Heroin is a highly addictive drug, and its rampant misuse has led to a growing crisis nationwide. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
, there were just under 1 million Americans who reported using heroin in 2016.
The upward trend in usage is largely driven by the 18-25-year age group. Read on to learn more about heroin drug facts, its usage, effects, and the implications and treatment of heroin addiction.
There is also a link between substance abuse and mental health services to be touched on.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is commonly referred to by other names, including brown sugar, H horse, skunk, junk, skag, smack, and white horse. It is made from morphine
, which is a natural opioid derived from the seed pods of the poppy plant.
These opium poppy plants
can be found growing in the South American countries of Mexico and Columbia, as well as parts of Southeast and Southwest Asia. Heroin is found in the form of a white or brown powder.
You can also find it is a black sticky substance, which goes by the name black tar heroin.
How Do People Use Heroin?
There are various ways to take in heroin for its potent effects. Some users choose to smoke, snort, or inhale it, while others inject it directly into the bloodstream. It all depends on the form of the drug they can get hold of and their personal preferences.
What Are the Effects of Heroin?
Why do people take heroin? Morphine and other opioids are primarily used as prescribed opioid pain relievers
. Heroin, however, is used in the illegal drug market largely for its psychoactive properties
. When someone takes heroin, the substance moves to the brain where it quickly bonds with the cells' opioid receptors.
There are several effects of using the drug. The user may experience a range of effects such as pain and pleasure. The body may also go through changes in heart rate, breathing, and sleeping.
In the next sections, you can find out more about the short and long-term effects of using the drug.
Short-term Effects of Heroin Substance Use
Using heroin produces a sense of euphoria, and it is this rush that causes many teens and young adults to try the drug for the first time. Besides that surge of pleasure, there are other short-term effects of using H horses.
The short-term effects of heroin substance use include:
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe itching
- Warm flushing of the skin
- Arms and legs feeling heavy
- Clouded brain function
- Nodding in and out of consciousness
Long-Term Effects of Heroin Substance Use
With prolonged usage, heroin can start to affect the brain and body permanently and lead to addiction. Here are some of the long-term effects of substance use.
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Potential collapsed veins.
- Damaged tissue inside the noses.
- Stomach cramping and constipation
- Women can experience irregular menstrual cycles.
- Men may go through sexual dysfunction.
- Pneumonia and other lung complications
- Liver and kidney disease
- Depression, antisocial personality, and other mental disorders
Other Potential Effects of Heroin
Besides the consequences of heroin use outlined above, there are other potential effects on health. For people who inject the substance into their veins, one challenge is the widespread sharing of needles.
These actions can be attributed to the judgment impairment when people are under the influence of heroin. As a result, there may be an increased risk of passing infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV
from one drug user to the next.
This issue is a real concern because it is one of the main reasons for the fast spread of STIs among members of drug communities.
Another challenge with heroin is the additives
it contains. Although it is made from morphine from the opium poppy, it also contains starch, sugar, and powdered milk. Much heroin use can cause these additives to clot the blood vessels that feed into vital organs such as the brain, lungs, kidney, and liver.
Prescription Opioids and Heroin
are commonly used prescription medications for pain relief and other treatment. Two such examples are OxyContin and Vicodin, and they function in a similar way to heroin. The misuse of these drugs can be the starting point for someone to turn to heroin substance use.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's 'Prescription Opioids and Heroin Research Report,'
as many as 4- 6% of people who misuse the drugs make the switch to the illegal substance.
Can a Person Overdose on Heroin?
Heroin substance abuse can have many effects on the brain and body. Cases of heroin overdose have been on the increase in recent years
it is possible to overdose. When the drug user takes in too much of this addictive substance. An overdose is characterized by taking in enough of the drug to cause a life-threatening reaction or even death. The high death toll makes it critical for the National Institutes of Health to continue to look into what can be done to raise awareness of this issue through the National Institute on Drug Abuse and other channels.
What are the symptoms of Heroin overdose?
There are few telltale signs that someone might have overdosed on heroin
. The person's breathing may slow down or stop altogether. When the level of oxygen reaching the brain is limited, this leads to hypoxia
It has already been proven that drugs affect the brain in various ways. Hypoxia from a drug overdose can also lead to a coma and other effects on the brain and nervous system in the short term. In the long term, its condition can cause permanent brain damage.
How to Treat a Heroin Overdose?
The good news is that it is possible to treat a heroin overdose. Naloxone
is one medicine that can be used to stop the effects of heroin from reaching the body. In an emergency when the drug user has stopped breathing, more than one dose of naloxone may be required.
This drug can be administered in a couple of ways and is available in a needle and as a nasal spray.
Is Heroin Addictive?
One of the main challenges with using this drug either as a powder or a black sticky substance is that it is highly addictive. The more often someone uses the drug, the greater the amount the person needs to achieve the same level of high. Many heroin users develop a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), which causes health and behavioral issues and can impact their ability to perform their responsibilities.
When someone is trying to overcome heroin addiction, the person may require professional treatment and medication. Simply attempting to stop using the drug cold turkey leads to withdrawal symptoms
. These can be triggered as soon as a few hours after the person's last heroin use.
Heroin Withdrawal Syndrome & Timeline
Some common examples of heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- severe muscle and bone pain,
- trouble sleeping,
- cold flashes with goosebumps,
- involuntary leg movements,
- and an intense craving for the drug.
As indicated before, heroin and other opioid drugs can affect the brain permanently
. Heroin addicts may lose some of the white matter in their brains, resulting in a reduction in some of their capabilities, including handling stressful situations
How Is Heroin Addiction Treated?
There is more than one way to treat heroin addiction. Lofexidine
is a non-opioid medication approved by the FDA to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Other medicines can be used as well as some behavioral therapy methods.
National Institutes of Health: Working with Heroin Substance Abuse
The National Institutes of Health works to promote holistic health under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
. Through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
, the agency studies drug use and addiction and looks for ways to improve individual and public health.
Research on substance abuse and mental health is one way to do this. Another very crucial area is in the development of medications to treat drug overdose and addictions, both of which require extensive clinical trials before the FDA
can approve the new drugs.
Points to Remember about Heroin Drug Facts
Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug
made from morphine. It is found as a white or brown powder or black tar. The drug produces an intense sensation and feeling of euphoria. There are various short and long-term effects of using the drug.
Substance abuse and mental health are connected because opioids are mind-altering drugs and can even cause permanent changes in the brain.
This kind of drug abuse is also linked to the abuse of prescription opioid drugs. The rise in Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
requires the help of mental health services and other professionals.
Much research has been done to investigate the relationship between substance abuse and mental health. It is clear that many mental health challenges can come directly from heroin drug abuse.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
, through the National Institutes of Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse
, was created to tackle the growing crisis as far as substance abuse goes, especially among teens and young adults.
They stay up-to-date with all the latest information on how drugs are affecting different demographics across the nation.
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