How Can Someone Quit Using Heroin?
Heroin is a powerful and dangerous opioid drug. Heroin and its opiate derivative cousins are some of the most addictive drugs in the world. It is an illegal drug in the U.S., but many people who become addicted to heroin started with prescription opioids, either obtained legally or illegally. It is estimated that around a million people in the U.S. will use heroin at least once in a given year. Unfortunately, using heroin just once puts a person at high risk of becoming addicted.
Heroin addiction has more than doubled in the last few years, and close to 100,000 people will enter U.S. emergency years every year from a suspected heroin overdose. The people who are driving the increase in heroin addiction and overdose are mainly young adults, between the ages of 18 and 25. But what makes heroin so addictive, and how can someone quit using the drug? Despite the drug’s high propensity for addiction and overdose, thousands of people quit using heroin and go on to live a life of sobriety.
Why is heroin so addictive?
The brain and neural pathways in the body possess naturally occurring opioid receptors. Neurotransmitters in the brain will bind to these receptors, which control the body’s ability to regulate pain, specific hormone releases, and overall feelings of well-being and ease. Heroin and other opiates and opioid-derivative drugs bind to these receptors and hijack the brain’s neural pathways. When heroin binds to these receptors, the brain releases a flood of dopamine, which is a natural “feel-good” neurotransmitter. This flood of dopamine will create a dramatic euphoria, or high, which is addictive and reinforces a person’s drug-seeking behavior. It is through this biochemical reaction that addiction to heroin takes place.
Heroin can be taken in several ways – it can be snorted, smoked, or injected. Most new users will snort or smoke heroin. No matter which method a person uses to get high on heroin, there are dire consequences involved. A heroin user’s physical and mental health is put at risk, and it’s impossible for users to know how strong a batch of heroin is. Many people accidentally overdose on strong quantities of heroin, and end up permanently disabled, or die from heroin toxicity.
What are the consequences of heroin addiction?
Whether heroin is smoked, snorted, or injected, there is a range of long and short-term health effects. When someone quits using heroin, their body can start to heal itself. But even short-term use of heroin can lead to lifelong health effects.
Heroin use will cause insomnia and constipation. Getting high on heroin or other opioid-derivative drugs will cause someone’s respiratory rate to slow, sometimes to dangerous levels. This repeated lowering of respiratory rate can lead to chronic lung issues, including pneumonia. Heroin addicts are also at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis, and heroin use can also cause problems with fertility and sexual dysfunction. Long-term heroin use can change someone’s personality and their mental health, and they can become depressed, irritable, and antisocial from heroin addiction.
The way a person gets high on heroin will cause specific consequences associated with the method of administration. Users who snort the drug will cause damage to the nasal passages, and in severe cases, the drug can perforate the nasal septum, which can only be fixed with expensive and invasive surgical procedures.
Other medical complications of heroin include collapsed veins, scarring, and skin infections from injecting the drug. The valves and blood vessels in the heart can become infected from chronic heroin use as well. Illegal street heroin can have chemicals in it that do not dissolve and can clog the blood vessels, veins, and arteries in the lungs, kidneys, brain, or liver. This can lead to infection or death of the organ tissues. The body can also have an immune reaction to these substances, and cause rheumatologic problems such as arthritis.
Sharing dirty needles is also a risk associated with heroin addiction. Users may not care about the consequences, or be too impaired to remember if a needle had already been used. Sharing dirty needles can lead to severe infections such as hepatitis B or C, and even HIV. HIV infection rates are on the rise in communities where heroin use is rampant.
How can someone quit using heroin?
Quitting heroin can heal many of these serious physical and mental health problems associated with using the drug. The body has the amazing ability to heal itself. Getting help and getting off the drug quickly can prevent the user from contracting irreversible infections and other consequences of drug use.
Many people who are addicted to heroin want to stop, but can’t do it on their own because of painful and distressing withdrawal symptoms. Going to a medical detox center can prevent withdrawal symptoms from becoming severe. Medical detox can also give patients access to medications that can limit the duration of withdrawal symptoms, as well as the severity of the symptoms.
Because heroin hijacks the brain’s neural pathways, withdrawal symptoms for heroin can last for months or years. Taking medications like methadone can stop these symptoms, and help a recovering addict avoid relapse and live a life of sobriety, free from cravings.
Going to rehab for heroin addiction will also give those in recovery access to mental health professionals, counselors, and therapists. A lot of people turn to drugs or alcohol to alleviate painful emotions, or to cope with the symptoms of a mental health condition. A rehab and detox center can address these issues and help people in recovery from relapses. Rehabilitation centers also give patients access to medical doctors, where any physical consequences of heroin addiction can be addressed and treated. Furthermore, rehab and detox give patients a safe, secure place to heal away from negative influences and the temptation of drugs.
Are you or a loved one struggling with an addiction to heroin or another drug? The sooner you stop using drugs, the quicker you can heal. The experienced doctors and counselors at Windward Way have helped hundreds of people get clean from heroin. Please contact Windward Way today to learn more about your treatment options.
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