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We often make the mistake of thinking that heroin abuse destroys only the user's life. It's the user who suffers ill health, financial problems and a crumbling career. It's the user who finds himself evicted from his home, begging and stealing to pay for the next hit.
In truth, the effects of narcotic abuse spread far beyond the user. The effects of heroin abuse on the family can be dire and far reaching, emotionally draining to parents who ask themselves day after day where they went wrong; breaking the hearts of siblings forced to watch, helpless, as their brother or sister falls deeper into addiction and further away from them with each passing day; leaving children uncared for and suffering from feelings of guilt at the plight of their own parents.
Heroin addiction touches the lives of countless people. Here are just a few ways it can harm the family of an user beyond repair.
Heroin addiction is an expensive habit. Typically an addict will use several times throughout the day to avoid the onset of withdrawal symptoms, and as they develop a stronger tolerance for heroin as time passes they find themselves needing larger and larger doses until they can no longer afford to cover the bill.
Heroin use is typically reserved for those low down on the socio-economic ladder. The wealthy prefer drugs such as cocaine, leaving heroin to those who can least afford it. If a parent becomes an addict they can quickly blow through their life savings, their children's college fund and even the money necessary to keep up with mortgage payments and basic needs such as food and clothing.
Conversely, when it's a young person who falls victim to heroin addiction there is often the problem of theft within the family. As the addict becomes more desperate for the next hit they may begin to steal money from parents or pawn off family possessions to raise the funds.
Finally, the illegal nature of heroin naturally leads to the inevitable costs of bail and legal representation when the addict is finally caught and charged with either possession or the crimes they commit to fund their addiction.
More important than money, though, is the emotional trauma caused by watching a family member fall deeper into addiction. Parents question their own actions, wondering if there was something they could have done to prevent their child from becoming an addict; wondering where they went wrong in raising their child. Children, sadly, often feel responsible for the actions of their addict parents, as if they themselves were somehow responsible for the habits of their parents.
All of these emotional symptoms cause immense stress that can rock a family to its foundations.
The abiding fear of any person with a family member addicted to heroin is that the addict will overdose. The terror of this event coupled with a feeling of powerlessness to stop it can overwhelm even the strongest person, and the only logical response may be to report the addict to the authorities.
Again, this fear is one of the main causes of stress in a family of heroin addicts. The knowledge that a loved one is walking the path to self destruction is made all the worse by the knowledge that there's little they can do about it apart from have the addict incarcerated for their own safety - especially when the addict refuses to seek help.
Naturally, long term heroin use can lead to a wide range of health issues caused by the effects of the drug itself and the fact that the addict may not take care of their health and well being in other ways.
Heroin users are at risk of heart failure, lung problems and liver disease, and since the drug lowers the immune system of the user it opens the door for all kinds of potentially harmful illnesses, most notably HIV.
Family members of heroin addicts are forced to live with the long term health consequences of the drug, watching their family member deteriorate in both physical and mental health. Quite apart from the stress this causes, the family must also take responsibility for the financial burden of any health problems that arise.
Heroin use can cause a cancer at the heart of any family. Crime, lack of trust, stress and the immense financial burden of caring for a loved one who continues to fall deeper into addiction can cause a malignant tumor that can destroy even the strongest, closest family. Don't make the mistake of believing that the only victim of heroin addiction is the user.
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