This guide will help you understand what heroin is, its effects, dangers, addictive qualities and the available treatment options. Whether you are a drug user looking for more information and attempting to find help or you are a concerned family member or friend, this overview will put the true qualities of heroin in perspective. By showcasing the best treatment processes for recovery you can learn what solutions are available in working towards a life of recovery. With success stories that highlight famous celebrities who have battled with heroin addiction, you can see you are not alone in dealing with addiction, and anyone is capable of sobriety with the right help. If you have a loved one battling heroin addiction, you can learn what steps to take for your own healing process from the devastating effects of someone else’s addiction. Knowledge about this drug is the first step in putting an end to its destruction.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a synthetic form of morphine that comes from the opium poppy, an Asian plant. Once processed, heroin can be a powder that varies from brown to white color or a sticky tar-like substance. The drug can be used with needles to inject into the bloodstream through the muscles, and in purer forms heroin can be smoked or snorted. All three uses are potentially fatal through overdose and can also have adverse health effects and lead to addiction. Additionally, heroin injected through needles brings the dangers of spreading diseases and viruses, leading to the infection of AIDS.
Heroin is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. Originally used as a medication treatment for pain relief, heroin was legal until 1924. It was then illegal to manufacture, import, or sell heroin in the United States, and in 1970 heroin possession also became illegal.
For years heroin has been widely known as an addictive and potentially fatal illegal drug typically injected into the body. However, with purer heroin available today people can now avoid the use of needles by snorting or smoking the drug. This has raised its usage and mistakenly led many people to believe it does not carry the same high risk. Parents The Anti Drug reports that “more than 40% of high school seniors do not believe that there is a great risk in trying heroin.” Unfortunately, the lack of education on heroin has caused many users to develop a severe and life-threatening addiction to this devastating drug.
The Effects and Dangers of Heroin
Heroin offers both short and long-term effects that can be extremely dangerous to a user’s health. The desired effects for the drug user are short lived and require more use to maintain the same experience. This increase in tolerance also increases the possibility of many of the adverse health effects, addiction, and chances of overdosing.
Once heroin enters the bloodstream it immediately impacts the brain and the effects last a few hours. The initial effects include euphoric feelings, skin flushing, dry mouth, and heavy limbs. After the rush begins to wear off, the body changes between feelings of wakefulness and drowsiness. Physical effects from slow or troubled movement and speech problems to visual changes in the pupils and drooping eyelids can also occur. Heroin can also cause vomiting and constipation.
The opioid receptors in the brain and throughout the body are altered by the morphine effect. The drug user’s ability to feel and perceive pain are changed during heroin use, and bodily functions such as breathing can also be severely impacted to the point that the respiratory system is suppressed. The most dangerous immediate effect from heroin use is an overdose to the body’s system that can prove fatal.
Like many drugs, the more that heroin is used the more tolerance to it develops. Heroin users begin taking more of the drug to reach the same effects and quickly become dependent. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that an estimated 23% of heroin users become addicted.
There are also many long-term health problems associated with heroin. Some of these problems include: Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulitus, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration. These adverse effects of pure heroin can be accompanied by problems from additives in street versions of the drug that could clog blood vessels, creating problems with vital organs.
Addiction and Recovery
Once users become addicted to heroin, it is crucial that they enter an addiction treatment facility with proper care methods. Heroin has immediate withdrawal symptoms that can occur within hours of stopping drug use. Many treatment centers focus on detox programs alongside addiction counseling, therapy, and recovery work. Successful recovery from heroin addiction most often requires professional treatment in a safe and controlled environment.
A sudden stop in heroin use can bring severe withdrawal effects that prompt the user to have a deeper craving for the drug in an effort to stop the symptoms. Withdrawal from heroin involves bodily disruption including restlessness and insomnia, pain in muscles and bones, periods of diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes, kicking movements, and other effects on the body. The first two to three days are often the most intense periods of withdrawal for most users and many of these adverse effects decrease after a week. It is important to note that sudden stoppage of heroin by heavy users can also cause such severe withdrawal effects that prove fatal for people in ill health. This makes it crucial that heroin addicts go through a properly controlled recovery process at a professional rehabilitation facility. For some, the craving effect from withdrawal can last for months or years, making ongoing recovery and aftercare crucial to abstaining from heroin.
There are many treatment options for heroin addiction. They all focus on removing all of the toxins from a person’s system. A safe detox involves an assisted process with the help of medical professionals at a rehabilitation facility. Here, clients can be monitored for their well-being and receive caring support throughout the detox process. While a detox helps rid the drug user’s body of heroin and other toxins, it is only the first part of the recovery process and not a cure.
Recovery Through Counseling
A detox is only the first part in the recovery process; clients battling through heroin addiction need support in handling the problems associated with their drug abuse. Many people turned to heroin as an unhealthy way of dealing with problems in their lives. But heroin also brings new struggles involving a psychological dependence, depression, anxiety, and total destruction of a client’s life and family. Counseling helps recovering heroin users work through these issues and begin to break the vicious cycle of addiction. Rehabilitation treatment generally incorporates professional counseling alongside the detox process and continues even after the client has detoxed. Clients that receive individual drug counseling with a certified professional learn more about themselves and their addiction. However, addiction recovery group therapies that involve other struggling heroin users can help show a client that he or she is not alone. The process of group recovery binds people together in unity and helps them share their strengths and hope.
While rehabilitation treatment centers are the best start to the recovery process, the importance of aftercare cannot be stressed enough. Clients may successfully detox and work through counseling in the safe environment of a rehabilitation facility, but life after rehab can prove difficult. There are many available treatment options following rehab for recovering addicts.
