“I was very interested in what I could take and what I could do. I looked upon the body as a laboratory – I used to throw in this chemical and then that one to see what would happen; I was intrigued by that. What one would work against another; I’ve got a bit of alchemist in me that way. But all experiments must come to an end.”
- Keith Richards on Heroin
There are many substance abuse problems that are difficult to get away from. Heroin addiction is one of them. This drug has been at the helm of the opioid crisis for several years now, and it appears the problem is only getting worse.
A heroin addiction has the power to take over a person’s life completely; so much so that they can hardly recognize themselves. It has a way of making into their professional life, their personal life, and it even impacts their future. The only way to escape that is to stop using, and yet, most people feel that they cannot.
We want people to know that recovering from a heroin addiction is possible. It just takes the right type of treatment. Also, it is vital to understand this drug completely. So many do not realize the impact it is having on them both physically and mentally. They also do not understand the consequences involved with continuing to use.
The right treatment can change everything. There is no cure for addiction, but attaining and remaining in recovery should be the goal of every heroin addict. The alternative is scary, and it is important to understand the risks involved with continuing to use.
Heroin is an opiate that is made from morphine in a lab. Morphine comes from the seed pod of different types of opium poppy plants. They are mostly grown in Mexico, Colombia and Southeast and Southwest Asia.
The drug comes in a few different forms. It can be a white or a brown powder, or it can also be a black sticky substance. This is called black tar heroin.
People use heroin for a few different reasons. Some use it in place of opioid painkillers because it also works for pain relief. Others use it because of the euphoric high it produces. Either way, this drug is dangerous. It can easily lead to a quick addiction, and it can have a profound negative impact in people’s lives.
Unfortunately, people often fail to recognize the scope of heroin’s power. Many believe they can use it for a short time without any consequences. Others may intend to use it only once, just out of curiosity. Before they know it, they are hooked, and unable to stop without getting help.
Heroin has a long list of street names, which is what dealers and recreational users generally use when they talk about it. They include:
There are other slang terms people use as well, such as:
Street names and slang terms may be intended to take some of the stigma away from using this drug. But those who have seen how heroin destroys lives are not fooled by any means. This drug is dangerous, regardless of what it is called.
The history of heroin is really quite fascinating. It was created as a drug that was intended to have medicinal value. It was first discovered through the acetylation of morphine. At that point, a new drug was created, and it was called diacetylmorphine. As it was studied more in depth, it was found to be more effective than either morphine or codeine.
In 1898, the Bayer Company began producing heroin for sale to consumers. It was actually considered to be a wonder drug during that time. It was sold over the counter, and its popularity rose quickly.
It was not long before it was clear that repeatedly using heroin resulted in a drug tolerance. People had to continually increase their dosages in order to get the same effects. This was the first time that anyone realized the addictive potential of it. By the 1910s, people who were addicted to morphine discovered that heroin offered a much more euphoric experience. Using the drug intravenously further enhanced that sensation.
It was not long after that when its availability changed. It soon became available by prescription only, and then soon, the drug was banned in the United States.
Because of how addictive heroin is, it holds no medicinal value in the United States. The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed in 1914 for the purpose of controlling the sale of it and other opioid drugs. Under this law, it could be prescribed and sold for medicinal use. But by 1924, Congress banned the drug in our country.
Today, heroin is known as a Schedule 1 substance. That means that it is illegal for non-medical use. It was banned in 1925 by the Health Committee of the League of Nations, but this ban took more than three years to be implemented.
Today, we have a multitude of medications that are available, and that can be prescribed by physicians. There is no need for heroin to treat pain or to help with respiratory illnesses. It holds no medicinal value in our country, but people continue to use it just the same.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that since 1999, the number of heroin overdoses has increased drastically. In 1999, there were 1,960 in the United States. That number rose to 2,399 by 2007, and then it skyrocketed to 15,482 by 2017.
The bottom line is that this drug is dangerous. It has the power to take people’s lives, even if they use the utmost care when administering it. As long as so many people continue to die, there is so much work left to be done to save lives.
Many of the side effects of heroin are desirable, which is what makes people continue to use it. Others may be easy to overlook, or they may pale in comparison to the drug’s pleasurable effects.
This is a drug that impacts both the brain and body. It is interesting to see what effects it has on both.
People who use heroin are likely to experience the following physical side effects:
The psychological effects people experience when they use heroin include:
Heroin can be abused in a number of different ways. The method of administration largely depends on the drug’s purity.
