Heroin is an illegal drug with a high potential for addiction. Over time, using and abusing heroin can lead to short-term and long-term health problems that can negatively impact a person's quality of life. Heroin use can also increase the risk of overdose and lead to addiction.
Though many people believe that using heroin cannot cause significant damage, this is not true. Unfortunately, using heroin just once can be life-threatening - no amount of heroin is without risk of harm.
Worldwide, heroin users often overlook the reality of addiction. However, by using the drug, the risk of developing an addiction significantly increases. The only way to avoid developing an addiction is to abstain from alcohol and drugs.
When an addiction to heroin arises, it becomes a vicious circle that is incredibly difficult to overcome without help. Irrespective of whether an addiction is present or not, using and abusing substances requires professional treatment. For example, treatment, such as a detox, is necessary to overcome the physical repercussions of heroin use.
Heroin detox can be unpleasant due to withdrawal symptoms. Still, it is the only way to rid the body of all drug traces. Though a physical and psychological battle, it is possible to recover from addiction. However, detox is only the first step in treatment. Recovery requires ongoing support, such as therapy.
Those living with addiction often feel as though they are alone, but this is not the case. Help and support are available every step of the way.
Find out more about heroin detox here, or contact us directly to learn more about our treatments and the heroin withdrawal timeline.
Heroin essentially hijacks the brain's natural reward system, making it incredibly easy to become addicted to the drug. Although the brain receives happy hormones from other activities like music, food, and sex, heroin offers a rapid onset of euphoria. When heroin is repeatedly taken, the brain acclimatizes to this, craving it despite any adverse effects.
Heroin abuse also causes short and long-term health problems. Short-term physical effects include:
Long-term effects and dangers of heroin abuse can include:
There is also a risk of overdosing on heroin, especially when consumed in large quantities. Overdose is a life-threatening complication that can result in death.
Overdose is more likely when heroin is administered via injection or taken alongside alcohol or sedatives, such as benzos. Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose if used promptly by a medical professional. In the event of a heroin overdose, call 911 immediately.
As heroin can affect all aspects of a person's life, it is essential to seek professional support if an addiction arises.
Heroin and all other opioids, including prescription painkillers, present a risk of addiction. In fact, opioid addiction is at epidemic levels in the US and worldwide. In 2017, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
In addition, studies have found that using prescription painkillers such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), and oxycodone (Oxycontin) is a risk factor for heroin use. This is especially true when people use heroin due to being unable to access prescription opioids. As heroin is cheaper than prescriptions, many will turn to the drug.
An addiction to heroin or other drugs is known as substance use disorder (SUD), a brain disease that should be treated like any other illness. Contrary to belief, no minimum amount of heroin is required to develop an addiction. However, addiction is more likely with prolonged drug abuse.
It can be challenging to determine whether someone has a heroin addiction. Typically, physical and psychological symptoms will surface. Though these symptoms vary, psychological symptoms of heroin addiction include:
Physical symptoms of heroin addiction include:
Those who find themselves living with an addiction to heroin may often hide their problems from others. Usually, this is because they do not want to be confronted. In some instances, those suffering will live in denial and believe that they can quickly stop using heroin. It can be hard to tell if someone has a heroin addiction for these reasons.
Someone in the grip of a heroin use disorder may exhibit uncharacteristic behaviors, such as:
Heroin detox is the first step in recovering from addiction. Detox, which is usually medically overseen, is the only way to remove heroin traces from the body safely. While many overlook the importance of this treatment, it plays an essential part in recovering from physical addiction. Often, those with heroin addiction will attempt to quit using drugs alone. However, this is not safe and can be fatal.
Due to the heroin withdrawal symptoms that come hand-in-hand with detox, detoxes should be carried out via treatment centers. Many treatment options are available at these centers, with detox plans personalized to each person's needs. Taking action to recover from heroin addiction can seem like a daunting prospect, but it is important to remember that this first step can pave the way for lifelong sobriety.
When commencing detox, it is best to do so as an inpatient at a detox center. Not only does this ensure that medical assistance can be sought, but it guarantees that treatment will be available to reduce severe withdrawal symptoms.
A medical detox incorporates medications that can make detox more comfortable and reduce the risk of relapse. In contrast, detoxing from home increases the risk of relapse significantly, nullifying the detox process entirely.
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Most people who complete heroin detox experience withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
If severe withdrawal symptoms are felt, medication is available to alleviate them. For the best chance of coping with heroin withdrawal symptoms, it is best to ask a rehab center about the additional support they can provide.
Although the withdrawal process is arduous, it paves the way for recovery. Once detox concludes, other treatments can begin to increase recovery rates.
Everybody is slightly different, but a heroin detox usually takes no longer than two weeks. A typical heroin withdrawal timeline looks like this:
The length of detox will depend on:
Sometimes withdrawal symptoms persist for much longer than two weeks. When this happens, those in recovery may be experiencing post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can occur for up to a year following treatment. If someone experiences PAWS, ongoing support is available.
Heroin is a Schedule I street drug synthetically made from morphine. Users commonly administer heroin by smoking, injecting, or snorting it. When used, the effects of heroin can occur within a few minutes and can last for up to one hour. Due to the high heroin offers, many people continue to take it despite any risks.
Deriving from the opioid drug family, heroin's common nicknames include dope, smack, H, skag, and snow, because it usually presents as a fine white powder. However, color can vary from gray to black depending on how it is made and what it is mixed with.
Heroin is often mixed, or cut, with substances to bulk supply and maximize profits. Common substances mixed with heroin include starch, sugar, painkillers, caffeine, and rat poison. As heroin is unregulated, there is no knowing its true ingredients or potency. For this reason, heroin use always comes with risks.
Detox is not a cure for addiction, but withdrawal from heroin is the first step in the right direction. As touched on, detox rids the body of physical addiction, but further treatment is needed to tackle the psychological aspect of addiction. Unfortunately, without this additional treatment, the risk of relapse increases.
As part of addiction treatment, those in recovery usually attend therapy to understand the factors that contribute to addiction. Usually, heroin addiction develops due to trauma or mental illness, but everyone is different. During treatment, behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help people uncover their bad habits and turn them into good habits, gaining the necessary skills for a life in recovery.
Addictions often co-occur with mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For this reason, it is essential to learn healthy coping mechanisms for any mental health illness. Appropriate medications to aid mental health disorders can benefit a person's overall well-being and reduce the risk of relapse.
Sadly, relapse is common. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that substance abuse relapse rates are approximately 40 to 60%. Relapse does not mean failure, though. For many, it is simply part of the recovery process. However, steps can be taken to try and prevent it.
When a relapse happens, additional detox treatment is necessary. Although it may seem easier said than done, those in recovery should try to avoid relapse if possible. In the event of a relapse, help is available. Many people also find that keeping in touch with their support system helps them remain on track and in recovery.
Recovery support can take many forms, including a 12-step program, ongoing therapy, family therapy, and emotional support from family and friends. There are additionally many support groups and communities for people living with sobriety.
Although detox treatment is short, sobriety is a lifelong effort that requires maintenance. Although it might seem impossible at the start, taking it one day at a time with the right people around you will make your recovery journey much easier.
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