It's fairly normal for people to experiment with certain types of drugs, and one of those that are often used as the subject of such experimentations is heroin.
It may seem as though trying a drug only one time might be fairly harmless, but because this drug, in particular, is one of the most addictive drugs in the world, it's truly anything but.
It is so easy to become addicted to heroin because of the high that's immediately produced and because of the way the drug changes the chemicals in your brain.
There are a lot of reasons why people turn to it - it could be to deal with stress, try to overcome anxiety, self-treat your depression, or cope with a past trauma.
However, none of these reasons outweigh the fact that heroin is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug today.
And if you've been using heroin and have become addicted to it, it's vital for you to get the information you need to educate yourself about how to get clean.
This guide will take you through what you need to know about heroin addiction and how to get the treatment you need.
Addiction can seem as though it's a never-ending battle, but it doesn't have to be with the right kind of help.
Heroin is a member of the opiate classification of drugs meaning it is derived from the resin of poppy plants, just like morphine and opium.
While it might not be easy to believe, it wasn't always illegal. It was actually developed in 1898 by a pharmaceutical company, and it was used to treat tuberculosis and morphine addiction. When heroin first came on the scene, it was believed to be non-addictive, and so it was readily used and widely prescribed.
Today, heroin has become one of the most popular drugs in the world. In its purest form, it's a white powder. However, finding pure heroin is quite rare. It's usually cut with other chemicals or additives in an attempt to bring the price down. It can be a rose gray, black or brown color, and it's usually cut with sugar, caffeine, or other additives. Sometimes strychnine or other poisons are used to dilute it further.
Sadly, heroin and opioid addiction, in general, is more common today than ever before, especially among people aged 18 to 25.
Even so, it can be tough to really understand the extent of the problem. To help put the heroin and opioid abuse problem into perspective, have a look at some of the most shocking statistics about the epidemic below.
The short answer here is VERY. Heroin is considered to be the #1 most addictive drug according to Professor David Nutt from London's Imperial College.
But why is it that heroin is so much more addictive than other drugs being abused today?
The potential for addiction lies in four unique characteristics of the drug: the intense and short-acting high, the tendency for tolerance to develop quite quickly, and the especially painful withdrawal symptoms.
As you probably know, the most common method of heroin abuse is via injection. Addicts will put the heroin (which comes as either a powder, solid, or tar-like substance) into some sort of vessel and heat it up until it becomes a liquid.
After straining the substance using materials like cotton balls, the addict then draws the liquid into a needle and injects it into a vein.
But heroin may also be snorted or smoked as well.
Injection has the fastest activation time (almost immediate) since it goes directly into the blood. Smoking heroin is the second fastest and starts taking effect in around 5 seconds. And snorting it usually takes 90 seconds until you notice its effects.
Studies have shown that the injection method carries the highest risk of developing a full-fledged addiction.
Heroin may also be used simultaneously with other drugs as well. "Speedballing," for instance, is taking a mixture of both heroin and crack cocaine. Some people may also mix heroin with other depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines to boost the intensity of the drug's effects.
And while there certainly isn't a safe way to use heroin, mixing it with other drugs is without a doubt one of the most dangerous ways to abuse it.
Heroin is an extremely difficult drug to stop using once you've become addicted to it, and addiction can occur after just one dose.
Even still, many abusers think that they can simply stop using all on their own and all at once. This can be dangerous, and more often than not, it results in the development of serious withdrawal symptoms that drive users right back to the drug in order to find relief.
In fact, these withdrawals are so powerful that studies have shown heroin relapse rates within just 1 week of treatment can be as high as 59%. Over the long-term, relapse rates can be as high as 91%.
And when you realize the extent of the psychological and physical withdrawals, such a high relapse rate isn't really all that surprising.
The symptoms below come from Mental Health Daily and are organized by psychological symptoms of heroin withdrawal and physical ones.
