long-term effects of heroin use

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Addiction

It’s no secret that there’s a heroin epidemic 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 Happen? 

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 affects 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 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 discomforts such as pain and cramping.  With a poor appetite, you’re also at increased risk of 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 of 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 a 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 is 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

how does heroin make you feel

How Does Heroin Make You Feel? Here’s Why Heroin Abuse is Common

There may be as many as 1.5 million chronic heroin users in the United States.

Unfortunately, statistics are a bit slim because of the nature of the drug. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), many people do not answer surveys about heroin or other drug use honestly, which makes it difficult to estimate just how many addicts there are.

If someone you love is addicted to heroin, you may wonder, “How does heroin make you feel?”

After all, it’s a valid question, especially after watching your loved one go back to it over and over.

In this article, we’ll go over some things someone addicted to heroin might feel when they ingest the drug, as well as why people continue to take it despite the consequences.

Read on to find out more.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a common name for the drug diacetylmorphine. It is a derivative of morphine, a strong painkiller. You, or someone you know, may have been given morphine if you’ve had a particularly serious surgery or had a long-term painful recovery from a serious injury.

Morphine and heroin are both derived from the opium poppy plant. This is why some people use the name “Poppy” to describe heroin. In some cases, the name “Poppy” personifies a heroin addict’s addiction. Such language is also popular in the world of eating disorder recovery in which anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are personified as Ana and Mia. Someone addicted to crystal meth may also call their addiction “Crystal.”

Originally, heroin was produced on the mass market by Bayer starting in 1874. It was used as a cough suppressant and as a “safer” alternative to morphine. Although we tend to think of drug addiction as a byproduct of modern society, morphine addiction was a common social issue back then, too. Heroin was supposed to help morphine addicts wean from their addiction. Instead, it created a new addiction altogether.

In 1924, the United States deemed heroin illegal. It was then placed in the category of Schedule I. This means that it holds no medicinal value. It also means that there is a big risk that people will abuse the drug.

As it is one of the most addictive drugs ever made, the Schedule I class for it makes perfect sense.

How Does Someone Take Heroin?

There are many ways to ingest heroin. If you’re an addict or have a friend or family member who is, you’re likely already familiar with some of the ways.

Some people may chop it up and snort it, like cocaine. Others prefer to smoke it or insert it up their anus. Most hardcore addicts inject heroin into their veins intravenously. For some addicts, this is the quickest way to get the most intense high.

It is, however, also the most dangerous. Aside from the risks associated with ingesting the drug itself, there are many issues that arise from using needles in a non-clinical environment.

There is a high risk of AIDS and hepatitis amongst this group of heroin users. This is because they may reuse needles or share needles with friends. They may also not properly clean the area or not dispose of needles correctly, which can lead to accidents and further health complications

How Does Heroin Make You Feel?

This is a question many people who don’t take heroin want to know the answer to. As many see their loved ones return to the drug, again and again, they are curious as to the draw the drug has for that person.

Here are some of the things that heroin addicts feel when they take a hit:

A Dopamine High

Once you take a hit of heroin, dopamine fills your brain, which gives you an intense feeling of pleasure. This “hit” can make you feel confident, happy and produce positive thoughts feelings and sensations.

Many people take heroin in order to achieve that “first hit feeling.” A large chunk of people who take heroin do so in order to self-medicate and mask other issues in his or her life. If you’re constantly depressed, taking heroin will likely make you feel incredibly happy for a least a little while.

There are heroin users who describe this feeling as euphoric. This means they feel happy beyond measure or compare.

For some people, everything else negative about the drug is worth this feeling.

Relief from Pain

While most people who have chronic pain take opioids prescribed by their doctors, some people do get hooked on drugs like heroin. The drug can mask and numb physical pain you might feel from an injury or chronic illness, which makes getting off of it particularly difficult. When dealing with an addict who also has chronic pain, and takes heroin to cope, this can be fairly tricky.

Other people may take heroin as a way to “escape” or “not feel” if they are in situations that aren’t the most pleasant.

For instance, drug use can happen on battlefields where soldiers must risk their lives in the open fire. It can also occur when they have to deal with traumatic events day in and day out while near the battle zone.

Sex workers may also take heroin to help them cope with the reality of their situation. If they shoot up, they are less likely to feel disgusted with themselves or their situation. They’re also less likely to feel pain if a customer gets rough with them or the sex itself becomes painful.

