Heroin and other opioid drugs bind to the opiate receptors in the brain. The drug induces feelings of euphoria and suppresses the respiratory rate. Since heroin is a street drug, it is often laced with other dangerous chemicals. Drug dealers aren’t chemists and will mix and cut heroin indiscriminately with unknown substances. People who are addicted and get these ‘bad batches’ will die in droves in the cities and towns where the bad batch is being sold.
Because of the way heroin binds to important neurotransmitters in the brain, it is incredibly difficult to quit. In 2015, the new ‘Secretary’s Opioid Initiative’ from the Secretary of Health and Human Services announced a program to address heroin and opioid abuse and addiction. Part of the initiative included increasing access to medically assisted detox centers and rehabilitation facilities.
Heroin and opioids’ highly addictive qualities make it far too easy for those in recovery to relapse, and because heroin is cut with deadly, unknown chemicals, these people are at high-risk of overdosing and dying. Fortunately, there are medical facilities and rehab centers that are equipped to help people get and stay clean. Detox centers can give patients access to life-saving replacement drugs which act to calm the activated opioid receptors, alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and decrease occasional cravings once someone manages to quit heroin.
Heroin withdrawals start between 6 and 12 hours after the last dose. Within 1 to 3 days, they peak. After about a week to ten days, heroin withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside. But, emotional symptoms can linger for months or years after cessation. Cravings can last for many months after the last dose, but people who get assistance from medical detox centers can take replacement drugs like Buprenorphine/Naltrexone to alleviate cravings and prevent relapse.