Many recovering heroin addicts describe the physical side of withdrawal to be similar to an incredibly bad case of the flu. Some of the physical symptoms you may see include:
Addiction doesn't affect everyone the same way. Some people have an almost otherworldly immunity to the effects of addiction while others can become dependent after just a single hit.
The withdrawal process is similar - not everyone will have the same experience.
And when it comes to the timeline for heroin withdrawal, it can be a bit difficult to predict just how long your specific detoxification will take. However, most average users will experience withdrawals for around 4 to 10 days.
During this time, you'll likely go through different waves of symptoms. According to MedlinePlus, most detoxifications will have an early phase and a later phase.
The early phase of detox should begin within 12 hours of your last dose of heroin and will include symptoms like:
The later phase will typically begin about 72 hours after your last dose and may involve symptoms like:
With proper medical attention, both the severity and the duration of these symptoms will likely decrease substantially.
No, But Given the right circumstances, withdrawal from almost any drug can end up being deadly. There are a host of different complications that can lead to permanent damage or even life-threatening conditions.
Heroin detox, for example, poses a high risk for aspiration - accidentally inhaling one's own vomit. If this happens, it can lead to the development of pneumonia. And if left untreated, pneumonia can be quite dangerous.
Beyond that, nutritional and hydration deficiencies can easily occur during withdrawal. The combination of frequent vomiting can make it hard to get the vitamins and minerals you need for recovery. Added to that, severe diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration which is both deadly on its own and can lead to other complications as well.
However, there is one very real threat that is particular to heroin withdrawal - and that's the risk of accidental overdose.
As we saw earlier, heroin is notorious for building tolerance incredibly quickly. It's one of the reasons why this drug is so addictive in the first place. But tolerance to this drug also drops much faster than most people may know.
This poses a unique threat to recovering heroin addicts.
To explain, if a user tries to get through detox and is clean for a week or two, their tolerance will drop drastically. But say they do end up relapsing as so many addicts do. And say they return to the same dosage they were getting high on just a few weeks before.
In most cases, those few weeks of abstinence will be enough to knock down their tolerance quite a bit. Consequently, that dosage can end up causing a fatal heroin overdose.
Accidental overdose for recovering heroin users is a serious problem, but with the proper treatment, you can make relapsing far less likely.
If you're suffering from a heroin addiction, it's critical that you get treatment from a detoxification facility.
In order to begin your recovery, the body needs to re-adjust to functioning normally without heroin in your system. And during this period, you probably won't feel much like your normal self.
You'll likely be highly irritable, incredibly uncomfortable, depressed, anxious, and scared.
As a result, it can be hard to keep a level head. Taking care of yourself can be near impossible. Making logical decisions will be a former luxury. And most importantly, choosing to stay sober will be one decision that you physically may not be able to make.
That's because when it comes to addiction, the body isn't the only thing that becomes dependent - it's also the mind.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse points out that very real physical changes occur in the brain over the course of addiction. Brain imaging studies have shown that:
physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of addiction.
Consequently, you simply are in no state to go through heroin withdrawals by yourself. You need help. And that's where professional detox comes in.
These addiction services provide treatments that make withdrawals much more manageable, shorter, and less dangerous. Beyond that, though, a professional detox facility will also keep you from relapsing during your treatment.
They're also there to ensure that you get through your heroin detox safely. And considering the possibly deadly complications involved in getting clean, this is one service that just might end up saving your life.
The risk of developing complications is quite high when it comes to heroin detoxification. As a result, no one should detox from this drug without medical assistance.
You may be tempted to skip professional treatment and tackle your addiction on your own. Maybe you think that you can push aside temptation and get through the grueling withdrawals by sheer force of will alone.
This way of thinking, however, is a mistake.
Home detox is not only far less effective than professional detoxification, but it can also even end up being deadly.
Without proper care from experienced, knowledgeable addiction specialists, it's incredibly likely that you won't get through your detoxification at all. And turning back to heroin abuse after a period of abstinence can lead to a life-threatening overdose thanks to a lowered tolerance.