When the drug is quite pure, most people prefer to snort it or smoke it. These methods may be much more appealing to newer users. When heroin is not as pure, or in the case of black tar heroin, it is often injected. It can be dissolved into a liquid like water or alcohol and then injected into veins, muscles, or under the skin.
A lot of people begin by snorting or smoking heroin. But because addiction is a progressive disease, they will often transition into injecting it. This gives the user a much more potent high.
The heroin high is extremely euphoric. It is common for this drug to make people feel nauseous, and vomiting and dizziness are also typical. But most people only experience these sensations with their first use. After that, their bodies start to adapt to the drug.
For a lot of users, heroin is really more about numbing their pain (whether it is physical or emotional) than about feeling good. It is often taken for self-medication purposes.
Heroin causes a flood of dopamine to the brain, which is where the feeling of euphoria comes from. This is quite desirable by those who did not feel good when they began using. It is also why this drug is so important to people who battle depression or anxiety.
A lot of people report that they feel warm and safe while they are high on heroin. It is why the drug is appealing to people whose home lives are unsafe. It helps them to relax and get the rest they need.
When it is taken in lower doses, heroin can make people feel calmer, less lonely and tense. They also feel happier overall, and they are more accepting of the people around them. With higher doses, users tend to disconnect from other people. They experience a dreamlike, or floating state, which can bring a lot of mental relief.
The terms substance abuse and addiction are often used to mean the same thing. But they are really quite different. It is important to recognize that one generally leads to another.
In general, people start off by abusing heroin. They may try it once or twice, with no intention of continuing to use it. But with repeated use, they form a physical dependence on the drug. It often does not take a long time before they are also psychologically dependent upon it, and that is when the addiction takes place.
Substance abuse leads to addiction because of changes that are taking place in the brain. People get used to experiencing higher dopamine levels and that becomes their “new normal.” Before long, unless they are using, they do not feel like themselves at all. They need to use again in order to regain that sense of balance.
There is a very strong relationship between prescription opioid addiction and heroin abuse. For one, many of the drugs share a very similar chemical makeup with the illegal opiate. For another, there are a lot of reasons why it makes sense for many people to switch to heroin; at least in their minds.
NIDA reports that as many as 86% of users had used painkillers nonmedically prior to starting heroin. This was not always the case. In fact, in one study that was done in the 1960s, the exact opposite was true. During that time, more than 80% began by using heroin.
When President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, so much changed. It had already gotten more difficult to get prescriptions for opioids, and it was only going to get worse. With people in pain unable to get the drugs they needed, many of them turned to heroin. It was a more available option for them, and it was also a lot cheaper, in many cases.
It is not surprising that so many turned to heroin as a way to cope after having gotten addicted to painkillers. Both are addictions that never should have happened in the first place.
We briefly mentioned earlier about how the brain experiences a release of excess dopamine when using heroin. The same is true for all opioid drugs. That is where their addictive power comes from.
Opioids work by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and elsewhere in the body. Once this process has taken place, the receptors send signals out to block the sensation of pain. At the same time, that dopamine is being released, causing people to feel euphoric.
Over time, the new, high level of dopamine because the individual’s baseline way of feeling. When they go without their drug, they may start to feel down or depressed. Many report just feeling “off.” They feel the need to use again to get back to normal.
Of course, over time, the body builds up a tolerance to the drug. That means that people need to use more and more of it to get the feelings they want. Dosages just keep climbing until something is done to interrupt that process – which is hopefully, treatment.
Families are often the ones who need to know the signs of heroin addiction most of all. They may suspect that someone they love is using, but they have no way of being certain.
People who are addicted to heroin also need to know what the signs are. It is very common for addicts to be in denial. They typically refuse to believe they could have a substance abuse problem or addiction because they feel in control. These are the people who constantly say, “I can stop anytime I want to.”
There are various signs to look for that indicate that someone might be addicted to heroin. Some are obvious, whereas some may be hidden, or more difficult to see.
The presence of heroin and/or drug paraphernalia is a pretty sure sign of an addiction. This is not a drug that people typically do one time and then they are finished. If someone is addicted, they are likely to try to keep a decent supply on hand at all times. They will also have various implements to use while they are getting high. Examples include:
There are other, more obvious signs that someone might be using heroin, such as:
Most people who are addicted to heroin try their hardest to keep their addictions hidden from loved ones. There are many hidden signs that indicate someone might be addicted to this drug as well. They include:
Heroin addicts are often isolated from their friends and family. They may spend a great deal of time alone and stop attending family events and social functions. This is how so many once-close relationships suddenly become strained. Work and school issues are also an indicator of addiction.