In some cases, individuals who kidnap and traffic sex workers will get the women hooked on heroin purposely. This is to keep them numb and compliant. It also ensures that the woman is hooked on the drug, so she’ll always return to her pimp because he holds the “key” to getting her high.

Homeless individuals may also take heroin to cope with their circumstances. They may be constantly afraid of living on the streets. Ingesting heroin can make them feel as though things aren’t as bad as they seem.

Heroin can also help homeless people, sex workers and people in high anxiety situations feel calmer. This can allow them to sleep, even in places that would normally not be conducive to sleep. It can also allow homeless individuals, or people sleeping on the street, not feel cold and rest despite the harsh outdoor conditions.

As mentioned above, individuals with depression and anxiety may take heroin to mask their pain.

Adverse Effects of Heroin

For some people, the positive effects of heroin are worth any and all negative effects they have from the drug.

Some people, however, will not feel any positive effects and will only feel negative effects. These people may instantly feel nauseous, itch, experience dry mouth, and vomit after ingesting heroin.

Other people may not feel bad until they experience a “come down.” This can include the symptoms listed above as what some people feel instantly when ingesting heroin for the first time.

Before the person experiences a “come down,” some enter a state after the euphoria where they are simply just existing. They may nod off and wake up repeatedly. They may fall asleep entirely in almost any environment. They may also have a lower heart rate and low blood pressure.


After repeated use of heroin, a person may experience withdrawal if they stop taking it. They will often continue to ingest the heroin in order to stop this unpleasant process from occurring.

If not done in a medically supervised environment, withdrawal can lead to death in severe cases.

Otherwise, individuals will experience muscle aches, dilated pupils, anxiety, sweating, diarrhea, insomnia as well as nausea and vomiting. Some people describe it as the worst stomach flu of their life.

This process can last for several days. It can be more comfortable if done in a medical environment, as the effects can be managed through medicinal intervention.

If the person takes heroin during the withdrawal process, it will cease and they will become addicted again.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin

Many people who become addicted to heroin remain so for many months or sometimes even years. They become addicted to that euphoric feeling that they get when they first get high and are always chasing it.

Taking heroin long-term can lead to AIDS or hepatitis, as mentioned above, from using dirty needles.

It can also lead to skin infections, heart problems, collapsed veins and kidney, and liver failure.

Most addicts have trouble sleeping and are at a higher risk of death than those not taking the drug.

Those who abuse heroin for too long without receiving help may ultimately die from their addiction. This can be through overdose or through other issues like their bodies no longer being able to handle the use of the drug.


Overdose is a very scary and very real part of heroin addiction. Many people who overdose die, even those who have used for decades can overdose. Experience does not necessarily protect you from falling prey to an overdose.

Many heroin addicts think that they’ll be fine because they know the dose that works for them. This, however, can be a fatal mistake. Over time, they may develop more and more tolerance, which means they will need more and more heroin to catch that initial euphoric feeling.

Some heroin addicts will lose weight, which will mean their tolerance suddenly decreases when they think it has increased due to their drug activity. This can lead to an overdose.

Those who have been clean for a while and relapse are also susceptible to an overdose. This is because once you’re clean, your body’s tolerance for the drugs reduces dramatically. If you go back to your old dosage, you may accidentally overdose or kill yourself in the process of the relapse.

Additionally, heroin can be cut with a variety of other opioids or drugs. You may not know everything that has been mixed with the drug. The person who sells it to you may not even be aware either.

This is where things get very dangerous. Some heroin is mixed with fentanyl, a powerful opioid. You may take the same amount of heroin you usually take and accidentally overdose on fentanyl because you didn’t realize it was in the drug.

Heroin may be mixed with many other drugs or substances, and you can never be sure if you purchase it “on the street.” If you’re allergic to any of these substances, it can put your life at risk without you even knowing it.

Not knowing what you’ve ingested can make it even more difficult for the doctors to help revive you. If you were with friends who can tell the doctor you took heroin, but can’t tell them what it was cut with, this could turn out to be a fatal mistake for you.

Getting Treatment

Now that you’ve read this article and answered the question of, “How does heroin make you feel?”; you might understand your relative or loved one’s dependence on the drug a little bit better

While there’s no doubt that heroin has a certain allure to many individuals, and that withdrawal isn’t pretty, there is help. There is hope.

If you or a loved one are addicted to heroin, get in contact with us today. We can work with you to form a live-saving treatment plan and start the process of recovery immediately.

