play a role in resulting in heroin addiction too.
If you are abusing heroin, and you meet any of the above criteria, you are at risk. It's so important for you to stop using heroin now, before you develop a heroin addiction.
You may have a loved one who is currently addicted to heroin. If that is the case, you probably feel stuck. You may want to help, but you don't know how, or what you should do. Unfortunately, so many families find themselves in this situation.
If you have a loved one who is addicted to heroin, having a conversation about the problem is crucial. There is professional intervention that can help guide the conversation. It's possible that your loved one may listen to you if you bring it up the right way. To do this, you should take a few different steps. These include:
If this approach doesn't work, you may have to move on to another option.
Your next option is to have an addiction intervention. Interventions can be very powerful, and they often result in heroin addicts agreeing to get treatment.
An intervention is a meeting that will involve you, your loved one and other friends and family. An interventionist will oversee and guide the meeting for you. Together, you'll discuss the addiction. You'll have a chance to tell your loved one how you feel and ask them to get help.
At the end, the opportunity will be extended to your family member to go to heroin rehab.
Unfortunately, an overdose is extremely probable for a heroin addict. There are a few reasons why this is the case.
When purchasing heroin on the street, the purity of the drug is not always known. Even if the buyer has an idea of the purity, it's still not going to be a sure thing. When a heroin addict uses heroin that is of higher purity than he is used to, an overdose can result.
Also, heroin addicts frequently decide to try and stop using heroin on their own. When they do, they put themselves at risk for an overdose. This is because the chances of relapsing are very high.
When a relapse occurs, it happens during a time when the body's tolerance levels have dropped. This means the person can no longer handle the same amount of heroin that he or she is used to. When the same amount of heroin is delivered, an overdose is a possibility.
Fortunately, a heroin overdose can be reversed in some cases. A drug called Naloxone (not to be confused with Naltrexone) can be administered. However, Naloxone must be given to the person very quickly in order for it to be effective.
If a heroin overdose is suspected, it's critical to call 911 right away. The paramedics are often able to administer this life-saving drug right away.
Inpatient rehab is often your best option for recovering from heroin addiction. However, it may not work for your lifestyle. Maybe you don’t have the finances or there are things you need to keep on top of in your life. If this is the case, outpatient rehab may be the best alternative for you. There is Intensive Outpatient Programs that give you the quality heroin addiction treatment you need. You can still live at home but just visit the facility daily. The most important thing is getting the help you need.
Fortunately, if you have a heroin addiction, you can get help to recover from it. It is a treatable disease but you need the tools. You may need to go through a drug detox first. This will help you with your withdrawal symptoms and make recovery much easier on you. Most people benefit from drug detox for this reason.
After you detox from heroin, it's important to go to drug rehab. Rehabilitation is necessary to address the psychological aspect of your addiction. This will help the healing process along, and give you the chance for a better long-term outcome. We at Evergreen at Northpoint know how essential it is to get help when you’re addicted to heroin. Even if you don’t find our facility to meet your needs, we can help you with any questions you have. We offer free assessments and can verify your insurance to see what your coverage will be with us.