As we mentioned earlier, people often have a difficult time identifying an addiction in themselves by looking at symptoms. They need a different way to learn the truth about their heroin use. There are a few other ways to tell if someone is addicted to this dangerous opioid drug.
For some individuals, taking a heroin addiction quiz can be very beneficial and informative. It helps them to take an unbiased look at their lifestyle and behaviors.
This quiz asks several different questions about the person’s drug use patterns. At the end, it will provide their results right away. They will learn if they are addicted or just abusing this drug. In addition, they will also learn what type of treatment might be appropriate for them.
Taking a quiz can be a great option for some people. But others need a more personal approach. For them, talking with a professional to learn more about their addictive behaviors is the best option. They will be able to explain their situation in detail and get a personalized answer about what they should do.
This is exactly why so many drug rehab programs offer free addiction assessments. These usually take place over the phone, and they allow people to get real answers for their substance abuse problems.
Sometimes people will continue to use heroin because they enjoy the drug are unaware of its effects. This is a powerful opiate, and because of that, it has a direct impact on body; both in the short and long-term. It is important for anyone who uses it to be aware of what might happen with continued use.
People typically use heroin for the drug’s positive short-term effects. They want to feel good, and they do not care about anything else. The reality is that this drug has some serious short-term effects, and they can include:
There is also the risk of overdosing; which can even happen the first time someone uses heroin. But anyone can miscalculate a dose, or take more than their body can handle at that moment.
Continuing to use heroin can cause changes in the physical structure of the brain. This can create long-term imbalances that are not often easily reversed. This drug can also have a dramatic impact on the physical body.
The long-term effects of heroin include:
It should not be surprising to find that there are many celebrities that have battled heroin addictions. Some of them have lost those battles, while others are living their lives in recovery. It is interesting to read about their stories.
Philip Seymour Hoffman began dating his partner, Mimi O’Donnell in 2001. From the moment they got together, he was always very clear about his addictions. He had a history of alcoholism, and he had also experimented with heroin. He was in recovery, and staying clean and sober was very important to him. He went to therapy and AA religiously.
Philip always knew that he was addicted, and that just because he was in treatment did not mean the addiction would stop. That was why it was strange when he asked Mimi what she thought about him drinking again.
As often happens with multiple addictions, the alcohol led to an addiction to prescription opioids. After that, he returned to heroin, and it was not very long before he overdosed.
Today, Russell Brand is very outspoken about his recovery and addiction to heroin. He had been working at MTV, but he hit rock bottom because of his substance abuse problem in 2003. That was when he lost his job. In addition, it cost him a radio show and several important relationships.
Russell had done drugs since he was 19 years old, and he had been a heroin addict for four years. It was not until his manager told him he needed to get help that he finally saw the light.
He immediately entered into a 12-Step program, and that made such a difference for him. Since that time, he has basically written the basic 12 Steps into a book that appeals to a more modern audience. He has also become quite an advocate for recovery.
Robert Downey, Jr. is one of the most well known names in Hollywood. He has been in countless movies, and is now most popular for his role as Iron Man. But as most people know to be true about Hollywood, things are not always as they appear.
Robert was introduced to drugs by his father when he was only eight years old. Between 1996 and 2001, he was in and out of jail for a number of different drug charges. He started by snorting cocaine, and then states that he accidentally got involved in heroin. He says, “It finally tied my shoelaces together. Smoking dope and smoking coke, you are rendered defenseless. The only way out of that hopeless state is intervention.”
In 2003, Robert went into rehab and that gave him the tools he needed to recover. He has been clean and sober ever since that time.
Carrie Fisher is known best for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies. It was a role that she was able to reprise with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. What many do not know is that she battled a long history of depression.
Carrie struggled with a drug addiction for many years. Eventually, she began using heroin as a way to self-medicate. It was the only substance she found that could control the manic side of the depression.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Carrie was asked if there were any drugs she wished she had not used. She responded with, “The stronger of the opiate class. I would say heroin. I snorted that. I never did it the full-on way, which is basically what you do when you’re trying to kill yourself.”
Carrie died at the age of 60 after having a heart attack. Sources say that both cocaine and heroin were in her system when she died.
Cory Monteith was one of the stars of the musical television show, Glee. But prior to that, he was already dabbling with substance abuse. By the age of 13, he was skipping school to get drunk and smoke pot. He says he did any type of drug he could get his hands on, and as often as possible.
At the age of 19, Cory’s friends staged an intervention. He went to rehab and started working. He also took acting classes and then started working on Glee. But his addiction returned.
