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A Closer Look at the Dangers of Heroin


Heroin use has continued to be a prevalent problem throughout the country. For many it becomes a cheaper and more accessible alternative to prescription pain medication. However, heroin can be very dangerous and is highly addictive. It only takes one time of trying it for people to become hooked. Luxury rehab centers treat many clients who are seeking to overcome their addiction and safely detox their bodies from this harmful substance. Rehab can make withdrawal less uncomfortable and help to break the vicious cycle of use.

What is heroin? Heroin is derived from the poppy plant, just like opium and morphine. Producers refine the opium to make morphine and then it is further refined to make the fine powder known as heroin. It can also take a brown form and be referred to as “black tar” heroin. Heroin reaches the brain very quickly which is one reason that it becomes so addictive.

How is heroin used? When processed to be a very fine and pure powder, heroin may be inhaled through the nose. Oftentimes it is dissolved, diluted, and injected into the veins or muscles. Sharing of needles can spread infection such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis. Prolonged use can result in collapsed veins. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 53 percent of new hepatitis C infections and as many as 20 percent of hepatitis B infections in 2010 occurred in injection drug users. There is a vaccine to protect against hepatitis B infection, but not hepatitis C infection.

How does heroin affect the body? Once heroin is injected or inhaled, it provides an immediate high. Users feel a sudden euphoric rush which makes them feel relaxed, calm, and happy. Breathing and heart rate begin to slow down and the person may feel like they are in a dream-like state. Because it is a form of painkiller, it also alleviates pain they may have been feeling. These feelings can last for several hours, but once the drug wears off, it can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms which often trigger people to keep using.

  • Short-term effects

Not all of the effects of heroin are pleasant, however. In the short term it may cause nausea or vomiting, dry mouth, itching, and fatigue. The arms and legs often feel heavy and the person may feel like they are dragging them around or being weighed down. Because breathing and heart rate are slowed, it can lead to shortness of breath, and if they are suppressed too much, the person could go into a coma. This may result in permanent brain damage.

As the heroin leaves the system and effects wear off, users experience withdrawal. This can be very uncomfortable and include bone pain, achy muscles, sweating, insomnia, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, and more. In an effort to avoid these uncomfortable effects, people may continue using which furthers their addiction.

  • Long-term effects

Continued use of heroin leads to changes in the way the brain is wired and processes information. The person may develop a tolerance which leads to increased use to feel the same high they have become accustomed to. There is always the risk that they may overdose which can be fatal. Changes in the brain can interfere with decision making and behavior. Long-term heroin use can also contribute to dental problems, respiratory problems, changes in appetite, muscle weakness, memory troubles, depression, skin infections, and heart problems.

How is heroin addiction treated? There are treatment options available to assist people in overcoming heroin addiction. Oftentimes treatment combines medication with intense cognitive-behavioral therapy. Medically assisted detox can support clients in safely ridding their body of heroin, decreasing withdrawal symptoms, and reducing cravings. Some common medications used in the process include:

  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone
  • Buprenorphine/naloxone

These substances bind to the brain’s opiate receptors to block or reverse the effects of use. Sometimes these medications are used in the short-term to support detox while other times they are used as a maintenance medication to help clients continue recovery.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy addresses the mental aspect of addiction. Clients work through factors that led to their addiction and the impact that their use had on their thinking and behavior. They develop strategies to cope with cravings, triggers, and stress that could lead to relapse. Changing their patterns of thinking is important for supporting recovery efforts and reducing relapse risk.

At Chapters Capistrano, clients go through on-site detox and are continuously monitored by medical personnel to ensure their safety. A customized treatment plan is created to address their individual needs. The length of time needed to overcome heroin addiction depends on the person, their level of use, and how it impacted their life and health.

It is not too late to fight back against heroin addiction. Contact Chapters Capistrano at 949-371-4198 to find out how we can help you turn your life around. You don’t have to go through recovery alone and Chapters Capistrano can make it a more comprehensive and effective experience.