We can help you save your loved one’s life.

heroin addiction treatment

The Advantages of Heroin Treatment for Drug Users

There’s no doubt that we are in the midst of a devastating opioid epidemic. In 2017 alone, 72,000 people died from a drug overdose.

If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, it’s normal to feel helpless, scared, or confused. It’s also normal to question whether or not sobriety is possible.

Heroin addiction treatment can provide the relief and solutions you need to get your life back on track.

Let’s get into everything you need to know.

What Are The Signs Of Heroin Addiction?

Addiction is not always apparent. In fact, it can be subtle and insidious. Many people struggling with drug problems lie or hide their habits to appear ‘normal’ to the outside world.

With that said, heroin can be incredibly addictive. Typical signs of addiction include:

  • Increased tolerance to heroin (needing to use more to achieve the desired effect)
  • Presence of withdrawal symptoms when attempting to abstain from heroin or other opioids
  • Spending a great deal of time and energy trying to obtain drugs
  • Using heroin despite its interference with other obligations (school, work, relationships)
  • Using heroin despite wanting to cut back or quit
  • Using heroin in hazardous conditions (for example, when driving)

Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. That means it is not merely a phase, and it does not necessarily get better on its own.

If you suspect a loved one may be struggling with heroin addiction, there are a few telltale symptoms to consider.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When an individual stops using heroin, he or she experiences withdrawal symptoms. This can range from moderately uncomfortable to highly distressing depending on the frequency and intensity of drug use.

Your loved one may complain about muscle aches, pains, or burning sensations. You may hear them say they feel like they’re “crawling out of their skin”.

Withdrawal symptoms can also look like the ordinary flu. Your loved one may experience vomiting, diarrhea, and goosebumps.

Signs of Physical IV Drug Use

If your loved one uses heroin intravenously, you may notice physical signs around the injection sites. These can include scars, bruises, scabs, and fresh needle marks.

Many users start injecting in their arm veins, but over time, people will use any vein they can.

Signs of Drug Paraphernalia

Drug injection paraphernalia can include:

  • Lighters
  • Syringes or needles
  • Cotton balls
  • Burnt spoons
  • Belt or rubber tube (used as a tourniquet)

Smoking or snorting paraphernalia can consist of:

  • Burnt aluminum foil
  • Soda straws
  • Pipes
  • Rolled dollar bills
  • Razor blades
  • Powdery residue on a hard surface
  • Hollowed-out pens

You may also spot small, individual baggies, balloons, or foil squares–all of which can be used to transport and store heroin.

Why Not Stop Cold Turkey?

Quitting heroin cold-turkey can be incredibly dangerous. While stopping heroin use is not inherently life-threatening, medical complications can arise.

For example, if you were using other drugs, such as benzodiazepines or alcohol, a sudden detox can result in seizures, which can result in death.

Furthermore, detox is physically unpleasant. Some people describe it as one of the worst sensations in the world. Therefore, tackling this challenge alone may be nearly impossible.

Many people have great intentions to stop heroin use. After a few days of feeling the sickness associated with withdrawal, they often succumb to intense cravings. A vicious cycle of relapse occurs.

For these reasons, most professionals recommend admitting into a professionally monitored detox facility to enter the first stage of recovery successfully.

In a detox facility, individuals receive 24/7 support, monitoring, and evaluation during the intoxication and withdrawal process. They will also receive the encouragement to enter into a long-term treatment program.

What Are The Goals of Heroin Addiction Treatment?

Recovery can be a long and arduous journey. It may be one of the hardest experiences you face in your entire life.

The goals of heroin addiction treatment are to help you:

  • Obtain medical and psychological stability
  • Increase awareness of your addiction and risky patterns
  • Develop a sober support system
  • Learn coping tools to manage difficult cravings and life stressors
  • Reintegrate back into society as a functioning member
  • Feel empowered over staying sober

While all addiction centers have different rules and policies, treatment is designed to help individuals restore their livelihood.

Most treatment centers follow specified schedules offering a variety of therapies and groups. These may include:

  • Relapse prevention classes
  • Life skills (money management, legal issues)
  • Trauma-based therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Yoga and meditation
  • 12-Step meetings
  • Psychoeducational groups
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Nutrition and fitness
  • Specialized therapies (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy).

In these groups and therapies, you will learn to discuss your problems, develop healthy solutions, and create positive relationships with your peers.

