Heroin is a Schedule I depressant derived from the poppy plant. This powerfully addictive drug blocks the brain’s ability to feel pain. Heroin provides users with a heavy rush of euphoria that clouds the mind, slows speech, impairs gait and causes other harmful side effects.
Heroin is a very addicting substance, as the body can quickly become dependent. Over time, someone with a heroin addiction will be at risk for heart problems, liver disease and respiratory problems. Users may experience collapsed veins, infection at the injection site and chronic breathing problems.
Teen Heroin Addiction
Teens who become addicted to heroin can face a lifetime of drug abuse, because recovery is not easy. Heroin can become physically addicting, and a teen who tries to stop taking the substance can experience serious withdrawal symptoms. Cravings, restlessness, pain, insomnia, cold flashes, and diarrhea and vomiting can all occur after a few hours without the substance. Withdrawal can be fatal if done suddenly and not monitored closely, so professional help is often recommended.
Teens today are moving away from injecting heroin, because the heroin of today has a higher level of purity compared to the heroin of years ago. This means that users can get the same or increased euphoria from snorting or smoking the heroin. Some teens today are using heroin in these ways because they believe it is not as harmful if it is not injected, or that these other forms of administration will not lead to addiction. Parents should make it a point to talk to their teen about the dangers of heroin, because this substance can cause problems and addiction in any form it is taken.
What are heroin’s short-term effects?
Heroin users will feel the euphoria associated with the drug (also known as the “rush”) soon after a single dose, with the feeling disappearing a few hours later. During that high, the feelings experienced by users including:
- A warm flushing of the skin
- Dry mouth
- Heavy arms and legs
According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the euphoria phase is followed by the user going “on the nod” — an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Basic mental functions become difficult during this stage, with the user exhibiting signs including:
- Slowed and slurred speech
- Slowed gait
- Droopy eyelids
- Impaired night vision
Heroin’s Long-term Effects
Long-term, continued heroin addiction has serious health consequences. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, these include:
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia
- Clogging of the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys or brain, causing infection or death
- Physical dependence and addiction, including severe withdrawal symptoms when the user attempts to quit
- Liver disease
- Higher tolerance to the drug. This forces the user to ingest higher amounts of heroin to achieve the same high – increasing the risk of a fatal overdose
Risks of Heroin Addiction During Pregnancy
According to the Western Journal of Medicine, heroin addiction during pregnancy is associated with several significant medical complications including malnutrition, third-trimester bleeding, hepatitis, mental retardation and behavioral abnormalities. If you or someone you know is pregnant, the time to stop using heroin is now.
Heroin Addiction Treatment
Help is available, and recovery is possible. The first step to recovery is heroin detox, which can cause withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, body aches, insomnia, restlessness and cold flashes. Detox medications can ease the symptoms and the cravings. An effective treatment program will have a long-term plan in place for sustained sobriety. Support groups and counseling led by trained professionals will also help those working toward staying sober.