Heroin addiction is a severe problem that can have devastating consequences. If you or someone you love is addicted to heroin, it’s essential to understand what the drug is, how it’s used, and what treatment options are available.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug. It is a synthetic opioid derived from morphine, which is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the opium poppy plant.
There are many names for heroin, including Black tar, H, Horse, Junk, Skag, and Smack. Heroin can be abused by injection, smoking, or snorting it up the nose. It produces a feeling of euphoria by binding to opioid receptors in the brain.
What We Know: Heroin Abuse Statistics
To understand the impact of heroin on the United States, consider the following statistics:
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
Almost 948,000 Americans aged 12 and older reported using heroin in 2018. That number has been increasing since 2007.
In 2019, 19.8% of drug overdose deaths involved heroin.
Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Abuse
The signs and symptoms of heroin abuse vary depending on how the drug is taken. However, some common signs and symptoms of heroin abuse include the following:
- Decreased appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Drowsiness or “nodding off”
- Slurred speech
- Poor coordination
- Slow breathing
- Lentigo (a form of skin discoloration)
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Change in eating habits
- Track marks on the skin (from injection)
Long-term use of heroin can lead to addiction, Collapsed veins, Liver disease, and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in yourself or someone you know, getting help as soon as possible is essential. Left untreated, heroin addiction can lead to serious health complications, including overdose and death.
An overdose occurs when someone consumes a toxin amount of the drug, and it becomes too much for their body to process at once. Heroin overdoses have increased in recent years.
When someone overdoses on heroin, their breathing becomes dangerously suppressed, significantly decreasing the amount of oxygen available to the brain, also known as hypoxia.
Hypoxia can result in various outcomes, including comma and, in some cases, permanent brain damage.
Heroin Addiction: Ways of Abuse
There are three main ways people abuse heroin: injecting it into a vein, smoking it, or snorting it through the nose. Injection is the most common method of abuse, as it produces the most intense high.
However, injection also carries the most significant risk of overdose and other serious health complications. Smoking and snorting are less likely to lead to overdose but still pose serious risks.
Treatment Options for Heroin Addiction
Treatment for heroin addiction often begins with detoxification (the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug).
Detoxification from heroin can be uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous; as a result, it’s crucial that detoxification takes place under medical supervision.
Once detoxification is complete, many people with heroin addiction enter inpatient treatment programs where they can receive around-the-clock care and support while they recover.
After completing an inpatient program, some people with heroin addiction enter outpatient programs where they continue to receive treatment while living at home.
Others choose to recover through individualized treatment plans, including therapy, 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Whichever route you choose, it’s crucial to get help if you’re struggling with heroin addiction. With proper treatment and support, recovery is possible.
Find Individualized Treatment for Heroin Addiction
If you’re struggling with heroin addiction, know you’re not alone. Millions of people worldwide are affected by this disease. But there is hope—with proper treatment and support, recovery is possible.
If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help—it could save a life.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – Heroin DrugFacts
National Library of Medicine – [Heroin addiction]
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus – Heroin