WHAT IS HEROIN?
Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin may come in many forms such as a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin.
Heroin is usually injected but some people snort or smoke it. In a practice called “speedballing”, people may sometimes mix heroin with crack cocaine, hoping to amplify its effects. However, heroin and cocaine combined can have fatal consequences when used. Some of the consequences include uncontrolled and uncoordinated motor skills, and also the risk of death from stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, or respiratory failure.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Our bodies contain naturally occurring chemicals called neurotransmitters which bind to receptors in the brain and body to control pain, release of hormones, and feelings of wellbeing. Heroin activates special receptors called mu-opioid receptors (MORs) in the brain. When stimulated in the reward center of the brain, these induce dopamine release, producing a “rush” or pleasure.
HEROIN IS RAMPANT
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 948,000 Americans were reported to be using heroin in 2015. This trend was observed to be, for the most part, driven by young adults aged 18–25. The number of people trying heroin for the first time is high, with 170,000 people starting heroin use in 2016, almost double the number of people who tried heroin for the first time in 2006 (90,000).
In addition, the number of people meeting the criteria for dependence or heroin use disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) increased tremendously, from 214,000 in 2002 to 626,000 in 2016.
IS THERE A RIGHT WAY TO TAKE HEROIN?
Heroin is a highly illegal, highly addictive drug processed from morphine. It is not prescribed and there is no correct dosage for it. If you, or anyone you know is using heroin, it is not too late. There are treatment centers you can consider taking them to that are specialized towards putting a halt to substance addiction through various methods of rehabilitation.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND EFFECTS OF HEROIN IN YOUR SYSTEM?
The following are the various signs that someone may be using heroin:
- Irregular cardiovascular response;
- Slow body function (i.e. the central nervous system);
- Narrowing of pupils;
- Low body temperature;
- Low blood pressure;
- Nausea and vomiting; and
Some short term effects and symptoms of using heroin are as follows:
- Clouded mental functioning;
- Dry mouth;
- Severe itching;
- Warm flushing of the skin; and
- Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
Some of the more serious long term effects and symptoms are:
- Mental disorders (e.g. depression and antisocial personality disorder);
- Collapsed veins for people who inject the drug;
- Abscesses or swollen tissue filled with pus;
- Damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it;
- Infection of the heart lining and valves;
- Lung complications (e.g. pneumonia);
- Constipation and stomach cramping;
- Liver and kidney disease;
- Sexual dysfunction for men; and
- Irregular menstrual cycles for women
WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT AFFECT ITS POTENCY?
The rate at which heroin will influence you depends on a lot of factors such as:
- Strength of dose;
- Other drugs taken at the same time;
- The person’s height and weight;
- Their general state of mind; and
- Presence of health conditions
HOW LONG DOES HEROIN STAY IN YOUR SYSTEM?
Several tests can reveal several results that can show how long heroin can stay in your body. Hair tests show that it can stay in your body, detectable, until 90 days. Urine tests on the other hand reveal that it can stay in the body for up to 3 days. Blood tests and saliva tests show much shorter durations, with 6 hours and 1 hour respectively.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF A HEROIN OVERDOSE?
A heroin overdose occurs when a person uses enough of the drug to produce a life-threatening reaction or in the worst case scenario, death.
When a person is experiencing a heroin overdose, their breathing can slow or stop. This limits the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain causing a condition called hypoxia. When untreated, this can have long-term debilitating mental effects such as a coma or even permanent brain damage.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IN CASE OF AN OVERDOSE?
When a person is experiencing an overdose, symptoms tend to escalate pretty quickly. Urgent action is paramount to ensuring a person’s survival and that they do not experience long-term crippling effects from the overdose.
In the event that you or a loved one is experiencing an overdose, it is imperative to call 911 immediately. If available, you can also administer the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved hand-held auto-injector (Evzio®) to give the patient a single dose of naloxone to buy the patient more time. If no emergency medical assistance is available, it is advisable to bring the person to the hospital yourself.
HOW IS A HEROIN OVERDOSE TREATED?
Once at the hospital, Naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist medication that can eliminate all signs of opioid intoxication is administered to the person to reverse the overdose. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration approved a nasal spray to be used as one of the treatments for a heroin overdose.
Once treated of the overdose, the next important part is to ensure that the overdose does not occur again. There are a variety of maintenance medications that can be used to help a person stabilize their lives and reduce their illicit drug use such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Individuals are also exposed to contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy alongside the medications given in order to be treated.
TAKE THE FIRST STEP AND GET HELP TODAY
Drug rehab center can help you abandon your heroin abuse here. They have a variety of services that seek to stop addiction and help you build a better life not just for yourself but for your loved ones as well.
Among their programs and initiatives of high standard are:
- Advanced Relapse Prevention;
- Substance Abuse Counseling; and
- Recovery CrossFit.
- Sober Living House
With just enough support and the proper treatment, you can embark on a new path toward a better tomorrow.
Take the first step to become the best you can be today!
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