Every year, heroin disrupts hundreds of thousands of lives. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 808,000 people in the United States ages 12 and over used heroin the previous year. Approximately 65% of those people had an identifiable heroin use disorder. The same survey also revealed that 117,000 people ages 12 and up tried heroin for the very first time in 2017. Although heroin is illegal and dangerous, many people still underestimate its addictive quality. Here’s what you need to know about heroin addiction and why you should choose Solution Based Treatment & Detox to help get you or your loved one on the road to recovery.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine. Morphine naturally occurs in opium, the sap found inside the seed of opium poppy plants. Heroin and other opioids work by binding themselves to pain receptors in the nervous system and brain, blocking pain signals to the rest of the body. Legal opioids like morphine, methadone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and codeine provide temporary relief from pain.
In its purest form, heroin is a fine white powder and tastes bitter. But most street dealers do not sell pure heroin. Instead, they “cut,” or dilute, the drug for more profit, giving heroin a gray, brown or black color from additives. The materials used to cut heroin increase its toxicity and are dangerous. Often, they include calcium oxide, ammonia, chloroform, hydrochloric acid, and acetic anhydride. Strychnine, a pesticide in rat poison, is another popular ingredient mixed with heroin. Common household ingredients mixed with heroin include caffeine, flour, chalk, talcum powder, sucrose, starch, and powdered milk. Black tar heroin, which is popular because of its low cost, is dark and sticky and looks like roofing tar. Generally, the purer the heroin, the whiter and shinier it appears.
Known on the streets as horse, smack, white dynamite, hammer, homebake, black tar, brown sugar, dope, junk, skag, H, and the dragon, even a single dose of heroin can lead to addiction or death.
Why is Heroin So Addictive: The Danger of “Just One Time”
People frequently experiment with heroin thinking that they’ll stop after using it once or twice at most. But heroin doesn’t work that way. Instead, heroin enters the bloodstream immediately after it is smoked, snorted or injected, and then travels to the brain. Heroin then binds to opioid receptors in the brain, which affect how we process pain, pleasure, anxiety, stress, and depression. At this point, users start to feel heroin’s “high.” But less than 20 minutes later, heroin then converts to morphine, lessening its peak effects. Most users say the high only lasts 5 to 15 minutes.
All users experience a comedown following a heroin high. This offset of heroin typically starts about 90 minutes after use and lasts for up to three hours. During this time, users may experience:
- Dry mouth
- Heaviness in the limbs
- Brain fog
The Compulsive Need for More
After the comedown, users frequently experience psychological effects such as depression and anxiety. Most times, they want to feel “high” again, so, they use once more. In fact, people who regularly use heroin no longer take the drug to get high. Instead, they take the drug compulsively to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This occurs because their brain has become accustomed to heroin and its effect on the nervous system, developing a chemical need for the drug. This leaves users trapped in a daily cycle of using heroin to feel normal.
Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Use
There are many common physical and behavioral warning signs a person may exhibit if they chronically use heroin. Often, family and friends notice behavioral changes first.
Common behavioral indications of heroin use include:
- Hostility toward others
- Avoiding friends and loved ones
- Wearing long pants and shirts to cover needle or puncture wounds
- Lying and suspicious behavior
- Experiencing delusions, hallucinations or paranoia
- Constant disorientation
- Inability to fulfill responsibilities at work or school
Common physical signs of heroin use to look out for include:
- Track marks or scars on the arms or places where users inject heroin
- Weight loss
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Dry mouth
- Extremely itchy skin
- Warm, flushed skin
- Slurred speech
- Nodding off or entering a hazy, dream-like state during conversations
- Constricted, “pinpoint” pupils
- Extreme and constant drowsiness
- Flu-like symptoms between doses
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Not long after using heroin, users begin to experience symptoms of withdrawal. In fact, some symptoms begin to appear as soon as a few hours after sustained use. After a long period of heroin use, withdrawal can lead to serious medical complications. That’s why quitting “cold turkey” is dangerous. The drug detox program at Solution Based Treatment helps clients experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms from using heroin include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Extreme pain in muscles and bones
- Intense cravings
- Uncontrollable bouts of sadness and crying
Heroin Addiction Treatment and Recovery
After all traces of heroin leave the body, clients may enroll in a residential or outpatient addiction treatment program. Some clients with particularly severe addiction may enroll in a medically-assisted treatment program. Each program allows clients the time they need to focus on their health, well-being and recovery from heroin addiction. Residential programs allow clients to live in rehabilitation homes. Outpatient programs allow clients to live at home while receiving treatment. Nevertheless, each program offers:
- Individual therapy (typically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
- Group and Family Therapy
- Peer Support
- Recovery Activities
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, clients work with licensed therapists. Together, the client and therapist unpack the client’s motivations for using heroin. Clients and therapists also examine thought and behavior patterns that motivate heroin use. Once these patterns are uncovered, clients can begin the hard work of creating new, healthier thought and behavior patterns. Clients learn better ways of coping with stress, anxiety, pain and the realities of life.
Group & Family Therapy
Addiction devastates families as trust withers away, relationships grow distant, and lies often overshadow love. As a result, an integral part of successful treatment is family and group therapy. In therapy sessions, families talk through problems, address fears and concerns, and rebuild connections. Group therapy is a safe space for clients to talk with each other about recovery from addiction, build social skills, and learn from others.
Treatment also typically includes peer support. The road to recovery is difficult and having support from peers is critical. Narcotics Anonymous or other 12-step groups are good examples of peer support for individuals with heroin addiction.
Even after participating in individual therapy, family therapy and peer support groups, readjusting to daily life may be challenging. That’s why we offer recovery activities including:
We also encourage our clients to join an exercise program. Aftercare programs, meditation and mindfulness are other great recovery activities. When our clients complete treatment, we provide them with individualized discharge plans to help continue their ongoing recovery.
Don’t hesitate. Call Solution Based Treatment & Detox at 877-309-4311 if you or a loved one are living with heroin addiction and get on the road to recovery today.
We Know From Experience
We have helped thousands of people recover using a solutions-based approach of empowerment and knowledge.
We pride ourselves on creating a warm, relaxed recovery environment where our clients can show their true selves.
On-Site Medical Detox
Medical detox is a critical first step in recovery, which is why we provide supervised medical detox in-house.
Every client benefits from a fully personalized treatment and plan of care, helping them recover and reach their unique goals.