Heroin comes from an opium poppy and is made from morphine. It can come as a white powder or a black sticky substance (which is known as black tar heroin).
To take heroin, people often inject, sniff, snort or smoke it, and its effects are almost instantaneous. Heroin binds to opioid receptors in the brain, offering the user a heightened sense of elation, pleasure and euphoria.
Heroin is one of the most potent and highly addictive drugs available, and in most countries, it is considered a class A substance and is illegal.
Heroin is often cut with other substances like sugar, powdered milk, starch and additives, which can cause other side effects including clotted blood vessels, organ failure and HIV (often from needle sharing).
Heroin, like many other drugs, has a ‘tolerance ceiling’, meaning that a person can build up a tolerance to the effects of heroin over time, which may lead to someone using heroin more frequently or upping their dosage to try and receive a similar ‘high’.
This is cause for serious concern, and many people who use heroin over time and build up a tolerance are often victim to heroin overdose. In fact, of the 1,740 drug-induced deaths in Australia in 2018, 438 or 25% were due to heroin.
Heroin addiction withdrawal symptoms
Much like a heroin ‘high’, heroin withdrawal symptoms are severe but oftentimes short-lasting. While heroin withdrawal symptoms may only last a week or two, a person will often become incapacitated for this time and will experience symptoms like:
Extreme nausea and vomiting
Nervousness, irritability and irrationality
Muscle spasms and intense cravings for drugs
To alleviate these withdrawal symptoms, professionals will often prescribe medication to ease symptoms and many long-term heroin addicts will be prescribed drugs like Tramadol, Naloxone and in severe cases low doses of morphine.
What to do if you think someone is using
While the prevalence of this drug is real, a heroin user might be difficult to spot. Although side effects are ever-present in a person, they are easy symptoms to cover up. Collapsed veins, for example, can be covered up with clothing, and vomiting can be excused as sickness or fever that is unrelated to heroin use.
Normally, an addict will almost always seem sleepy, and when they’re not using, they will seem irritable and anxious. If these polar opposite behavioural traits are present in somebody for a longer period, it might be time to investigate.
Before we move on, if you think someone is overdosing on heroin, call 000 immediately and seek emergency medical assistance. Intervention will be required within minutes in order to reduce the risk of fatality.
Treatment for heroin addiction
Treating heroin addiction is like any other substance abuse problem, including alcohol addiction. Rehab treatment programs are effective and long-lasting solutions to heroin addiction. They will help a person overcome their habit in a safe, guided and clinical environment.
There are a variety of effective treatment options available, too. For example, group therapy, individual therapy and CBT help address the root causes of addiction. More pharmacological treatments, like detoxing and taking medication, help to lessen withdrawal symptoms.
Approaches to overcoming heroin addiction are effective. They help restore an addict to a ‘normal’ state of mind, and a rehab environment will help address any severe side effects of sobering up. This includes treating mental health issues like depression and anxiety. In turn, this will reduce relapse rates and give someone the tool kit they need to walk forward in life as a happier, healthier human.
To find out more about how Salt Recovery House can help you or a loved one overcome a heroin addiction, contact us today.