long-term effects of heroin use

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Addiction

It’s no secret that there’s a heroin epidemic occurring in the United States. Heroin is made from morphine, which belongs to a class of drugs called opioids. Opioids are one of the most commonly abused drug classes, and heroin is steadily becoming more and more popular. 

Out of the 13.5 million people who take opioids, 9.2 million of them use heroin. Due to the highly addictive nature of heroin, many people find themselves quickly becoming dependent on it and realize they cannot stop themselves from using it. Their body begins to crave it more and more, and they find themselves in a seemingly inescapable cycle. 

How Does Heroin Addiction Work? 

Heroin can be smoked, snorted, and injected into the veins. It acts on specific receptors within the brain that are responsible for the release of particular neurotransmitters, which are the natural brain chemicals that attach to these receptors and regulate certain functions such as pain, hormone release, and emotions. 

In particular, heroin acts on what is called the “reward center” of the brain which stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure. People report feeling a rush or surge of pleasure when they use heroin. They become obsessed with this high and constantly crave the feelings of euphoria that they first experienced. 

However, the more they use heroin, the less intense the effects get. So, they start to use a higher dose more often. You get the picture; addiction forms frighteningly quick.  

Your Body On Heroin 

Heroin has a depressing effect on the nervous system. Basically what this means is that it effects the major functions of the body such as heart rate and breathing by slowing them down significantly. Your mental state will be affected as well, causing you to feel drowsy and confused. 

When too much of this drug is taken, it can have potentially life-threatening effects. You can go into a coma or even stop breathing and die. Hundreds of overdoses from heroin happen on a daily basis because it’s so easy to accidentally take too much of, or to not know what else can be laced with it. 

While the short term effects can produce extreme feelings of euphoria and extreme feelings of dysphoria, there are long term effects that come with using this drug as well. When you use heroin repeatedly over a long period of time, it can change your mind and body in very negative ways. 

The physiological structure of your brain becomes altered in a nearly irreversible way. It messes with neuronal and hormonal systems in the brain and creates very harmful imbalances. Aside from effects within the brain, long-term use of heroin can result in many harmful effects on the whole body. 

How Heroin Impacts Your Health 

If you’re regularly injecting heroin into your veins with a needle, this can have very serious effects on your health. Frequent injections can be very harmful to your veins and blood vessels. They can rupture and even collapse from becoming very weak over time due to the constant injecting. Your veins have a very important job of pumping your blood throughout your system. They are very fragile and cannot handle a needle being poked through them multiple times each day.  

Another major effect of long-term heroin use is the high risk of developing a serious infection. Often when people are desperate for a high, the last thing they care about is if the needle they are using is even clean. Regular users may even share needles with other people. 

Unsanitary conditions are a major hazard when you’re injecting a drug into your body. This can result in various infections such as abscesses (which is when skin becomes swollen with pus), infections within the lining of the heart and it’s valves, and other serious bacterial infections. Sharing needles can also result in acquiring HIV, AIDS, and hepatitis. These are potentially life-threatening conditions that result when the blood of someone with those conditions becomes mixed with yours. 

Long-term heroin abuse can also affect your gastrointestinal tract. Opioids are known to frequently cause constipation. Chronic constipation may occur when you’re regularly using heroin, and this can lead to a variety of other problems as well. 

Your appetite may decrease and you may experience stomach discomfort such as pain and cramping.  With a poor appetite, you’re also at increased risk for becoming malnourished. Other organs that can be affected include the kidney and liver, since they are responsible for filtering the substances you put in your body.  

A few other long-term effects from using heroin include damaged skin from scratching, sexual dysfunction, sleeping issues, worsening anxiety or depression, and much more. The most dangerous consequence of regular heroin use, however, is physical dependency.

Dependency is a phenomenon that can occur much quicker than the user anticipates. As soon as this dependence forms, the user needs the drug in order to feel normal. Without it, they will feel very uncomfortable and sick if they don’t use it. 

Get Help Today 

If you’re struggling with heroin addiction, don’t waste any time to get help. Your very life depends on it, and your life is extremely important. Heroin addiction is becoming an increasingly worse problem in the U.S., and it’s easy to get sucked into its trap. Although it may provide you with temporary good feelings, this high never lasts and can quickly lead you into addiction. Don’t fall into the cycle of endless using. Get help instead.  

At Addiction Treatment Services, our team of highly qualified experts are dedicated to helping you get your life back on track. Our team is made up of medical professionals who care about you. You’ll also get to connect with others who are going through similar struggles. 

If you’re ready to begin your journey to recovery, contact us today by calling (855) 247-4046. Recovery is only a phone call or message away. There is a better life waiting for you on the other side, and it all starts with making the decision to reach out and seek treatment today. 

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.