facts about heroin

Important Facts About Heroin That All Addicts Should Know

Are you worried a loved one is using heroin? About 948,000 Americans admitted to using heroin in 2016. Heroin overdose deaths increased by almost 20 percent between 2015 to 2016.

The scary part is these numbers keep rising. More and more young adults reported using heroin, which is the largest group to increase usage.

Heroin is one of the most widely abused opiates in the world, with 9.2 million using heroin worldwide. There’s a reason why it’s so addictive. Here are important facts about heroin.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is a type of opioid. It is made from the seed pods of the opium poppy plants from Mexico, Colombia, and Southeast and Southwest Asia. Various forms of heroin include a black sticky substance or brown or white powder.

People either smoke, snort, inject, or sniff heroin. Sometimes they mix heroin with crack cocaine. Common names for heroin include smack, horse, big H, and hell dust.

Why Is Heroin So Addictive?

Heroin has long been known to be a very addictive drug. In fact, about one in four users that try heroin are addicted.

This is because it immediately affects the brain. It causes the brain to release “feel good” chemicals – both endorphins and dopamine. The brain recognizes the activation of these chemicals and begins to link them with heroin almost as a reward to the body.

In addition, the withdrawal symptoms of heroin are extremely uncomfortable, and it is hard for a user to stop on his or her own. The body also begins to require larger amounts of heroin to feel good, so users build up a tolerance. This tolerance causes certain areas of the brain to stop responding without the opioid receptor.

Getting Off Heroin Takes a Long Time

If you are addicted to heroin, it may take you a while to kick this addiction. You will experience withdrawal symptoms that can vary in intensity.

These withdrawal symptoms start around 6 to 12 hours after your last use. You will feel the peak of withdrawal symptoms around 1 to 3 days. They should subside gradually after about 5 to 7 days.

Some users have withdrawal symptoms for weeks or even months. Everyone is different, so it’s hard to say how difficult it will be for each person.

You will have to retrain your body to feel good again naturally. Some users have a hard time getting rid of the urge to take heroin even after they have gone through withdrawal.

Withdrawal Is Difficult

A person addicted to heroin will get withdrawal symptoms around 12 hours after the last time he or she used. Heroin withdrawal can be extremely difficult. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • High anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Intense cravings
  • Uncomfortable leg movements

Some withdrawal symptoms are so intense that users want to take heroin just to get rid of the uncomfortable symptoms and get relief. The user then goes through withdrawal all over again once he or she stops using heroin.

Cravings for heroin can last years after a person has stopped using the drug. These cravings can be triggered by bad memories, places, people, and extreme stress.

Extreme Itching Is a Side Effect of Heroin Use

After heroin enters the brain, the brain changes it to morphine that binds the receptors in the body. This also produces a strong rush and a warm flushing to the skin.

A little-known side effect of heroin use is extreme itchiness. Opiate drugs create histamines that the body uses during allergic reactions. These histamines make the skin itch, which makes users want to scratch.

This side effect means the drug is strong and not contaminated. A lot of users feel that their skin is “crawling” along with being itchy.

Mixing Heroin with Other Drugs Can Be Dangerous

A lot of heroin users take at least one other drug along with it, and some of these combinations can be pretty risky. Many heroin overdoses are from combining heroin with other drugs, most commonly sedatives and alcohol.

Drinking alcohol along with heroin increases the risk of overdose because it causes shallow breathing, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, and can put someone in a deep sedation.

Anxiety medicines such as Valium, Xanax, and Restoril are extremely risky to take with heroin. Both the opioids and these medications slow the rate of breathing, making it highly risky that you could stop breathing altogether.

Using heroin and cocaine together is also a very serious combination. Heroin depresses the nervous system while cocaine revives it. Both of these drugs cause breathing difficulties and can harm your heart.

Mixing opioids together such as hydrocodone, fentanyl, oxycodone, and morphine is dangerous because they intensify the side effects. They work the same as heroin does, so too much of these drugs can suppress the nervous system and heart rate to the point of cardiac arrest and death.