But beyond that, the withdrawal process can make it unbelievably hard to care for yourself. As a result, you may suffer from one of the many complications that can end up doing serious harm.
In the end, at-home detox simply does not work for addiction to heroin.
Take an in-depth look into recovery topics with our amazing, up-to-date recovery guides.Addiction Guides
To put it lightly, heroin is incredibly dangerous. This drug is not only incredibly addictive with an especially high rate of overdose, but it can also cause some very serious short-term and long-term side effects as well.
In addition, because heroin is usually injected, people will often share needles with each other, and this carries its own substantial risks. You could contract HIV or other infections and diseases with even one use.Drug Addiction Quiz
With any drug, the longer you use it, the more severe and devastating the effects can be. The same is true for heroin. As abuse of this drug continues and becomes an addiction, it becomes increasingly dangerous and even more life-threatening.
It's very common for long-term heroin users to develop a damaged immune system, collapsed veins, heart damage, and liver and kidney disease.
For pregnant women who decide to use heroin, their risk of having a miscarriage increases dramatically.
Beyond that, one of the most dangerous long-term heroin side effects is the fact that it may cause serious brain damage in chronic abusers.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, repeated use of this type of opioid may deteriorate the brain's white matter which may affect "decision-making abilities, the ability to regulate behavior, and responses to stressful situations."
Getting professional treatment is by far the best way to recover from a heroin addiction, and it can take a significant period of time to go through all of the steps of recovery.
For those who are addicted to heroin, recovery is a life-long commitment that usually begins with drug detox.
When you go through drug detox, you're actually giving your body what it needs to remove the toxins from heroin from your system. This can take some time, but if drug detoxification is done correctly, it can be very effective. It can also lead to a smaller chance of relapse and fewer cravings in the future.
Of course, it's important to realize that the process should never be stopped once drug detox has been completed. It's necessary to get at the heart or the root of the addiction, and this generally means going to some type of heroin addiction treatment center.
Getting professional treatment for your heroin addiction treatment can improve the chances of your long-term sobriety and reduce the likelihood of relapsing. That much is obvious.
But how exactly do these treatment centers help you get over your addiction? What is it specifically that these programs offer, and you can't get by recovering on your own?
One of the biggest benefits of partnering with a professional program is that you may have access to medications that might be unobtainable otherwise. Depending on the type of program you're in, these medications can be incredibly helpful in weathering the painful symptoms of withdrawal and controlling your overwhelming cravings.
Some programs might use these medications only during detox to get you through the worst symptoms of withdrawal while others may keep you on these medications for weeks or even months at a time. It just depends on the program.
A lot of people don't consider just how far a little bit of support goes in recovery. And even fewer recognize the fact that emotional and motivational support is a core part of almost any heroin treatment program.
With one-on-one counseling, group therapy, and a host of other team building and motivational activities, you won't ever have to suffer through recovery alone when you choose professional treatment.
Even the most self-disciplined recovering heroin addict will struggle with temptation at one point or another. There really isn't any getting around it.
But if there's one thing that can always stop a recovering addict from relapsing it's not having access to the drug. With an inpatient rehabilitation program, you'll be on a 100% drug-free campus at all times. And that means even if you do become overwhelmed by cravings, you'll be surrounded by staff to stop you from turning back to a life of heroin.
While the withdrawals from heroin aren't directly life-threatening, they can cause a variety of complications that may put your safety at risk. Dehydration, cardiac events, pneumonia, and self-harm are all very real possibilities during your recovery from heroin addiction.
But with the help of a treatment center, you'll have access to 24/7 medical care, so you don't ever have to worry about your safety.
Finally, a professional heroin treatment center will teach you more than you ever thought you could know about addiction. You'll learn about how addiction can affect you on a physical level, rewire your brain, and impact your life in ways you never thought possible.
After all, one of the most important steps of overcoming a problem is to truly understand it. And with the help of a recovery facility, you'll understand addiction better than ever.
