Some common street names for heroin are:
- Big H
- Hell dust
- Tar or black tar
Although pure heroin is becoming more common, most street heroin is “cut” with substances such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk.
Prescribed opioids can cause similar effects as heroin. Examples of prescribed opioids that can cause similar effects as heroin include:
In 2020, July had the most opioid-related ED visits with 22.66 visits per 100,000 people in a population. April had the fewest opioid-related ED visits with 11.33 visits per 100,000 people in a population in New Hampshire.
In New Hampshire, drug overdose deaths involving opioids totaled 412 (a rate of 33.1) in 2018 and has remained stable since 2015. Over 14,000 people died from a drug overdose involving heroin in the United States, a rate of more than four deaths for every 100,000 Americans. The lack of access to prescription opioids may have influenced the demand for heroin.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a highly addictive drug made from morphine, which comes from the opium poppy plant. Heroin is a Schedule I Controlled Substance by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). Heroin has no current medical uses due to its extremely addictive qualities. Drugs are categorized by their usual method of administration, which is either oral use, inhalation, or injection.
Heroin abuse can have a wide range of short-term risks to the abuser, including:
- Fatal overdose
- Spontaneous abortion
- Collapsed veins
- Blood-borne infections such as hepatitis and HIV / AIDS
Heroin is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as the black sticky substance known on the streets as “black tar heroin.” Heroin usually appears in powder form, but it can also be mixed with water and injected into the bloodstream. This can provide an immediate rush, followed by drowsiness and lethargy.
How Does Heroin Affect the Brain?
When heroin enters the brain it converts back into morphine. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals to receptors. This stimulates areas of the brain that control pain and pleasure. Thus, the high feeling that heroin gives off when used is accompanied by extreme relaxation and decreased alertness.
Heroin is a central nervous system depressant. As a result, many heroin addicts report having trouble breathing soon after chronically using the substance because heroin slows down their breathing rate. Heroin is classified as a narcotic.
What Are the Causes of Heroin Addiction?
Heroin addiction may be caused by a combination of factors. For one, heroin is a highly addictive substance. Therefore, addiction can develop quickly after first using heroin.
Addiction is a complex disease that demands support from different angles. The stigma related to addiction can prevent a person from attending heroin rehab.
Many factors may contribute to a person developing heroin addiction, such as:
- Social or environmental influences
- Genetic predisposition
- Mental illness
- Trauma or stress experienced in one’s life
What Is The Scope Of Heroin Addiction in The United States?
The heroin epidemic in the United States has witnessed intense trends. In 2020, 81% of treatment admissions for the referenced substances involved opioid/opiates. As of 15 January 2021, drug overdose deaths are projected to decrease by 3.1% from 2019 to 2020 in New Hampshire.
It is estimated that 1 out of every 15 patients treated for opioid dependence leaves against medical advice (AMA), and heroin addicts are more likely to leave treatment early. Heroin addicts are responsible for thefts, robbery, or other crimes to finance their heroin addiction.
The heroin epidemic has also resulted in increased public health costs. This is partly because the heroin abusers will often neglect basic sustenance needs like personal hygiene and nutrition, which can lead to secondary health conditions such as skin infections, hepatitis, or HIV / AIDS.
The heroin epidemic has also increased the number of newborns who have been exposed to heroin during gestation. This creates a need for more intensive services in the child welfare systems. Since heroin addicts often share needles with other drug users, they are at a greater risk of contracting HIV or AIDS.
Fatal heroin overdoses have increased in recent years. Heroin is an illegal substance that cannot be controlled easily when distributed on the streets by drug dealers.
Addicts typically do not know the strength of the heroin dose they are using when injected with heroin. In addition, increased overdoses can be present when synthetic opioids like fentanyl are used in the black market.
What are The Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction?
Below are some of the different signs and symptoms of heroin addiction. These heroin signs and symptoms come in different categories, physical and behavioral.
- Needle marks on the skin from needle injections
- Loss of appetite
- Red eyes/Constricted pupils
- Shaking Seizures
- Swollen hands/fingers
- Sleeping during the day
- Slurred speech
- Inability to focus
- Poor coordination
- Difficulties with daily activities
- Compulsive behavior
- Family problems
- Financial difficulties
- Low self-esteem
- Mood swings
- Violent behavior
What are The Risks of Developing a Heroin Addiction?
The risks heroin addiction poses to the user are short-term and long-term. Not only can heroin use cause overdose, but it can also create infections due to unclean needles. Heroin users who share needles with other heroin users have an increased chance of contracting HIV/AIDs or hepatitis B & C. This is because needles are often contaminated with these diseases. In New Hampshire, an estimated 7,700 persons are living with HCV (a rate of 730 based on the 2013-2016 annual average).
Some heroin addicts get blood poisoning, which is a serious infection that can lead to kidney damage and death if not treated quickly enough. Frequent heroin use over time diminishes the production of dopamine in the brain, which decreases one’s motivation for everyday activities such as work or hygiene.
Heroin Overdose Symptoms
Some heroin users may start experiencing heroin overdose symptoms after repeated heroin use.
