Heroin (diacetylmorphine) is described by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a highly addictive drug that is processed from morphine. Morphine is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from the pods of the poppy plant. Heroin is manufactured by combining two acetyl groups with the morphine molecule. This process creates a partly synthetic opioid or narcotic analgesic.
Heroin in its pure form is a white, bitter-tasting powder. However, when manufactured for illicit sale, the drug can be diluted with various other additives, like sugar or caffeine, and can have a rock-like appearance. Based on what is used to expand the product, the color of heroin may be gray, brown, or even black.
Street names for this drug may include:
- Black Tar
- Brown Sugar
- Big H
- Hell Dust
- Nose Drops
The drug can be injected, smoked or snorted.
Heroin is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. Drugs in this category meet the Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration criteria for having a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use in the United States, and no safety parameters for use even with medical supervision. No prescriptions may be written for a Schedule I drug, and its manufacture, distribution, possession, and use is subject to stiff judicial penalties.
Most opioids like heroin are characterized as depressants, which are drugs that lower the function of the central nervous system. They are also referred to as “downers,” which is an apt description of how they impact the body. However, in individuals with a dependency on heroin, use of the drug can be energizing. An overdose of heroin will result in depressed respiratory and cardiac functions. Unfortunately, without high-quality treatment for heroin addiction, many addicts will run the risk of an overdose.
Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
When someone has developed a dependence on heroin and is in need of heroin addiction treatment, the signs are fairly evident and may include:
- Neglect of general appearance, manifested by disheveled hair, unwashed clothing, and body odor
- Behavioral changes. Heroin addicts typically withdraw from social interaction with family and friends and become obsessive about getting and using the drug.
- Displays of unnecessary aggression and/or hostility
- Drowsiness, with a tendency to randomly doze off
- Itching and sores from excessive scratching of the skin
- Nausea and vomiting
Heroin has been in use since it was synthesized by C.R. Alder Wright in 1874. Heroin use, however, hasn’t reached the level of popularity of marijuana or cocaine. But with the rise in prescription drug abuse, heroin has begun to be more widely used. This is due to the chemical similarities between commonly abused prescription medications and heroin, making it the go-to drug when prescription medications such as Vicodin and Percocet are either too expensive or too hard to get. Like heroin, these drugs are derived from opium. When the use of these drugs resulted in numerous overdose deaths, legislators passed bills that restricted their distribution and use, and as a result, the availability of prescription drugs became more highly regulated. Heroin, being cheaper and more accessible, became the natural alternative. Now, heroin use is growing, from the inner cities to the suburbs, and can sometimes be found in conjunction with alcohol dependence. The need for heroin treatment is on the rise as well.
The most adverse effect noted with heroin use is the rapid onset of dependence and addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it. Heroin produces a dramatic high that can occur as little as eight seconds after injecting the drug. Repeated use of the drug in efforts to repeat this euphoric experience contributes to a growing dependence on it and increased need for heroin treatment. The most worrisome adverse effects have to do with the many ways in which heroin can cause death:
- A heroin overdose is when a person takes more of the drug than the body can handle. This causes vital organs to shut down due to respiratory depression and cardiac arrest. When a heroin overdose occurs, this represents a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention and the use of a drug antagonist, such as naloxone, to halt or reverse respiratory depression. Call 911 if heroin use has produced muscle or stomach spasms, shallow breathing, bluish skin and lips, a weak pulse, cold and clammy skin, or seizures.
- Because street dealers try to maximize their profits by combining additives with pure heroin, users can sometimes get contaminated drugs that are lethal. In most cases, the body is unable to process these potent combinations.
- Most heroin users in a drug-induced haze share needles that may be contaminated, spreading HIV or hepatitis B or C. Transmission of these and other diseases can occur when blood and body fluids are exchanged.
Treatment for those suffering from dependence on or addiction to heroin is highly specialized and provided at quality drug rehab treatment centers. Our facility offers several treatment options to the heroin addict, including specialized medications such as Suboxone that help to reduce cravings. Individualized medical detox is a process that helps addicts to halt drug use in a safe, clinically equipped environment with board-certified addiction specialists. Heroin withdrawal treatment is often the first step in moving toward successful recovery.
Following detox, rehabilitative treatment options customized for the patient may be combined with evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy. Other holistic and conventional treatments enhance the recovery process. Our heroin rehab program’s primary goal for all patients is that they achieve full recovery from heroin addiction and long-term sobriety.
If you or a loved one is suffering with heroin addiction, it does not have to be a death sentence. However, it is important to seek professional heroin addiction treatment immediately, before the addiction leads to an overdose or other serious, irreversible condition. Get help by calling our drug rehab treatment center at 877-855-3470 or filling out the form below. We have the tools and the expertise to help, including counseling and dual-diagnosis assistance.