Drowsy-State After First Rush Is Risky

When a person uses heroin, he or she gets a sudden rush or a feeling of euphoria. After that state, the person then enters a phase where he or she alternates between being awake and extreme drowsiness for hours.

To imagine what it looks like, think about a student who is trying to stay awake and school and his or her head keeps nodding when sleepiness takes over. Eventually, the student will jerk awake to try to concentrate. That’s what heroin does to you.

Heroin is a sedative that causes a person to get sleepy but not fall into a deep sleep. This is the phase that most users enjoy because they feel so relaxed.

This can be dangerous because the body can go into a deep sedation. If the person becomes unconscious, he or she could sink into an overdose as the body’s breathing slows too much and may stop.

Babies Can Be Born Addicted to Heroin

Every 25 minutes a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal. The baby was exposed to the drug in the womb and becomes physically addicted, just like heroin users.

A baby can be addicted to any opiate including prescription drugs. When a pregnant woman takes opioids, the growing baby is exposed to this drug regularly. As soon as the baby is born, he or she suddenly does not get this drug anymore.

The baby is dependent on this drug and begins to go through withdrawal. These symptoms include fever, irritability, vomiting, slow weight gain, fever, and excessive crying. A newborn exhibits symptoms about 72 hours after being born.

Addicted babies need treatment. This involves putting the baby back on opiates and gradually reducing dosage to withdraw the newborn over time.

Other Side Effects of Heroin

The immediate side effects of heroin include dry mouth, heavy feeling in extremities, nausea, vomiting, severe itching, and a warm flush of the skin. The user will be drowsy for several hours. Other immediate symptoms include:

  • Clouded mental function
  • Slow heart rate
  • Reduced breathing rate

Reduced breathing can lead to brain damage and a coma. The drug effects the opioid receptors that control the body’s functions such as swallowing, breathing, heart beat, blood pressure, and consciousness.

Because the drug impairs these functions, there can be long-term problems such as:

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Collapsed veins
  • Lung complications such as pneumonia
  • Abscesses
  • Heart infections
  • Digestive issues including cramping and constipation

Heroin can also clog blood vessels to main organs like the brain, kidneys, lungs, and liver. These clogs create permanent damage to these vital organs.

Prescription Opioids Can Lead to Heroin Use

Nearly 75 percent of Americans in treatment for heroin have stated they used prescription opioids before heroin. These prescription medications include Vicodin and OxyContin.

This is just one factor leading to heroin use. People switch to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get than the prescription drugs.

Any Method of Using Heroin Is Addicting

There are different ways to use heroin including injecting, smoking, and snorting. Because all methods enter the brain quickly, all of these ways are addictive contrary to what users think. All three of these methods cause severe health problems.

Can You Overdose on Heroin?

In 2016, more than 15,500 people died from heroin overdose in the U.S. So, yes, a person can definitely overdose on heroin. An overdose happens when the person takes enough of the drug for a life-threatening reaction.

Once the breathing slows or stops, the brain does not get enough oxygen. This is called hypoxia. This can cause short- and long-term effects to the brain including brain damage or a coma.

Signs of an overdose include:

  • Blue tint to the person’s fingers and lips
  • Gasping for air
  • Shallow breathing
  • Extremely pale skin
  • Weak pulse
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Disorientation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confused mental state
  • Spasms
  • Seizures

It’s important to call emergency personnel immediately if you see anyone with these symptoms. The person needs medication to reverse the effects of heroin to get breathing normally again.

How Do You Treat a Heroin Overdose?

Naloxone is given to a person immediately to treat the overdose. This medicine binds to the opioid receptors in the body to minimize the effects of the heroin. A person may need multiple doses to begin breathing again.

This is why a person suspected of an overdose needs immediate medical attention by a trained professional. These medications are available in different forms such as an injectable solution, a nasal spray, and a handheld auto injector.