You will typically have a treatment team that consists of a case manager, therapist, medical doctor, and one or more substance use counselors.

Each of these individuals will work together to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Together, you will all create a comprehensive recovery plan that will improve your chances of success.

Being Removed From Your Familiar Environment

One of the greatest advantages of attending treatment is the exclusive focus on you and your life. That’s why many people benefit from participating in a treatment program away from their homes.

This is not a punishment. Instead, it’s an opportunity to truly focus on yourself and your recovery without the distractions looming at home. After all, it’s hard to pay attention when you feel distracted by work needs, family, or running into your old dealer.

Developing A Sober Network

Creating a strong sense of community is one of the best advantages of treatment. Many people struggling with addiction feel alone and disconnected from the rest of society. They may feel ashamed or humiliated by their use, and they often feel like they are undeserving of quality relationships.

Proper treatment can squash this myth. You’ll be surrounded by people who get it. In even just a short amount of time, it’s possible to create powerful friendships with your peers.

Introspection and Reflection

In treatment, you will learn tremendously about yourself and your relationships with others. You will learn how and why you have used heroin to cope with life stressors, and you will learn about how to manage your emotions more productively.

Quitting the drug itself is often not enough to stay sober. You need to understand your triggers and your stressors. You need to be able to create a reasonable plan for the future to decrease your risk for a relapse.

Support For Co-Occurring Disorders

7.9 million Americans have a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders refer to the presence of both a substance use disorder and another mental illness, such as depression or anxiety.

When getting sober, you may struggle with increased mental health symptoms. You may feel more depressed or anxious. You may struggle to cope with the suppressed trauma that you’ve been numbing for years.

Most treatment centers provide on-site medical and psychological support for co-occurring disorders. This can include specific therapies or prescribed medications for mood management. It may also include additional treatment planning with mental health concerns in mind.

After all, if you only target the addiction without addressing other symptoms, you risk the chance for relapse.

Improving Self-Esteem

Completing a treatment program feels incredibly rewarding. Being able to prove to yourself or others that you can stay sober feels terrific.

It’s tough to feel motivated to attempt sobriety when you don’t have good self-esteem. Paradoxically, most people struggling with addiction also struggle with self-esteem.

Treatment provides you with the coping skills, affirmations, and validation you need to see yourself in a better light. Being able to know that you are worth it can make a profound difference in how you live your life.

What About Long-Term Aftercare?

Treatment is only the first step in sobriety. Completing a program doesn’t mean the work is over. In fact, for most people, treatment is the easiest part of staying sober.

Professionals recommend long-term aftercare following treatment completion. This may include a step-down in care, such as transitioning into a lower level of treatment. It may also include moving into a sober living environment.

On a long-term basis, aftercare may include support group attendance and individual therapy. It may include attending weekly yoga classes or committing to praying every morning.

Recovery is something that people work on throughout their lives. Everybody needs to determine what will work best for them. Additionally, it’s normal to make modifications regarding aftercare along the way.

While there is no cure for addiction, there is management, and learning these skills can bring you the happiness and relief you deserve.

What If Relapse Occurs?

Relapse can occur during and after treatment. Some argue that relapse is a necessary part of recovery, that it’s just a routine step in the process.

For heroin addiction, relapse can be severe and life-threatening. Many individuals revert to using the same amount they did before entering treatment. However, because their tolerance has decreased, they face a higher risk for an overdose.

If relapse does occur, it’s essential to reach out for support as soon as possible. Entering back into a safe detox will usually be the safest bet.

If you relapsed, it is crucial to be kind to yourself. Your addiction does not make you a failure. Furthermore, trying again and asking for help is one of the bravest steps you can take.

If your loved one relapsed, it’s vital that you establish the boundaries you want to set. For example, you may not want this person living in your home. You may not want to provide him with money.

Boundaries help you maintain your sense of peace during this difficult time. They are not meant to punish your loved one. Instead, they are meant to promote recovery and help you preserve your emotional needs.

How Do You Convince Someone To Seek Treatment?

It’s devastating to watch addiction destroy the life of someone you love. You may feel angry, confused, or powerless to the situation.

Pleading often doesn’t work. Neither does begging, shaming, or guilt-tripping. In fact, these well-intentioned communication skills often backfire.

If you’re planning to talk for the first time, do it in a safe and controlled manner. Do not attempt to speak to your loved one if he or she is under the influence. Do not put yourself in a physically unsafe situation.