Once you've decided that you truly do need help tackling your heroin addiction, it's time to find a treatment facility that meets your particular needs.
Unfortunately, this is usually easier said than done.
As you research heroin treatment facilities around you, you may have a hard time distinguishing one facility from the next.
What should you be looking for? What kinds of characteristics are really important for recovery? And how do you know if a facility is right for you?
The first step is knowing what kinds of detoxification and rehabilitation options are out there.
While heroin detoxification is definitely recommended, finding the right kind of program for you can be more difficult than you might imagine.
Part of the problem comes from knowing the difference between the various program types. In general, there are two major philosophies that a heroin detox facility will follow: a medicated detox or a holistic one.
Medicated detox for heroin addiction mostly uses different types of prescription drugs to treat your withdrawal symptoms. These drugs may be used to treat specific symptoms (e.g., Xanax for anxiety).
They might also be less potent opioids themselves. These drugs are part of what's called Opioid Replacement Therapy, and they're designed to stimulate your opioid receptors just enough to ease cravings and withdrawals without producing a euphoric high.
Ultimately, though, the problem with a medicated approach is that these drugs can end up being addictive themselves. As a result, you may develop an addiction to these drugs after you recover from your heroin dependence.
Rather than relying on prescription drugs and addictive medications, a holistic approach uses more natural support methods to help you get through detoxification.
Nutrition-rich meal plans and daily exercise regimens can help give your body the vitamins it needs to recover while boosting your feel-good endorphins at the same time.
As it turns out, the body is already pretty good at detoxifying all on its own. And when you support it using a holistic program, you won't have to deal with any lingering addictions medications or any nasty side effects that they might cause.
It's a cleaner, more natural way to detoxify.
Another treatment characteristic you'll need to consider is whether you want an inpatient heroin recovery program or an outpatient one.
Now, you may already be leaning towards one versus the other. But it's absolutely critical that you understand the pros and cons of each. We've listed some of the major differentiators below.
As the name suggests, an inpatient program requires recovering addicts to stay on campus grounds at all times. That means they eat, sleep, and spend their days in the program. This, of course, can lead to several benefits.
First, patients won't be exposed to nearly as much temptation as if they stayed in their own homes. A dry campus can do wonders for relapse rates
Second, recovering addicts will have 24/7 care. This can be incredibly helpful in managing and treating protracted withdrawal symptoms.
And third, an inpatient program allows patients to become fully immersed in their recovery without the distractions of the outside world. And that can mean a more complete recovery.
However, these programs often cost a bit more, and they require you to take off time from work or school.
An outpatient rehab program, on the other hand, offers much more flexibility when it comes to your recovery. These programs usually meet several times a week for just a few hours at a time in the evenings.
This allows patients to attend to their daily obligations without having to take off time as with an inpatient program.
They're also usually significantly cheaper than inpatient programs as you won't have to pay extra for food, lodging, and daily activities.
The drawback, however, is that your level of care will be much lower and your exposure to temptation may be much higher. And this might make it tough especially for recovering heroin addicts who usually experience severe cravings.
Heroin addiction can be an incredibly dangerous disease.
This drug can do serious harm to the health of both your body and your mind, it can result in the spread of dangerous diseases through needle sharing, and it can cause permanent damage to your brain and your internal organs.
But beyond that, a heroin use disorder can also jeopardize your career, put you in legal troubles, alienate friends and family, and ultimately ruin your life.
And at Northpoint Recovery in Boise, Idaho, we'd love to help you put your life back together.
Our modern and comfortable inpatient facilities offer all the amenities and addiction expertise you'll need to successfully kick your habit for good. We have one of the best staff-to-patient ratios in the area, and our programs are nationally accredited - so you can be sure you're in good hands.
But even more important is the fact that we are invested in your recovery. We take tremendous pride enabling the recovery of each and every one of our patients. It's our job, our specialty, and most of all, our passion.
You can get clean. And we can help.