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The Scary Truth About Heroin Addiction and Abuse

It's important to know the truth about heroin addiction and heroin abuse. The fact is that heroin use is on the rise in the United States. If you are currently using heroin, you may already have formed an addiction to it.

If you have not become addicted to heroin, you may be abusing the drug. Either way, you're in a dangerous situation.

Right now, you may feel as though you have no other 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.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a drug that is also known as diamorphine. It is a member of the opiate classification of drugs. Heroin also goes by many different names on the street. Some of these include:

  • Number 8
  • Dope
  • Smack
  • China White
  • Murder 1
  • Junk
  • Chiva
  • Gear

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.

Originally, heroin was made by C.R. Alder Wright in 1874. It is made from morphine, which comes from the poppy plant. It was intended to be used to treat severe pain. For many years, it was used for that purpose, medically.

Eventually, heroin's addictive potential was discovered, and the use of it was discontinued in medical settings. Today, it is manufactured and sold illegally as a white or off-white powder. Heroin sellers will frequently mix heroin with other substances before it is sold.

Heroin is a powerful drug. It is highly addictive, and can lead to addiction very quickly once the use of it begins.

Heroin Addiction

Heroin Statistics in the United States

Heroin use in the United States has increased in the last few years. Many believe that this is due to the fact that prescription drug abuse has increased. The two are certainly related to each other.

Heroin use, abuse and addiction statistics in the United States tell us that:

  • In 2015, 591,000 people had a substance use disorder involving heroin.
  • Approximately 23% of people who use heroin develop an opioid addiction.
  • In 2015, there were close to 13,000 overdose deaths that were related to heroin.
  • 4 out of 5 new heroin users first began abusing prescription painkillers.
  • In 2015, it was estimated that 21,000 teens had used heroin in the last year.
  • Of that number, 5,000 were considered to be current heroin users.
  • Additionally, in 2014, 6,000 teenagers had a heroin use disorder.
  • Heroin overdose death rates tripled between 2010 and 2013.
  • Overall, heroin overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010.
  • The highest heroin death rates were among men between the ages of 25 and 44 in 2015.
  • During that year, the heroin death rate was 13.2 for every 100,000 men in the U.S.

To make matters worse, the CDC indicates that:

  • More than 9 in 10 people who use heroin also use at least one other drug.
  • The increased availability and lower price of heroin contribute to its popularity.
  • In 2013, 2,196 kg of heroin was confiscated at the southwestern border of the United States.
  • A history of opioid abuse is a strong risk factor for starting heroin use.
  • Heroin has a high purity rate in the U.S., which is also a contributing factor for increased abuse rates.

Why are People Drawn to Heroin the Drug so Strongly?

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.

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OxyContin is a drug that should never be prescribed long-term. The addictive potential of this medication is very strong.

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's 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 two things. They will visit additional doctors to get prescriptions for Oxy, or they will turn to heroin.

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.

What are Some Signs of Heroin Use?

When someone first begins using heroin, the signs of heroin use are easy to pinpoint. Heroin is not a drug that's simple to hide. If you have just started using heroin, chances are pretty good that other people have noticed.

Some common signs of heroin use include:

  • Finding heroin drug paraphernalia lying around. For example, lighters, powder and syringes may be left behind.
  • Experiencing a sensation of euphoria.
  • Feeling flushed.
  • Having a dry mouth.
  • Problems staying awake.
  • Slower breathing rates.

All of the above can occur after just one use of heroin. Of course, the more often heroine the drug is used, the more severe the symptoms of use will become.

How do You Know if You're Abusing the Heroin Drug?

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 after the first few times they abuse it.

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 you may have one very soon.

Again, any use of heroin at all is an indicator of abuse. However, you may want to know what the signs of heroin abuse are.

If you're abusing heroin, or you know someone who is, you may notice some, or even all of the following:

  • Nausea, with or without vomiting
  • Itchiness all over the body
  • A chronic dry mouth
  • Frequent bouts of drowsiness and fatigue
  • Feeling confused or experiencing brain fog
  • A slower heart rate than normal

Heroin abuse is very dangerous. More often than not, it leads to a serious heroin addiction.