Instead, it’s essential that you voice your concerns in a safe and non-judgmental manner. Consider approaching your loved one with empathy. Let them know that you know they are struggling and that it must be very hard.

Ask questions and maintain a curious stance. Use ‘I-statements’ to verbalize how you feel. Keep a calm and even-keeled tone, even if they don’t.

You should prepare yourself mentally for your loved one to have an adverse reaction. You should prepare for lashing back. Defensiveness and denial go hand-in-hand with addiction.

At that point, you may need to consider staging an intervention. This typically requires gathering everyone into the same room to discuss how the individual’s addiction has impacted each of them.

If you choose to use an interventionist or stage an intervention, you need to be prepared to uphold your boundaries.

Final Thoughts

Seeking heroin addiction treatment can be a profound decision that changes your life. If you or a loved one are struggling, help and relief are available. You can live a meaningful and enjoyable life in sobriety.

Ready to take the next step in locating the best treatment? Contact our addiction intervention specialists today. We are here for you every step of the way.

Homeless Women More Likely Abuse Heroin Other Drugs - Addiction Treatment Services

Homeless Women More Likely to Abuse Heroin, Other Drugs

Homeless Women More Likely Abuse Heroin Other Drugs - Addiction Treatment ServicesAlthough drug and alcohol abuse is on the rise nationally among several demographics, substance abuse among the homeless is still more prevalent than in the rest of the population.

Thirty-eight percent of homeless people were dependent on alcohol and 26 percent abused other drugs, according to estimates back in 2003 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to more recent data, only 10.1 percent of all Americans older than the age of 12 reported using illegal drugs within the previous month, the 2015 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found.

Homelessness and Addiction Statistics

It’s well known that there is a strong correlation between addiction and homelessness. However, because homeless people often get ignored or overlooked by the health care system, actual stats are hard to find.

The most recent data available comes from Homeless Link, a U.K.-based charity that aims to provide help for the homeless. To determine what sort of help was needed, the group conducted a survey of 3,355 homeless people in 2015 to investigate the mental and physical health of this population.

The study found that:

  • 90 percent of all homeless people were suffering from some type of mental illness.
  • A total of 37 percent of those polled admitted to abusing alcohol within the last month.

Homeless Women at Even Greater Risk

Homeless Women And Men Abuse Heroin Statistic - Addiction Treatment ServicesThe study also found that homeless women are more likely than men to abuse heroin and crack cocaine.

  • 33 percent of women who were polled admitted to abusing heroin, while “only” 28 percent of the men did.
  • 31 percent of the women who were homeless stated that they abused crack cocaine in the last month, compared to 29 percent of the men.

The results from the study indicate that there is a severe lack of health care for people living on the streets, at least in the U.K. – although the United States would appear to be in a similar predicament.

The Homeless Link report recommends focusing on providing mental health and preventative care to the homeless to reduce the substance abuse problem.

“The details revealed by this research may be surprising, but they illustrate how useful a health-needs audit can be in accurately assessing the needs of those experiencing homelessness,” Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications at Homeless Link, told a local CBS affiliate in D.C. “This evidence is vital for local areas to ensure the most effective responses to people’s needs are commissioned.”

Given that these statistics are already a few years old, the reality of the problem of addiction among the homeless may be even more severe than the stats indicate.

The Link Between Homelessness and Addiction

In some cases, drug or alcohol addiction is the cause of homelessness. In other cases, alcohol and drugs are abused after the participants became homeless, as a means of trying to cope with the situation.

The Mental Illness Factor

People who suffer from mental illness often have difficulty keeping employment and maintaining relationships. As a result, they may end up on the streets. They commonly turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress and discomfort of living without adequate food or shelter, and as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of their mental illness.

Many non-homeless people with mental illness also use addictive substances to self-medicate, so those with mental health issues may already be addicted when they become homeless.

The Opioid Epidemic and Heroin

The number of people in the U.S. who are addicted to heroin, an opiate drug, has exploded in recent years. In 2014, an estimated 2.5 million Americans were addicted to either heroin or prescription opioid drugs, and in 2015, more than 30,000 deaths resulted from overdoses on those same drugs.

This alarming trend is due in large part to the widespread use of prescription painkillers. These legal opioid drugs are extremely addictive and should only be used for short-term, acute pain management. However, many people use them for too long and become addicted. Once their painkiller prescriptions run out, they turn to heroin as a cheaper and more readily available alternative.

