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Heroin Addiction

Currently, in the United States, and in fact much of the rest of the developing world, heroin addiction is becoming an epidemic with deaths relating to it, not seen since the AIDS epidemic of the later 1980s. Heroin addiction has grown to such a severity in the American landscape, that in February 2016, the Senate, along with the help of congress, nearly unanimously passed a bill to help combat the growing issue of heroin overdoses and addiction rates, flooding several different larger and smaller cities across the country

Addiction to heroin has only risen in the United States, along with several larger European countries. The addiction rates in some American cities, have not only risen over the last decade, but nearly doubled. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said the government has begun the task of creating programs to combat the issue, to the point that President Barack Obama himself has made the battle against this rising heroin issue, a docket on the presidential agenda for not only himself, but whoever becomes president after the 2016 presidential election.

Because of the rising rates of heroin addiction currently plaguing the nation, the number of heroin and opioid specific rehabilitation clinics have soared across the country, while the number of government funded treatment centers specifically designed to combat heroin, has remained mostly stagnant in the addiction surge.

Heroin alone, is one of a few number of psychoactive drugs intensely and powerfully addictive, relative to most other drugs both illicit and legal combined. Like is the case with most other powerful drugs, but specifically heroin, tolerance develops fairly quickly with chronic heroin use. Due to the chemical makeup of heroin, simple mild heroin use, can easily lead to heavily addictive and destructive addiction.

Typically, every user of heroin, given enough time, will then have to consume higher and higher dosage levels, to simply acquire the high they originally got in the first place. This race to chase the high further and further, quickly develops into a severe dependence and addiction issue. The dependence on heroin happens quickly and usually requires the user to go about a few hours of not having the drug, where they would typically engage with it, when the severe symptoms of withdrawal will then begin to show its surface.

What Is Heroin?

Due to the nature of technology, especially that of biochemistry, it is commonly believed that the heroin in existence today, is unlikely similar to the heroin that existed only several years ago. Typically, most of the heroin on the street today has been genetically engineered and manipulated to a higher potentiality and strength. However, this is does not mean there is a unitary and single strain of heroin. Heroin today takes very many different forms, all hundreds of times more powerful than any heroin in existence only a hundred years ago.

Heroin itself is an opium, derived originally from the poppy plant. Its chemical makeup is similar to that of morphine, which simply is another opioid itself. Currently, heroin is considered by most countries as illegal, and in the few countries that heroin remains a fairly legal commodity, it is strictly regulated and controlled, not for recreation use, but as a stronger alternative to morphine or other intravenous painkillers.

The opium poppy itself was originally first cultivated by the Sumerian civilizations in the lower half of Mesopotamia from as long as 3,300 to 3,400 BCE. Historians first found remnants of farmed and purposefully settled poppy plants, with the intention of collecting the poppy seeds, which contain the psychoactive components of heroin, in nearly every farm near a town of more than 200 people. It is believed that it was mostly used in rituals and secondarily used for its medical purposes as a painkiller.

The biochemical synthesis that we see today and know as a sister of heroin itself, was first created in 1874 by C.R. Alder Wright, an English chemist in London known for synthesizing the first opium based chemical: diamorphine. When he first discovered the synthesized version of opioid, diamorphine, he was in fact searching and experimenting with the chemicals, where in the end he discovered the modern day morphine, purely by accident.

Soon, another famous chemist, Felix Hoffmann, working for Bayer pharmaceutical company in Germany, then synthesized diamorphine further, where he eventually created what is now known as codeine, another powerful painkiller originating from the opium plant, yet not as strong as morphine. Throughout 1898 to 1910, diamorphine was sold and known by the trademark name: Heroin.

Heroin was supposed to be a non-addictive morphine substitute and also an effective cough suppressant. However, by 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed, which then controlled and restricted the sale and distribution behind all items created from and relating to opium. With the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act passed, heroin was restricted to medical sale and purposes and outlawed for all recreational and personal use. Yet by 1924, the United States Congress eventually banned its sale completely for all uses.

Since Congress officially banned heroin in general, both recreation and medical uses, it has been since placed as a schedule 1 substance, based off of the schedule system designed and created by the US government by the controlled substance act. Currently, there are five different schedules for controlled substances, where the level of severity goes higher the lower the number gets. For example, the drugs in Schedule 1, such as heroin, are considered completely illegal with no known medical uses available, along with having highly destructive addictive qualities. Today, heroin is considered completely unnecessary and heavily addictive both physically and mentally, which is why it falls under the Schedule 1 substances.

Effects Of Heroin

There are both short term and long term side effects that heroin can often times leave behind on the body.

