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Article Summary

Heroin Addiction

Heroin creates a "downer" effect that quickly induces a state of pleasure, relaxation and euphoria (associated with chemical changes in the human brain's pleasure centers). Like other opiates, heroin also blocks the ability of brain to perceive pain. Heroin use in any form can cause serious health and mental problems. Spotting the early signs and symptoms of heroin addiction is vital to getting early help, support and treatment for the addict's best chance at a complete heroin recovery.

Heroin Addiction Information and Facts

  • There are more than 1.2 million 'occasional' heroin users in America and nearly 200,000 people who can be categorized as dependent on the drug.
  • The common heroin addict/abuser ingests between 150 mg to 250 mg of the drug a day.
  • In the past few years, heroin overdose has caused more deaths than auto accidents.
  • There are considered to be a minimum of 700,000 people in the USA who require addiction treatment but aren't receiving it.
  • In 2002, a report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health discovered that 53% of past year heroin users had an addiction to the drug.

Warning Signs of Heroin Abuse

A heroin abuser may give a number of key signs right after ingesting heroin. They include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry-mouth
  • Constricted pupils, bloodshot eyes
  • Sudden alterations in actions or behavior
  • Disorientation
  • Cycles of hyper-alertness followed by abruptly nodding off
  • Droopy look

Behavioral Signs of Heroin Abuse

Heroin abuser shows a number of sudden and unexpected behavioral signs. They may include:

  • Lying or some other deceptive action/behavior
  • Avoiding eye-to-eye contact
  • Increase in garbled, slurred or incoherent speech
  • Rapid worsening of overall performance in work or school, such as declining grades, skipping classes, loss of jobs
  • Decreasing awareness of hygiene, health as well as physical appearance
  • Loss of apathy and motivation towards future goals
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in favorite activities and hobbies
  • Repeatedly borrowing or stealing money from family members, or unusual absence of valuables
  • Hostile habits toward family members and loved ones, including accusing them for broken commitments
  • Regular comments revealing a downfall in self-confidence or worsening the body image
  • Wearing long sleeves or plants to conceal drug needle marks, even during very hot weather

Physical Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

With increasing tolerance, more defined physical signs and symptoms of heroin addiction emerge:

  • Weight-loss
  • Runny nose (not described by other disease or medical problem)
  • Needle marks visible on arms
  • Infections at injection site
  • For most women, loss of menstrual period (amenorrhea)
  • Cuts, scabs or bruises from skin picking

Health Hazards of Heroin Abuse and Addiction

Heroin is among the most dangerous drugs on the planet. Those who use heroin are vulnerable to a multitude of unwanted effects from substance abuse in the short-term and the long-term. Heroin could cause heart and liver failure, thoughts of suicide, depressive disorder and other health complications. Additionally, the heroin abuser is definitely at a potential risk for accidental overdose because of the unpredictability of the dose strength that they're ingesting.

Heroin can cause other potential health risks as well - specifically for the individuals who inject heroin intravenously using fine needles. Though sexual transmission gets many of the headlines, probably the most common forms of AIDS/HIV transmission is through sharing dirty needles. Also, Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a major problem for all those heroin users, since the opiate effect of the drugs produce unsafe behaviors like unprotected sex as well as sex with several partners.

Serious effects of overdose of heroin

Smoking, injecting or snorting heroin only once is bad enough; however using the harmful drug frequently over a long stretch of time creates numerous serious psychological and physical problems.

  • One of the very common, and severe, health problems related to long-term heroin use is cardiovascular disease. The drug leads to infections and failures in the areas around the heart which, subsequently, can result in a high incidence of coronary heart failure and lung complications.
  • Loss of a kidney puts the addict at higher risk of significant illness or even death.
  • Heroin use impacts the body's defense mechanism, and therefore, the body's ability to battle disease. In addition to heroin use, an unhealthy life-style of the long-term heroin user makes his body a breeding ground for severe viral conditions such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin addicts feel the compulsion to keep on using the drug due to its strong pain relieving effects, and also because of the fear of withdrawal symptoms they'll experience once they quit heroin. Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Extreme heroin cravings
  • Severe muscle and bone aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling of heaviness
  • Intense cramps in arms and legs, leading to "kicking"
  • Crying
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Runny nose
  • Fever

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

There are a large number of treatment plans and options available to those who desire to stop heroin addiction. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, addiction to heroin is regarded as a long-term brain disease. Some drug treatment programs for heroin include the use of methadone. It is used as a heroin substitution although it is also a powerful addictive narcotic. For most heroin abusers, an in-patient treatment plan is a more effective option. In-patient treatment plans are made to help heroin addicts overcome both psychological and physical dependence on the drug. These programs usually include a detox period. The detoxification period may differ for every person, based on the severity of the drug abuse. Behavioral interventions are made to help transform the addict's behaviors and expectations related to drug use, and also to improve skills in dealing with various life stressors. They're also intended to help heroin addicts realize why they misuse the drug, and also what they can do to keep up a sober life-style.

However, it's very easy to get frustrated and excuse "just one more" pill or hit. No matter what kind of addiction treatment, intense support from family members, close friends, therapists, counselor, other recovering addicts is essential for the addict during recovery.

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