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Heroin Addiction: An In-Depth Look into Heroin

Finding help and enrolling in a heroin addiction treatment program could be the difference between life and death. The United States is currently in the midst of a major opioid crisis. One of the most addictive opiates is heroin. Heroin addiction is an incredibly serious and dangerous disease that affects the brain and body of the user. This dangerous drug is cause for close to 15,000 overdose deaths across America in 2018. The number of accidental overdoses continues to rise, and finding help could save your life or the life of a loved one. The effects of a heroin addiction run deep and are extremely complex. Today, we are taking an in-depth look into heroin and the intense addiction that forms with use. Continue reading to learn more below.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a substance that is in the opioid class of drugs and is highly addictive. Like other substances, an addiction to heroin does not discriminate — people of every gender, age, race, and socioeconomic status are at risk of becoming addicted if tried. When injected, snorted, sniffed, or inhaled, it quickly binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, giving that euphoric and extremely addictive high. Because of heroin’s intense habit-forming nature, it is one of the most dangerous and deadliest drugs out there.  Heroin gives a tremendous high that people become hooked on in just two or three uses. Addiction to the drug can develop quickly but is often followed after a stretch of regular usage. With frequent use, heroin users’ tolerance to the drug increases, leading to the need for a higher dose to achieve the same high as before. When tolerance increases, the user puts themselves at increased risk for physical and psychological dependence. After addiction settles in, users find themselves faced with a massive and potentially deadly issue.

What Are the Effects of Heroin Addiction and Abuse?

Heroin’s effects are highly addictive. It offers an intense euphoria, warmth, and significantly impacts the brain’s reward system after injection. Once the initial rush passes, individuals may alternate feeling drowsy and awake, and a cloudy haze sets in mentally. This extraordinary high is what brings users back over and over.

How Common Is Heroin Addiction in the United States?

Addiction to heroin is a serious problem throughout the United States. This extremely dangerous opioid has affected thousands and thousands of people and poses significant risks for addiction and overdose. The Addiction Center reports that about 25% of Americans who try the drug will become addicted. Over the last ten years, there has been a significant increase in heroin users in the United States. One factor that plays a major role in this increase is that people are transitioning from using other opioids to heroin. More than 90% of addicts reported that they stopped using prescription opioid drugs and started using heroin because it is considerably less expensive and easier to get. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), close to 950,000 Americans reported that they had used heroin within the last 12 months, a number that has continued to increase since 2007. This statistic is primarily driven by citizens aged 18 to 25, while the number of heroin use among individuals aged 12 to 17 has dropped. These stats have been at their lowest since the early 1990s. In decades past, heroin was primarily used in urban areas. However, in more recent years, this is no longer the case. Officials are reporting more and more cases of individuals from rural areas and suburban communities using heroin. The number of overdose deaths from heroin use in these areas is also increasing. The number of Americans experiencing the adverse health effects of heroin use continues to rise every day. Thankfully, the number of people abusing heroin that are seeking help is also increasing. Close to 25% of people aged 18 to 25 are getting the treatment they need, which is just over 10% higher than in 2008.

Heroin and Overdose

A heroin overdose can be life-threatening. There are many signs of overdose, but the most common indication of a heroin overdose is reduced or stopped breathing. Opioids, such as heroin, depress breathing rates, especially when abused in large quantities. Depressed breathing can look like:
  • Gasping for air
  • Pale skin
  • Shallow breaths
  • Blue tinted lips and fingers
Other common symptoms of a heroin overdose may include:
  • Small, constricted pupils
  • Weak pulse
  • Delirium, disorientation, or a change in mental state
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Discoloration of the tongue
  • Extreme drowsiness or the inability to stay awake
  • Seizures or spasms
  • Coma
Because a heroin overdose can be deadly, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately if any of the above symptoms appear. These symptoms from injecting heroin usually begin about ten minutes after the dose.

What Does a Heroin Detox Look Like?

Detoxing from heroin is an extremely challenging and painful process but well worth the journey and work to find a better life. When addicts stop using, withdrawal side effects and symptoms quickly settle in. Because detox and withdrawal symptoms are overwhelmingly agonizing, users will often continue to use heroin to avoid this dreadful process. The high from heroin is similar to the high that painkillers give, like oxycodone or hydrocodone, but much more intense. Detoxing and recovering from abusing these types of painkillers alone is a challenging and taxing process. Withdrawing from heroin is immensely more difficult, and the process is much more intense than any prescription drug. Heroin leaves the body a lot more quickly than prescription painkillers do, making withdrawal symptoms appear faster and more intensely. The intense and euphoric high of heroin lasts about four to six hours. A user will begin feeling symptoms of withdrawal nearly one to six hours after their last dose. The withdrawal process is similar to a horrible case of the flu. It lasts about a week to a week and a half, with peak symptoms between the second and fourth days. Common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Fever and chills
  • Severe sweating and dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting
  • Intense cravings
  • Runny nose, watery eyes, and dilated pupils 
  • Leg spasms and cramps
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Moodiness, such as depression, irritability, anxiety, fear, agitation, and more
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and body aches
The withdrawal process varies from one person to the next based on several factors, such as how often heroin was administered and how much of the drug they used. For some, symptoms can be more extreme, or their peak is delayed or sooner. Overall, however, after two to three weeks have passed, the worst of the physical withdrawal symptoms is over. Detoxing from heroin is incredibly difficult. In addition to the severe cravings, the pain an addict feels makes it feel impossible to quit and becomes too much to handle. If faced alone, relapse is very common because the mental and physical anguish can be quick, albeit temporarily, relieved. Because of this fact, detoxing under the watch and care of experienced and knowledgeable medical professionals is typically necessary to succeed. The process will still be challenging, and the withdrawal pains will still be excruciating. Still, with the support of therapy, medical care, and professional monitoring, the chances of success are much higher.

Treatment of Heroin Addiction

The best time to find a heroin addiction treatment program is before an addiction sets in. Of course, that is rarely the case for most users. Most heroin users find themselves well into addiction before they seek help. Suffering from addiction is challenging in and of itself. But when an addict decides to get clean and detox from heroin, they face a whole other set of difficulties. Overcoming drug addiction is a massive mountain to climb and does not (and should not) be climbed alone. This fight for your health and life is a constant battle, and the process requires determination, focus, and dedication. As you detox heroin from your body, you will need to teach yourself to function and live without the drug you learned to rely upon in the past. To start your healing process, find a trusted heroin addiction treatment program. The reputable recovery programs at Ardu Recovery Center in Provo, Utah, are designed to get addicts back on their feet and free from the shackles of drug use. If you are ready to put in the work, our team of highly trained and experienced professionals will help you ease into a healthy and sober new life. Depending on your specific needs, we offer therapies and programs like:
  • Medical detox
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Residential treatment programs
  • Alcohol and drug rehab
  • and more.

Contact Ardu Recovery Center for Help 

To overcome heroin addiction, you need the help of a comprehensive drug rehab center. If you or a loved one is ready to start the road to recovery from heroin addiction, contact the knowledgeable professionals at Ardu Recovery Center in Provo, Utah. We know that the detox process and journey to a sober life are challenging, and you do not need to do it alone. Our trusted and experienced staff will provide a healthy and safe environment to detox from highly addictive substances, including heroin and other drugs. We believe in incorporating holistic techniques alongside traditional medicinal modalities into your recovery process.  For more information about heroin detox and the other services we offer, contact us today.