When the chase for the next high leads to loss of job and home, many of these heroin addicts end up on the streets.

We Must Stop the Cycle of Addiction and Homelessness

One study found that overdose has surpassed HIV as the leading cause of death among the homeless population, with opioids alone being responsible for more than 80 percent of those deaths.

Since drug use often leads to homelessness, it’s likely that as the drug problems in this country continue to grow, the homeless problem will also continue to grow. This would further increase the addiction problem. And it’s why it’s critical to break the cycle by getting homeless people the help they need.

In addition to traditional forms of support for the homeless, like food and housing, our society needs to also make sure these individuals also have access to addiction treatment and resources for managing mental illness.

Learn More About Heroin Addiction and Treatment

Understand Heroin Addiction

Opioid Epidemic Is Growing Because of Fentanyl and Heroin - ATS

Deaths From Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Continue to Soar

Deaths From Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Continue To Soar - Addiction Treatment ServicesThe latest data from the CDC indicates that more than 64,000 people died of drug overdoses during 2016. Deaths involving the powerful drug fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids, more than doubled over the previous year and contributed to 20,145 deaths.

A dose containing as little as 3 milligrams of fentanyl can kill. The deadly nature and prevalence of fentanyl-laced heroin make this opioid one of the most serious drug threats of our time.

The Slippery Slope of Drug Addiction

In 2016, the opioid epidemic killed more people than those killed during the entirety of the Vietnam War. The crisis began in the 1990s when doctors began prescribing opioids in increasing volumes for pain management. The health care industry enabled drug dependency for years, inadvertently creating a slippery slope toward illicit drug use.

While many people understand the origin story of the opioid epidemic, they rarely see the factors that continue to fuel the epidemic more than two decades later. Prescription drug use of codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone and others is socially acceptable in many circles. Singers reference using, young people give in to peer pressure, and many doctors will prescribe medications up to the current legal limits.

When the prescription drugs dry up, heroin is cheap and far too easy to access. For less than the price of a pack of cigarettes, individuals can purchase heroin in most areas of any state. Powerful and unregulated, heroin purity and dosing varies widely. Heroin laced with fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are now killing addicted individuals in record numbers.

While more than 20,000 people died from fentanyl-related overdoses in 2016, recent research from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health suggests heroin dependence has more than tripled over the last decade. Millions of people may be at risk for a heroin and/or fentanyl-related overdose, especially men without much income or education. Without intervention, the risks of illicit drug use often turn into realities.

The Scope of the Fentanyl and Heroin Problem in Recent Years

The Sept. 1, 2017 edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates a third wave of the opioid epidemic emerged in 2013. Researchers attribute a large percentage of the increase in deaths over the last four years to fentanyl-laced drugs including heroin.

The use of fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances now contribute to more deaths than the use of heroin, prescription opioids, cocaine or methamphetamine alone. In some areas such as Massachusetts, a major center in the opioid crisis, the state Department of Public Health has recorded a decrease in total opioid-related deaths in 2017, yet it’s attributing an ever-increasing number of deaths to fentanyl.

In the Midwest in states such as Ohio, drug overdoses continue to rise. The state attributed more than 4,000 overdose deaths in 2016 to fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances.

Overdose Deaths on the Rise in Several States; Only Minor Progress in Others

Provisional overdose counts according to the CDC from January 2016 to January 2017 indicate:

  • A 71% increase in drug overdose deaths in Delaware
  • A 67% increase in drug overdose deaths in Maryland
  • A 55% increase in drug overdose deaths in Florida
  • A 50% increase in drug overdose deaths in New York City

While the increases often represent major jumps in death rates, the few decreases in the country only represent a mild decline. Overdose counts show:

  • An 8% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Nebraska
  • A 3% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Washington
  • A 3% decrease in drug overdose deaths in Wyoming

The total number of deaths is currently increasing at an unsustainable rate. If the trends of the past four years continue into the future, hundreds of thousands more will die before they receive the treatment needed to overcome a serious addiction.

The data indicates that since 2013, the US has faced more than a third wave of the opioid epidemic. Our country is facing a crisis within a crisis, because fentanyl is far more deadly than any other illicit drug sold today.

