What is it Like to be a Person Struggling with an Illicit Drug Addiction?
If you are unfamiliar with substance abuse, you are probably wondering what is it like to be in active addiction? With heroin addicts, active addiction feels like an endless cycle of being “dope sick,” brainstorming ways to get money or get the drug, and using it. An obsession forms in the mind of a heroin addict that revolves around the getting and using of heroin, with the ultimate goal of feeling high.
Heroin is created using the seed pod from poppy plants, putting it under the opiate classification. Heroin is an opiate that when used, floods the brain with feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. Our bodies naturally produce and release dopamine, but with continued substance abuse, the body becomes dependent on heroin entering the blood stream in order to release the chemicals. Prolonged heroin use will distort the reward center in the brain, ultimately causing a chemical imbalance of dopamine, because the brain is used to releasing this chemical in response to the drug being used, instead of releasing the chemical naturally.
Types of Heroin
Heroin comes in many forms, and can be used in various ways. Fine white powder heroin, or “china white” is the purest form of heroin. Another powder form of heroin is brown powder, which is the most common powder form of heroin. Black tar heroin is the last type of heroin, a sticky and dark substance that resembles tar. Heroin can be used by snorting, smoking, or injecting the substance. All forms of heroin, as well as any opioid drug, are highly addictive.
Effects of Heroin
The physical effect given by using heroin include: a feeling of euphoria, overwhelming sensation of “warmth” and contentment, relaxed body, reduced anxiety, apathy, and drowsiness. The long term physical effect of heroin is becoming physically dependent on the substance with continued drug abuse. Heroin dependence is attributed to continued, regular use of heroin. Once you because physically dependent on heroin, you can experience withdrawal symptoms from the drug ranging in mild to severe symptoms.
Longer Term Effects
The effect heroin has cognitively, is massive. The reward center of your brain becomes accustomed to the release of dopamine and endorphins when heroin enters the body, thus creating a deficit of feel-good chemicals in the drug’s absence. Other long term effects of repeated heroin use include: collapsed veins (for intravenous users), damaged tissue in the nasal passage (for intra-nasal users), constipation, insomnia, sexual dysfunction for men, irregular or missed menstrual cycles for women, abscesses, lung complications, internal infection of the heart’s lining and valves, liver and kidney disease and mental disorders. The chemical additives used to “cut” heroin can also cause a number of complications, including clogging blood vessels that lead to the brain- which can cause permanent damage.
Signs of Heroin Use
Some warning signs of heroin use are: weight loss, apathy, pin-sized pupils, altered speech, marks on the inner arms, and “nodding off,” or a repeated lapse in consciousness. The National Survey of Drug Use and Health defines the criteria for Illicit Drug Use Disorder as meeting three or more of the following criteria, as it may relate to heroin use:
- spent a lot of time engaging in activities related to use of the drug,
- used the drug in greater quantities or for a longer time than intended,
- developed tolerance to the drug,
- made unsuccessful attempts to cut down on use of the drug,
- continued to use the drug despite physical health or emotional problems associated with use,
- reduced or eliminated participation in other activities because of use of the drug, and
- experienced withdrawal symptoms when respondents cut back or stopped using the drug.
Heroin Use is High Risk
By nature, heroin use is extremely high risk. Heroin is one of the easiest drugs to overdose on, because of all the additives constituting the “cut”- which commonly includes chemicals like fentanyl and carfentanyl. The smallest volume of these added chemicals are absolutely fatal on their own, with potencies that are scarily powerful. To illustrate the extreme effect of these chemicals: Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than say, morphine; carfentanyl is 100,000 times more potent than morphine. Not to mention, the high risk behaviors associated with heroin use (especially if you inject the drug) include the contraction of major infectious diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS from sharing needles.
Heroin use becomes one of the most dangerous drug habits because of the desperation in addicts to get the drug in order to function. Because the brain shifts in its overall cognitive functioning due to the effect of heroin, the brain also forgets how to create and release chemicals like dopamine on its own.
Finding Help for Heroin Addiction
If you’re looking for medical facilities like a medical detox, please click here to see a list of our locations. Heroin overdose is the leading cause in drug-related fatalities in the United States. To combat the growing number of deaths due to opiate overdoses, the National Institute on Drug Abuse teamed up with Lightlake therapeutics to create NARCAN®- a food and drug administration approved intranasal naloxone product that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. Although NARCAN® saves many lives, we aim to educate people to intervene in the life of any addict before a suspected overdose can take place. If you or someone you know is a high risk addict or has high risk behaviors, please reach out to our experienced specialists to find out what you can do to end the cycle; call us at any time, on any day-we are available 24/7.
What YOU Need to Know
Prescription opioid use can often develop into a heroin addiction, as the chemical-structure of prescription opioids and heroin are very similar and the price of heroin is much less than the street value of other opiates. If someone you are worried about has begun to lose weight, stopped showing up for commitments, appears to be chronically fatigued, or displays other warning signs: please call us at 1-800-RECOVERY or 877-732-6837 for guidance on how to help.
At Royal Life Centers, we wish to treat patients who struggle with substance abuse, treating the guest’s mind, body and spirit for lasting recovery from addiction.
What We Will Do
Help for heroin addiction begins with a medical detox facility to safely remove the substance from our guest’s body. Heroin withdrawal is dangerous and best done at an inpatient level of care, so that medical professionals can monitor your symptoms through out the process. Here at Royal Life Centers, we are experienced in drug addiction, and know how to remove toxins from your body in the safest way possible. You may also be a candidate for Medication-Assisted Treatment, which means that you may be given medication to aid in the withdrawal process, making it as comfortable as possible.
At Royal Life Centers, guests will work with a clinical team to create a treatment plan tailored to them. This treatment plan will guide our guest through the stages of recovery, help to uncover the root cause of substance abuse, teach guests how to navigate recovery, and give guests the tools to build lifelong sobriety. The health benefits span from physical to spiritually, let us help you overcome your addiction to live life as the best version of yourself. There is always hope.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www. samhsa.gov/data/