  • Severe anxiety issues
  • Coma
  • Inability to sexually perform or reach orgasm
  • Reduced sexual libido in both men and women
  • Long term impotence in men
  • Respiratory and breathing illnesses
  • Weakened immune system
  • Chronic constipation
  • Cold sweats
  • Chronic itching and sores relating to those bouts of scratches
  • Muscular weakness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Menstrual disturbance in women
  • Severe gum disease
  • Inflammation of the gums
  • Depression
  • Severe insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bad teeth
  • Pustules on the face
  • Capillaries and blood blisters
  • Slowed or labored breathing
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Flushed or burning skin
  • Uncontrollable bouts of itchiness
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Death or heroin induced coma (typically only associated with an overdose)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sedation
  • Reduced sensation of pain

Typically, once injected or taken into the body by any different way (although intravenous injection is the most common form), it is quickly converted and changed into morphine that quickly then binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. Once it binds, users typically report this moment as the time where they feel a strong feeling of a burning sensation that flushes and reddens the skin. Also, this moment is then followed by feelings of a dry mouth, vomiting, nausea, and/or severe itching. Usually after heroin’s initial effects hit the brain and the user begins to come down from their peak, users then begin to feel sleepy or drowsy for several hours later. Sometimes it has been reported to last over a day in rarer cases. During this time of the come down, simple thought is often clouded as lethargy usually overwhelms the body. Also during this time, shorty related to that comedown, is the immediate danger of death that can occur in this time, although typically death is seldom reported happening.

There are both short term and long term side effects that heroin can often times leave behind on the body. However, this is not to make the confusion that short term effects are less severe than that of long term effects. The problem that often occurs, is that the short term effects can worsen other long term effects, essentially making that problem worse.

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Signs of Heroin Addiction

The issue that arises with a drug as complex as heroin, is the reality of its many different effects and signs individuals exhibit when addicted or using the substance. Heroin affects each user differently depending on a series of variables, from gender, weight, and a multitude of different factors. While the following signs are typically applied for a wider audience and in a wider sense, these signs are fairly common in many heroin addicts.

Why Is Heroin So Addictive?

What causes heroin addiction in people, is a wide and all encompassing net that reaches further into the annals of addiction and behavior. To understand what makes heroin so incredibly addictive, one has to first understand what an addiction is. An addiction is most commonly characterized by an individual having a psychological need for the substance, that overwhelms and overcomes the individual’s own ability to control their want and need for it. This typically means that the individual is essentially powerless in controlling their appetite for the substance in question, although substance abuse is not the only thing people can get addicted to. People have also grown addicted to certain activities and mannerism.

Once an individual is considered “addicted” changes in the brain quickly occur to adapt to the new substance in the body. Research has shown that heroin itself, affects the brain to such an extent, that the addiction in question will almost undoubtedly be followed by use of it. Once the body grows accustomed to the need of heroin within itself, followed use comes immediately.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported that the receptors for heroin, otherwise known as the opioid receptors, are located in the part of the brain that holds responsible for the reward and pain center. This part of the brain interprets the world and converts that information it receives into either pain or pleasure when applicable, which is the reason that part of the brain is also known as the “pleasure and pain” sector of the brain. This typically means that the individuals who consume heroin will usually feel no pain or discomfort while the high persists.

However, the portion of the brain responsible for experiences and interpreting the pleasure centers of the brain are working overtime, feeling overly sensitive to every sensation. After prolonged exposure and use with any mind altering substance, but most commonly from heroin, the brain cells in those areas affected by the drug, like the worn out tires of a car, will eventually grow to be worn out. Those very brain cells can quickly become burned out and fatigued, which can then lead the user to a type of emotional catatonic state.

of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.
of admissions for drug and alcohol treatment in the US is for heroin
of the world's opium supply comes from Afghanistan

Are There Lasting Effects From Heroin Abuse?

Unfortunately, when it comes to chronic heroin abuse, there are a multitude of lasting and crippling effects it can then leave behind on the body. Over extended periods of heroin abuse, research has shown that the physiology of the brain itself changes. Due to the effects of heroin, it leaves behind long term imbalances in both the neuronal and hormonal systems of the body. Once these chemical parts of the brain are manipulated, it is not easily, and nearly impossible, to then reverse. Also, the levels of tolerance created by the heroin in the brain, often affects the very tolerance aspect of the brain itself, creating severe impulse issues in many adults with years of abusing heroin.

An estimated 13.5 million people in the world take opioids (opium-like substances), including 9.2 million who use heroin.

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Finding Help For Heroin Addiction
Finding and seeking help for either oneself or a loved one’s heroin addiction, is the first and often times the most important step in finally treating the addiction. While the withdrawal symptoms often exhibited from heroin can last for some time, leaving behind milder side effects well after detoxification, the long term damage in not quitting can often be eternal. At Recovery Hub, we can connect you to a treatment center nearby, specializing in heroin addiction to begin the fight for sobriety. We can connect you to addiction specialists who can help you take the first step in treatment.

Don’t wait; call us now.


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