Because of the increase in opioid overdose deaths in the past years, there is an increase for the public health sector to make naloxone more available to at-risk people and their families. First responders typically have these medications on hand. Some pharmacies dispense naloxone without prescriptions because of this need.

Other Facts About Heroin

It’s important to know that there is no typical heroin user. Most users are teenagers or young adults that come from upper to middle class families, which is not what a person may think of for a typical drug user.

Heroin’s purest form is white. Most heroin is black, brown, or gray because toxic ingredients are added. It’s hard to tell how pure heroin really is when it is not white.

Heroin used to be sold over the counter as a pain reliever in cough drops. People thought it was less addictive than morphine. The name heroin originated because doctors thought it had “heroic” qualities of a strong medicine.

Treatment of Heroin Addiction

There are a variety of treatment options for heroin users. These treatments typically include both medical and behavioral programs. These approaches help the brain to function normally without the drug.

Detoxing from the drug causes withdrawal symptoms that can be severe. This is why a person may need medical help for detoxification. The non-opioid medication helps reduce these withdrawal symptoms.

A person should not detox from heroin alone because it can be extremely dangerous. If a person is alone to detox, there is a good chance they may start using again to help relieve the withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral treatments can be outpatient or in-home. This approach helps a person to learn to cope with life stressors and learn how to modify expectations. This is important to help a person stay on the road to recovery – if someone can not deal with these stressors correctly, a relapse could happen.

If you have a loved one that is addicted to heroin, you may want to stage an intervention. This lets the person know you care and can help them see there is a problem. It’s important to work with a professional and have a plan before starting an intervention.

Getting Help for Heroin Addiction

Now that you know the facts about heroin, it’s time to get the help you are a loved one need to kick this dangerous addiction. Getting yourself or a loved one help for addiction is an extremely difficult decision.

Don’t wait until your loved one’s addiction gets worse. Contact us today to discuss the best options to get your loved one treatment. We can discuss recovery options, detox, rehab, and even costs including insurance coverage.

heroin withdrawal symptoms

All About the Heroin Comedown: Withdrawal Symptoms to Recognize

The DEA released a 164-page report on the opioid crisis in 2018 that indicated that prescription drugs and heroin, in particular, were responsible for the most drug-related deaths since 2001 reports USA Today. But at the same time, data contributed to that report by the CDC noted that the years 2017 and 2018 were starting to see a decline in numbers of heroin-related deaths. It’s likely that is due to the fact that more and more people are getting help for their heroin and opioid addiction. Avoid becoming part of the grisly side of those statistics, by learning everything you need to know about the heroin comedown and heroin addiction recovery.

Just because the number of heroin-related deaths may be declining, that doesn’t mean that heroin is no longer a problem. We know that heroin is a quick acting drug, a fast-acting addiction, and a problem with a very long recovery period. that is the opioid crisis.

The Opioid Crisis

The term opioid crisis is on the news almost every single day, and the drug heroin is a very big part of that problem. Today heroin is being mixed with a number of other drugs as well, such as fentanyl. This is contributing to the opioid crisis and leading to more heroin-related overdoses.

While heroin-deaths may be on the decline, heroin issues are still showing up in today’s emergency rooms every single day. The CDC reports that in 2016, nearly 948 thousand Americans admitted to using heroin, which is approximately 0.4 heroin users per 100 Americans.

In the year 2015, 81,326 emergency department visits occurred for poisonings related to heroin. That’s 222 visits a day due to heroin in emergency rooms across the country.

While deaths may be declining, heroin poisoning is still a very big problem.
What happens after those emergency room visits? The heroin comedown.

Heroin addiction is a multi-pronged problem and a large component of the opioid crisis. Addiction happens in one minute, but the recovery is a prolonged process that begins with the heroin comedown.

The heroin comedown and the withdrawal symptoms associated with that may be difficult to recognize.

Why is Heroin so Addictive?

Heroin is so addictive because of its properties and its chemical makeup, and because of the effects on the body that those properties create.