In 2013, Cory went back to rehab. But he ended up relapsing and passed away later that year of alcohol and heroin toxicity.
Now more than ever, people need to be made aware of their options for recovering from heroin addiction. So many feel like they are stuck, with no way out. That is not true at all, and there are ways to quit using successfully.
The following are the different ways that people try to get off heroin. Please keep in mind that not all of them are beneficial or recommended.
The most common way that people try to get off drugs is to quit cold turkey. In their opinion, it is something they would like to get over with as soon as possible. They are worried about withdrawal and they do not want to delay the inevitable.
While it sounds good in theory, quitting heroin cold turkey is never a good idea. One man had this to say about it:
“Listing the symptoms or even describing them cannot even begin to convey the pain and fear one experiences while going through this. The poison seems to make a horrid effort to convince you that you will in fact die if you do not get one more fix.”
It can be a dangerous drug to stop abruptly because of the withdrawals. There is a very high risk of relapse with this drug, which can lead to a deadly overdose.
There is all kinds of information available online about how to detox from drugs at home. There are many natural remedies posted, including vitamins, supplements and even increased water intake.
In theory, these sound like they might be effective, or at least take the edge off withdrawal. But that is not usually the way it works. Natural detox remedies are rarely effective, and none of them are FDA approved. There is a high risk of complications associated with these methods, which is why they should be avoided.
Many people abide by the “harm reduction” rule of getting off drugs when it comes to heroin. They attempt to reduce the amount they take little by little until they are completely off it. Again, it sounds good in theory, but a self-taper is not a good idea.
Many people have tapered off heroin too quickly, which drove them right into withdrawal. With no way to improve their symptoms, they typically end up relapsing.
The best way to stop using heroin is to go through drug treatment. This requires a series of steps that include both detoxification and rehabilitation. When combined, these two forms of treatment can have a profound effect on someone wanting to recover.
It is extremely difficult to stop taking a drug without the proper level of support. So many heroin addicts feel like they need to be heroic about stopping their drug use. But that is a tremendous mistake. It takes more than willpower to get off drugs, and addiction treatment has so many benefits.
Heroin addicts need to learn from professionals who have helped others recover before. They need to talk with others in recovery and gain strength from them. They also need to learn how to prevent a relapse in the future.
Heroin recovery is possible. But it is best achieved with others who are assisting the addict and striving toward the same goal.
Drug detox is the process of ridding the body of toxins that are there because of a drug. In this case, this refers to heroin. Withdrawal symptoms can become very difficult to manage, and they typically bring people back to using when they are not controlled. The detoxification process does this, and it helps people feel better faster.
It is important to note that detox should only be done on an inpatient basis. There may be programs that offer outpatient services, but this could be dangerous in most cases.
Most heroin addicts are recommended for opioid replacement treatment, or medication assisted treatment. MAT allows them to take certain medications to help with their withdrawal symptoms. There are several drugs that have been approved to treat opioid addiction. They include Suboxone, Buprenorphine and methadone.
Vivitrol is a medication that has been recently approved to treat opioid addiction, and it carries high hopes. It is an injection that people get once a month. When it is combined with therapy, it is very effective.
Drug rehab is the step that should be taken after detox. Therapy is an essential part of the healing process because it helps to determine the cause of the addiction. The addict’s therapist should work with them in a one-on-one environment, but group therapy is also recommended.
The importance of this step should not be ignored. This is when people put together relapse prevention plans and where they begin the healing from the source of their addictions.
We have mentioned a few co-occurring disorders so far, and these conditions can actually be the cause of the addiction. Some examples of them include anxiety, PTSD, depression and bipolar disorder.
Co-occurring disorders should always be treated with addictions simultaneously. This helps the addict make the connection between the two and it gives them a better chance of recovering.
This is why dual diagnosis treatment is so important. But it was not always the norm. In the past, addictions and mental health issues were treated separately. Fortunately, that is no longer the case for most drug rehabilitation programs. Now more than ever, we understand that the two are very closely connected. In fact, close to 50% of people with addictions also have co-occurring disorders.
Recovering from a heroin addiction is difficult, but it is also possible with the right type of support. Here at Ashwood Recovery, we understand that it might be scary to think about stopping the use of this drug. So many people let that fear control their lives, and they really should not. The right type of help is available to help them quit.
We want you to know that we are here to help. We can provide you with a referral for detoxification services. Our intensive outpatient program is among the best in the region. We also offer family support services and treatment for co-occurring disorders.
Did we answer your questions about heroin addiction and treatment? To learn more, please contact us today.