Heroin – 5 Things You Need to Know

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a drug that is used to diminish pain in a medical context, however, it is used and abused for its recreational effects of sedation, muscle relaxation, pain relief, and euphoria. Heroin is a depressant, and like other depressants and opiates (OxyCotin, OxyCodone) can cause serious physical dependence. If you or someone you know is using heroin, please encourage them to seek medical treatment.

Is it Serious?

In a 2005 survey, 370,000 people reported using heroin within the last 12 months, and in the same year there were 164,572 emergency room visits caused by heroin use and is a serious problem in the United States. It is a physically destructive drug when used regularly and can be fatal when one over-doses. This commonly occurs when someone misjudges the amount or potency of a dose of heroin. Close to half of people using heroin in 2005 visited the emergency room for heroin-related health issues.

What Are Signs of Heroin Abuse?

Heroin users snort, smoke, or inject heroin intravenously (in their veins). Users who snort heroin will sniffle and touch their nose frequently. Users who smoke it can have dental problems and chapped lips. Users who inject (“shoot”) it will have scars and red bumps across major veins on their arms and feet (“track marks”). All users will show signs of itchy skin, flushing and rashes, pupil constriction, disorientation, confusion, sedation, and inebriation. While not taking heroin, heroin users can seem skittish and paranoid. Many heroin users addicted for prolonged periods of time may seem especially thin or gaunt, may smell unfavorably, and may suffer from a general lack of good hygiene and seem sick or ill. The clearest sign of use is finding used needles, bent spoons, and baggies of heroin powder or tar.

How Does Heroin Effect An Individuals Body?

Heroin has effects on the central, circulatory, and respiratory systems of the body. It can cause physical tolerance and dependence, wherein a user needs it to feel normal and needs to continually increase the dose of heroin to achieve the same effect. This causes psychological addiction. Taking heroin can also cause collapsed veins from the acid used to mix it when injecting it, usually citric acid like lemon juice. Users injecting it and sharing needles are at a very high risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV. Heroin, especially heroin that is “cut” or mixed with other substances to increase volume, can cause infection of the heart lining and valves. It can cause pneumonia in the lungs and decrease liver functionality. And it causes abscesses around injection points where bacterial and fungal infection often occurs. Heroin use has no long-lasting positive physical effects and the negative long-lasting effects can cause chronic pain and death.

What are the Effects of Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin withdrawal is the most painful and difficult of all recreational drugs, beginning six to twenty four hours after the last dose, and lasting between 3 and 7 days, with lingering physical and psychological effects lasting months. Common symptoms include sweating, cramps, cold sweats, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety, insomnia, severe muscle aches (most notably in the legs), vomiting, fever, and depression. Psychological withdrawal from heroin is much harder to quantify than the physical withdrawal symptoms, but the actual distancing of a user from the abuse substance is the hardest behavioral change someone going through withdrawal can encounter. If you or someone you know is addicted to heroin, it is strongly recommended you visit a rehab center to facilitate a less painful, safer, healthier withdrawal and recovery from heroin addiction.