Most people of adult age have heard of the word “heroin.” But many don’t know how complex the heroin problem is. It’s a complex drug that launches a complex and multi-billion-dollar problem in the United States.

The drug is an opioid that is made from the medication known as morphine. Morphine is a drug that comes from the pods of poppy plants.

Those pods from the poppy seeds are then used to create heroin. It’s a powder substance that can be white, brown or black.

It’s sometimes seen as a black sticky substance that is tar-like. It can be known by a number of names such as smack, hell dust, big H, or horse, among many other names.

Because it is an opioid, it creates an almost instant-like pleasure inducing experience in the brain. It reaches the brain rapidly once it is consumed, and binds to receptors in the brain that create instant pleasure.

This “high” is what heroin users are chasing. The pleasure centers in the brain activate a dopamine surge, and it’s almost an instant addiction.

The manner in which the brain absorbs the drug is why it is so addictive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that heroin use is more common than prescription opioid use in recent years, due to the fact that it is lower in cost and easier to obtain.

That and the manner in why heroin is so addictive is why heroin is such a big part of the opioid crisis. Understanding the risk factors and the heroin comedown is the biggest component in recovery and coming out the other side.

Risk Factors for Heroin Addiction

The CDC reports that prescription drug use is the strongest factor that leads to heroin use, but there are other risk factors. Widespread exposure to prescription opioids is leading to widespread exposure to heroin, once prescription drug users leave that drug of choice to chase a more affordable high.

The CDC reports that nine out of 10 Americans that used heroin in 2013 had a history with prescription drugs, or had at least been treated with one other medication.

Prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and Vicodin are among the medications that are reported to be the most dangerous gateway drugs to heroin. These medications are similar to heroin in their pleasure inducing effects.
Prescription opioids are a significant risk factor for heroin addiction.

The CDC notes that further risk factors are people between the ages of 18 and 25, white, live in urban centers, and making less than $20,000 a year. People addicted to alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine, are also exposing themselves to the risk factors for heroin addiction.

The Mayo Clinic also notes other risk factors. Those include a family history of addiction, mental health problems, peer pressure, disassociation with family, or a history of injecting other drugs.

Those who consume drugs at an early age are also exposing themselves to the risks associated with the gateway to heroin addiction. There are many risk factors that lead to this addiction, and these risk factors are indicating why heroin is more dangerous than it ever was before.

When someone presents at the hospital or emergency room with a heroin addiction, these risk factors can be identified. This is when the heroin comedown begins.

But we can help with addiction recovery by understanding the signs of heroin use, and prevent the emergency room visits in the first place.

Signs of Heroin Addiction

Signs of heroin addiction are similar to what other signs of any addiction include. They are behavioral and family and friends will generally notice changes in normal behavior.

Because heroin is so addictive, users need to take more and more once they start the habit. This is because they develop a tolerance to the initial dosage, and need higher amounts once they become hooked, which happens very quickly.

Once the brain becomes accustomed to it, it needs more to activate those pleasure centers. It is this tolerance that leads to the cravings for that high.

Once someone is addicted in this capacity, the behavior changes begin. The user will do anything to obtain heroin.

The Mayo Clinic notes that some signs of addiction include a preoccupation with needing the drug. They note that additional drug addiction symptoms include:

  • Being consumed with the need to get the drug, not thinking of anything else
  • Taking more amounts of it over longer periods of time
  • Ensuring you have a lot of the drug on hand
  • Spending money on the drug when you can’t afford it
  • Missing work or life responsibilities
  • Withdrawing from social or family responsibilities
  • Continuing to use it even though it is interfering in your life
  • Driving while using
  • Experiencing withdrawal when you stop using it, or, the heroin comedown
  • Physical problems such as weight loss or fatigue
  • Neglect of appearance or losing interest in grooming
  • Secrecy at home or work exaggerated changes with family entering the bedroom or being secretive about their social outings
  • Money problems

These signs of heroin addiction will come up in discussion during the heroin comedown.  Either inpatient or outpatient treatment for recovery will be required. For severe detox situations, what you’ll find in in-patient treatment will help with all of these problems.

Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

After the signs of heroin use appear and are identified, recovery is an important next step. When someone is coming down off of a heroin high, they will experience withdrawal signs and symptoms that are known as a heroin comedown.

Because heroin impacts the body in a physical way, the heroin withdrawal period is a physical one. This includes insomnia, anxiety, tearing of the eyes, aches of the muscles, yawning, sweating, agitation, and a runny nose. These are the early withdrawal signs after heroin use.

Later withdrawal symptoms are more severe and physical, notes the Mayo Clinic. Those include nausea, abdominal problems, diarrhea, dilated pupils, vomiting, and goosebumps.

The Mayo Clinic reports those symptoms can occur within 12 hours of the last heroin use. Users with some of these symptoms should not try to detox at home.

Because there are different levels of detoxification, recovery through the heroin comedown is safest in a clinical or hospital setting.

What is Heroin Comedown?

The American Addiction Center reports that heroin is a short-acting drug. The high is achieved quickly, but heroin also leaves the body quickly and as such, withdrawal symptoms will arrive quickly as well. This is the heroin comedown.

The American Addiction Center cites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimations that those symptoms can arrive as soon as 6 hours after the last heroin use. They will peak within two or three days, lasting five to 10 days in total.

The American Addiction Center notes that detoxing in a medical setting is the safest way to detox from heroin, in order to avoid a heroin-related overdose death.

A medical detoxification usually starts before heroin is out of the system, and can take up to a week. For someone that is heavily addicted to heroin, it could last a little longer.

Medication can help with heroin comedown treatment, and all vital signs will be monitored. Heroin comedown symptoms will not be the same for everyone.

Factors that impact how long recovery will take include the following:

  • How long the drug was used
  • How long it was abused
  • How much was consumed regularly
  • History of mental illness
  • Previous opioid withdrawal

Heroin use induces a pleasure-like feeling, and heroin withdrawal induces the opposite.  When heroin is being used, euphoric feelings occur, with decreased heart rate and low moods.

Withdrawal symptoms might be the opposite, depending on how severe the addiction is. Problems with breathing may occur, cravings for the drug, rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure may occur, as well as muscle spasms. An inability to feel pleasure is also one of the heroin withdrawal symptoms.

Supporting the Heroin Comedown

The only way to prevent the heroin comedown is to avoid using the drug altogether. It is that dangerous. But withdrawal can be easier, and safer, with support. This support can come from family and friends, as well as the medical community.

Withdrawing from heroin is not necessarily dangerous in and of itself, but due to the number of physical symptoms that occur with a serious heroin withdrawal, recovery is best supported in a clinical setting. As well, there are some complications with a heroin comedown that could be life-threatening.

Heroin withdrawal is associated with depression that could lead to suicidal tendencies. Severe use should not ever be stopped without professional recovery support.

Heroin use activates dopamine in the brain which leads to pleasure feelings that are so high the addiction begins. When use is stopped suddenly, dopamine levels crash in the heroin comedown, and this leads to emotional changes with a sudden dopamine drop.

As such, treating heroin addiction in a safe support setting will be multi-pronged. Medical such as methadone or suboxone can be used to treat the addiction during the heroin comedown.

But mental health support is also recommended. There are different treatments and therapy options for heroin addiction.

Finding Heroin Addiction Support

It is not always possible to prevent a heroin addiction when someone finds a gateway to the drug. But preventing a heroin addiction is the most effective tool in fighting the opioid crisis. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says that due to the billion-dollar costs of this problem, outreach and education are key in helping the public understand the warning signs of heroin addiction and signs of heroin use, and how to get support.

Addiction recovery support to avoid the heroin comedown is easy to find, and available in every state. If you or someone you love is in danger of finding themselves in heroin withdrawal, Addiction Treatment Services will help you to locate addiction recovery support by state.