If you are a heroin abuser, you may wonder if you need to consider professional help to stop using. This is actually quite a common question.

The truth is that you probably don't need a type of heroin rehab, such as an IOP program. However, if you are participating in heroin abuse, there must be a reason why you're using this drug.

It is important to get to the root cause of your heroin abuse. It may be something you are completely aware of. Then again, it might not be. People abuse heroin for so many reasons, and not all of them are known.

It may greatly benefit you to talk with a counselor about your heroin abuse. He or she will be able to help you understand why you are abusing heroine. The drug frequently leads to addiction. Getting some form of help before it does can assist in preventing that for you.

What is a Heroin Addiction?

If you continue to abuse heroin, it will eventually lead to an addiction. This occurs when you feel the need to use heroin regularly. You may experience heroin cravings when too much time goes by without using it. You may also find that you need to use more heroin each time you use.

For those who have a heroin addiction, they feel as though they need the drug to feel like themselves. Heroin addicts think about heroin almost constantly. They may need to use first thing in the morning, and last thing before bed.

A heroin addiction is all encompassing. It takes over your entire life, so much so that you can't concentrate on anything else. As you can see, this makes it much different from heroin abuse.

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:

  • Having constricted pupils
  • Exhibiting sudden changes in your behavior or actions
  • Frequently feeling disoriented
  • Cycling through feeling very alert and drowsiness
  • Having a droopy appearance
  • A runny or bloody nose
  • Track marks on the arms from injecting heroin

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.

You can be fairly certain that you are a heroin addict if you:

  • Frequently lie or exhibit other types of deceptive behaviors
  • Frequently avoid making eye contact with others
  • Spend a great deal of your time sleeping
  • Frequently talk with incoherent or garbled speech
  • Experience a sudden worsening of your performance at work or school
  • Have lost a job or received disciplinary action at work
  • Don't pay close attention to your physical appearance
  • Have no motivation toward your goals like you once did
  • Are withdrawn from your friends and family
  • Steal or borrow money to purchase heroin
  • Make comments that indicate you have a low self-esteem

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. 

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Heroin Effects on the Mind and Body

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.

Like other drugs, various heroin effects change, depending on how long you're using it. 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:

  • Experiencing shallow breathing
  • Having clouded mental functioning
  • Having less pain physically
  • Getting relief from emotional or psychological problems
  • Uncontrollable itching that can result in scratching or picking at the skin

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:

  • Having heart problems, including infections in the valves of the heart
  • Getting an infectious disease, such as HIV or hepatitis C and B
  • Pneumonia or other lung conditions
  • Blood clots due to collapsed veins
  • Various bacterial infections
  • Liver disease
  • The risk of arthritis
  • The risk of seizures

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.

Stopping Heroin Use Cold Turkey

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 Signs and Symptoms

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.

Some common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Experiencing intense cravings for heroin
  • Bouts of hot and cold sweats that are impossible to control
  • Aches in the bones and muscles of the body
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cramps in your arms and legs
  • Bouts of crying
  • Experiencing chills and a runny nose
  • Diarrhea and stomach cramps
  • Getting a fever

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.

It can be very helpful for you to understand the heroin withdrawal timeline. 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.

Even so, 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.

Who is at Risk for Heroin Abuse and Addiction?

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.

You may be at a high risk of heroin abuse or addiction if you:

  • Spend time with others who use heroin, or other drugs
  • Have a personal history of another type of drug use
  • Feel hopeless about your life in general
  • Have low expectations of being successful
  • Don't have close relationships with friends or family
  • Have a problem with impulse control
  • Experience frequent conflicts within your family
  • Have a family history of substance abuse or addiction

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.

Do You Have a Loved One Who is Addicted to Heroin?

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. 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:

  • Getting as much information as you can about heroin addiction. This includes heroin statistics and the risk for an overdose and long-term effects.
  • Choose a time to talk with your loved one when he or she hasn't been using.
  • Be gentle but firm when you present the information.
  • Let your family member know you're concerned, and that you want them to get help.
  • Offer to assist with finding a heroin rehab that will be right for them.

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.

Heroin Addiction Treatment Brings Hope for Recovery

Fortunately, if you have a heroin addiction, you can get help to recover from it. 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 appreciate 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.

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Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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