The counseling process used in rehab should be continued in aftercare. Although clients may not be able to work with the same counselors, they can find qualified professionals and even ask their rehab counselors for a referral. Follow-up counseling provides recovering heroin users the ability to privately express their feelings and struggles as they readjust to their daily lives. In this safe setting, they can continue to work on themselves and release their inner feelings in a healthy way.
Narcotics Anonymous, a non-profit 12-step program, offers recovering heroin users a similar setting to the group therapy sessions held in rehab treatment, but also brings a comprehensive life program for abstaining from drugs that relies on listening to other recovery stories and helping other struggling addicts. Narcotics Anonymous focuses on a community of recovering drug users working on their lives, sharing their messages to others, and being available to one another. Clients coming out of rehabilitation treatment are encouraged to find local Narcotics Anonymous meetings as often as possible. People are also urged to find a sponsor, someone they can call up and meet with to share and talk through their problems. Narcotics Anonymous is one of the most successful programs for those who are willing to work on their recovery. Once out of rehabilitation, recovering addicts will not be forced into maintaining their sobriety, but for those that do not want to turn back to drugs and instead long to get their lives back on track, Narcotics Anonymous provides the perfect environment for self improvement and healing.
Celebrating Success Over Heroin
Some of the most successful people in the world have faced and overcome an addiction to heroin. Celebrities are seen as role models for everyone from young children and teens to adults and their daily lives are often chronicled throughout the media. As celebrities battle through addiction they give hope and inspiration to the rest of the world. Many actors, musicians, and athletes have beat heroin addiction through rehabilitation and gone on to have tremendous careers.
Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson, an actor famous for his roles in Pulp Fiction and Star Wars, battled his own heroin addiction before his acting career took off. After multiple overdoses from heroin and the threat of losing his life, loved ones, and job, Samuel L. Jackson entered a drug rehabilitation facility and began working his recovery. Since his release, he has maintained a strong commitment to recovery and has flourished as one of the most recognized actors of his era. His story shows that if you commit to recovery, you can regain your focus on other areas of your life, rebuild your family, and find success in your career.
Once one of the most promising guitar players in the world at the bright age of 12, Jimmy Rosenberg became exposed to heroin in his late teens and lost control of his life. A truly advanced musician, Jimmy Rosenberg was playing with adult band mates as a young boy. As he grew up around older musicians, he had early access to heroin and became addicted to the drug while losing focus on his music, new wife, and kids. His family was torn apart until he went through drug rehabilitation and began to turn his life around. Knowing the importance of his music, Jimmy Rosenberg focused on his recovery despite struggles through his rehabilitation. After overcoming the problems of his addiction, the young guitar player was able to rejoin the music scene and immediately became one of the most exciting and memorable jazz guitarists in the world. Jimmy’s story shows the struggles young people face when introduced to drugs early on and how willingness to undergo treatment can bring happiness and passion back to your life.
Nicole Richie’s successful battle over heroin shows another case where recovery means more than just being drug free. After having immense wealth and success at an early age, Nicole Richie claims she then turned to drugs out of boredom with her life. Through rehabilitation treatment, Nicole Richie overcame her drug addiction and found that she was given a new chance to live and enjoy her time alive. Now a wife and mother, Nicole Richie portrays the perfect example of how recovery means more than just abstaining from drugs; it also means living the life you want to have.
For Families of Heroin Addicts
In addition to all the harm and suffering a drug addict faces, his or her family feels the pain as well. As family members of addicts, you deal with anxiety and worry over your loved ones while developing unhealthy issues of anger and denial. No family member can cure a loved one’s addiction; however, by learning as much information as possible and discovering new ways to cope with the problem, you can give compassionate support to the addict while bettering your own lives.
Most family members do not want to admit that they have their own problems as the result of someone else’s drug addiction. However, drug addiction is a family disease. It impacts the lives of friends, family members, and co-workers. Some of the effects may not be easy to see while others are too painful to admit. Many parents try so hard to stop their children from abusing drugs that they lose focus on their own lives and responsibilities, taking unhealthy actions that can lead to enabling the addict and enforcing more guilt and shame. As a family member of a heroin addict, you can be sent on a downward spiral of your own that calls for a recovery process to regain your sanity.
The most effective methods for family members to get back on track come from listening to the experiences of others who have been in the same position. Non-profit organizations such as Nar-Anon offer support to family members of addicts. For those that cannot locate Nar-Anon meetings in the area, Al-Anon also has many members who deal with family members with drug addiction. In these family groups, people can listen to the encouragement of others about facing the struggles of addiction in the family and the best ways to act. These free non-profit family groups are found all over the country and throughout the world. The underlining message of recovery from these organizations is that family members help themselves focus on their own lives and well-being and in turn stop enabling the addict. Through the journey of recovery, family members learn to release their illusion of control, let go of anger and resentment, and treat the addict with empathy and understanding. This type of support can help foster a better environment for addicts and release some of the guilt that leads towards their struggles.
Family members are also encouraged to seek counseling and therapy. Medical professionals can educate family members about the drug and its effects on the addict. Counselors can work with families to relieve the stress and worry that living with a drug addict can bring.
Heroin claims lives and destroys families, but it can be overcome. This guide highlights the effects of the drug and the process of recovery, showing that those who want to have their life back can do so with professional help. If you are struggling with drug addiction, you can undergo treatment now and work towards a life of recovery. Even if you have struggled with treatment in the past, a new-found willingness and deep commitment to a lifetime of recovery can help you now. For family members, the educational information here will help you understand the effects of heroin and how difficult it is for your loved ones. By focusing on your own healing process, you can support those who are struggling and get control of your own life back. Families that have been destroyed by heroin can come together again through healthy recovery. Learning about the effects of heroin and treatment options available is the first step in working towards a life of happiness and serenity.