Common heroin overdose symptoms include:
- Slowed heart rate and breathing
- Drowsiness or loss of consciousness
- Pinpoint pupils (small, contracted black circles at the center of each eye)
- Cold, clammy skin
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Heroin addicts are often unable to stop using heroin or reject heroin without assistance. An addict may also experience intense cravings for heroin, the need to use heroin frequently, and withdrawal symptoms when heroin use is stopped.
Short Term Effects of Heroin Use
If heroin is used in high doses or if it’s mixed with other drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines, addicts can experience slowed breathing, heart rate, and decreased consciousness. These effects may cause death.
Other Heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Flu-like symptoms
Which Heroin Rehab Is Best?
If you’ve decided to enter recovery after an intervention, heroin rehab would be the next step. The continuum of care is designed to provide evidence-based care to patients from varying backgrounds. The heroin addiction treatment must be medically supervised.
This can help an addict to avoid relapse and any complications from withdrawal. It also gives heroin addicts the best chance of avoiding medical problems or overdose. Heroin rehab includes heroin detox and treatment for heroin addiction.
Medication treatment with methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone) can help eliminate heroin withdrawal symptoms while an individual that suffers from heroin addiction undergoes counseling. Many other medications are also used to treat heroin addicts, including some antidepressants and benzodiazepines.
Treatment options for heroin addiction include behavioral therapy and medication. Behavioral therapies that may be recommended for heroin addiction treatment include contingency management therapy, which uses tangible rewards for remaining drug-free — such as providing vouchers redeemable for things like plane tickets. Cognitive behavior therapy helps addicts identify triggering situations in which they’re likely to relapse and develop coping strategies to avoid those situations.
The first stage of heroin rehab is heroin detox. Heroin withdrawal symptoms can cause discomfort and should be accompanied by medical supervision to ensure the comfort of rehab patients and their safety. This means that individuals in detox should be under constant watch to aid in preventing suicide, self-harm, or relapse into heroin abuse.
The heroin withdrawal timeline usually spans 1-2 weeks before a person recovers from heroin cravings and begins to take part in daily living activities such as work, school, etc. Once a person has completed heroin detox, he or she will be admitted to an inpatient or outpatient program depending on his or her needs and desires.
Inpatient treatment programs provide a distraction-free environment for patients to receive dynamic care. After detox, you may find yourself at an inpatient treatment program, with the support of 24/7 medical staff. Psychotherapy such as individual and group therapy are common staples, in addition to other amenities.
The cost of inpatient treatment will be determined by the amenities and location. It’s recommended that patients remain in inpatient treatment for 90 days, however, 30-60 day programs are offered. Inpatient treatment programs are best suited for those with severe to moderate cases of addiction.
Partial Hospitalization Programs or day programs are already common when treating mental health disorders. However, PHPs have become instrumental in treating substance use disorders as well.
PHPs are offered through a hospital or private facility. PHPs typically have their section in a hospital.
One benefit of partial hospitalization programs is that they offer the same intensive treatments as inpatient treatment but without remaining in an inpatient residence. Medications can be provided for PHP treatment, depending on your medical history.
A partial hospitalization program patient has a chance to receive treatment through psychotherapy as well. Ultimately though, the average length of time a patient can expect at a PHP varies by case.
Outpatient treatment programs are affordable and flexible approaches to addiction recovery. A key benefit of outpatient treatment is the patient’s ability to practice their new coping skills in the real world. With a practical outlook towards healing, the patients can feel a greater sense of responsibility in their motivations.
The patient can expect to spend an average of 30 days in outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment programs typically offer similar services to inpatient treatment programs. The severity of your case will determine if outpatient treatment is best suited for you.
Outpatient treatment programs can be administered through IOPs (Intensive Outpatient Programs). IOPs provide a slightly structured regimen for patients who have severe-moderate cases of addiction. A patient can expect to spend 6-8 hours sessions, 5 days a week.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis treatment is used to treat co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders are when a patient has a combination of a mental health and substance use disorder. Co-occurring disorders affect a large portion of recovering individuals.
Sober living homes or “halfway houses” are a measure used for all stages of addiction recovery. If you’ve transitioned from an inpatient residence, sober living homes are a great method to adjust to the next phase of addiction treatment. You’re required to have a steady income, in support of housing and support group sessions.
Support groups can offer a wealth of resources and knowledge. Many individuals seek to establish community and find job opportunities through support groups. Remaining in the continuum of care has proven to increase the chances of maintaining sobriety for at least a year.
Relapse is common during treatment for heroin addiction. Ongoing support from therapists and/or self-help groups can increase the chances of long-term recovery from heroin addiction.
Some heroin addicts may relapse numerous times throughout recovery. This is because recovery is a lifelong battle. Despite it being a lifelong battle, recovery from heroin addiction can be won with determination each and every day. Bringing self-compassion into your life can do wonders for the challenges ahead.
The Pathway to Live Free Recovery
Heroin addiction is a disease that can be successfully treated. There are many heroin rehab options available to individuals with heroin use disorders. Heroin rehab should be tailored to the needs of an individual. Therefore, more than one type of heroin addiction treatment may be used during recovery. If you or a loved one are planning to attend heroin rehab, Live Free Recovery is here to help.