What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive psychoactive drug, derived from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Because of its derivative from opium, heroin belongs to the class of drugs called opioids, which also includes prescription painkillers such as fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. 

Heroin generally appears in the form of white or brown powder. It is typically mixed with water and injected intravenously with a syringe, though heroin can also be smoked or snorted. Heroin is an illicit substance, so all use of the drug is considered misuse. The effects of a heroin high typically include feelings of intense euphoria, relaxation, and drowsiness. 

Heroin is a central nervous system depressant, classifying it as a downer. As an opioid, heroin binds to opioid receptors in the brain that then trigger the release of dopamine. This release of dopamine produces a euphoric and calming effect on the mind and body. Many heroin users continue to take the drug for this intense sense of euphoria and relief from pain, but with regular use, the brain becomes unable to produce dopamine on its own. Heroin users then start to depend on heroin to provide dopamine and to avoid dopamine depletion. Now physically dependent on the drug, the cycle of addiction has begun. 

Effects of Heroin

Short-term effects of heroin use may include: 

  • Relief from physical pain
  • Euphoric feelings
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sleepiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lowered body temperature
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Risk of overdose

Long term effects of heroin abuse may include:

  • Collapsed veins
  • Chronic constipation
  • Skin sores
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Increased risk of HIV and Hepatitis from sharing needles
  • Decreased immunity 
  • Risk of overdose 

The longer a person uses heroin, the more dependent they become on it. The more physically and psychologically addicted they become, the more difficult it is to quit using it. However, the detrimental impacts of heroin addiction on a person’s life, as well as the high risk of fatal overdose, make it extremely important for those struggling with heroin addiction to seek help as soon as possible. 

Heroin Abuse and Addiction

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that nearly 5.1 million people used heroin in 2015. It is possible that an individual can become addicted to heroin after just one use, but is more likely after several uses. 

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, heroin use by young adults has more than doubled in the past decade. The United States declared an opioid epidemic in 2017, due to the alarming and exponential increase in opioid-related overdoses and deaths around the nation. Much of the devastation of the opioid epidemic has been attributed to the rise of addiction to opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin, but heroin is also a key player. Studies show that nearly 45% of individuals who use heroin are also addicted to a prescription opioid painkiller. 

Getting Help for Heroin Abuse and Addiction

 If you are considering seeking addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, know you help is widely available and recovery is possible. If you have questions or concerns, call us today. We at Rehab Carolinas are experienced in substance abuse and addiction and are here to help.