Information from the DEA shows law enforcement agencies secured a minimum of 239 kilograms of illegally manufactured fentanyl from 2013 to 2015. No one can say how many more kilograms slipped through the cracks during that time. Two-hundred and thirty-nine kilograms is enough fentanyl to kill tens of millions of people.

The Extreme Dangers of Fentanyl

A mere sprinkle of pure fentanyl can kill. The drug is 50 to 100 times more powerful than the active ingredient in heroin, and illegal drug manufacturers and dealers rarely disclose its presence in heroin. Drug traffickers use the powerful synthetic opioid to maximize profits, but one error can lead to overdose.

Professionals who respond to overdose calls and bust drug trafficking circles are at risk, too. Fentanyl can kill via inhalation or contact with skin. Those who come into contact with fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances such as carfentanil must seek medical intervention quickly to reduce the risk of overdose death.

The effects of fentanyl kick in much faster than the effects of other opioids, and overdose victims may need more than one dose of naloxone to overcome the effects. Anyone who deals, uses or confiscates illegally manufactured fentanyl faces the risks of overdosing.

A Widespread Problem

Celebrities including the singer Prince and Paul Gray, bassist for the band Slipknot, have died from fentanyl-related overdoses in the last few years. Others, including actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cory Monteith, have died from heroin-related overdoses in recent years. These examples underscore the fact that no one is immune from the dangers of heroin and fentanyl.

The problems with heroin and fentanyl extend far beyond celebrity circles. Today, high schoolers, young adults, professionals, parents and others are dying from opioid-related overdoses, many involving fentanyl-laced heroin. In America, drugs cause more accidental deaths than car accidents and shootings; and, the crisis is only spreading.

The UK also noticed a considerable increase in fentanyl-related deaths starting in 2016. More than 60 people have died in the UK from fentanyl-laced drugs since late 2016. In Canada, British Columbia coroners’ reports cited the powerful opioid in roughly 368 overdose deaths over a four-month period in 2017, and Alberta recorded 176 deaths in a five-month period.

Alcohol and drug rehab facilities can successfully curb the rate of death, but only if they reach addicted persons in time. Those addicted to opioids need ongoing treatment and support to overcome dependency and reduce their risk of encountering fentanyl-laced substances.

How to Stage an Intervention for Drug Addiction

The most recent estimates show only 10 percent of individuals with substance use disorders receive the specialized help they need.  Addicted individuals often need the support of sober family members, friends and professional treatment facilities to overcome opioid addictions of all kinds. Intervention help for families is certainly out there, and Addiction Treatment Services specializes in helping families find the right treatment.

Don’t wait to help a loved one make the personal decision to find treatment. Opioids represent a real and dangerous risk that users may not recognize before it’s too late. Stage an intervention with the help of professionals who know and understand opioid addiction.

Addiction Treatment Services believes everyone deserves an opportunity to overcome addiction. We’re here to help connect you to professional interventionists and assist you in your search for effective heroin detox and treatment programs that work with your insurance.

Find Out What Heroin Addiction Rehab Entails

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2014, but was updated in October 2017 to reflect more recent data and developments involving fentanyl, heroin and opioids.

Heroin Users Increased by More than Fifty Percent

wsjheroininfoA recent article from the Wall Street Journal highlights the rapid growth of heroin use in America over the past decade.

According to the WSJ graph (pictured here), you can see that heroin use increased by 53% from 2002 to 2011, totaling more than 620,000 past-month users in the country. The article also talks about the popularity of heroin in rural parts of America, including states such as Washington.

Not too long ago, there was a big media trend covering “Hillbilly Heroin” users in the Appalachians. This was the result of people in rural towns getting addicted to prescription painkillers they were obtaining from doctors in Florida and transporting back to states such as Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and the Carolinas. One of the primary culprits was the drug OxyContin.

However, from Washington to Florida, and crisscrossing the country every other direction, more people are turning to heroin as prescription drug regulations have made them harder to get in many areas. Florida passed emergency laws governing what were called “Pill Mills” to have tighter regulations on doctors offices (mostly pain clinics) that also had pharmacies on site.

There is also the factor that heroin is generally stronger and cheaper than prescription narcotics. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that in 2011, 4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older (or 1.6 percent) had used heroin at least once in their lives. It is estimated that about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it. Based on the growing rate of use, there will be an influx of people seeking treatment for heroin addiction.

If you or someone you love is in need of help because of heroin abuse or any other substance, contact Addiction Treatment Services today for information about programs that save lives.