Charles Romney Alder Wright, an English chemist, experimented with combining morphine and various acids, which resulted in the discovery of diamorphine, or Heroin.
This drug was first employed in the United States as pain relief. Often it was used in cough syrup, and as an anesthetic during childbirth and surgeries. Ironically, like morphine was used to treat opium addiction, only to be found more addictive than its predecessor, heroin was used to treat morphine addiction, until its potency was discovered.
Due to its powerful effects, misuse rose rapidly and caused many problems in the United States. It was made illegal in 1924, and it has remained that way ever since.
Every day in the United States, 130 addicted persons die as a result of taking heroin or opioid medication. That roughly equates to one person every ten minutes.
Between 1999 and 2016, the total amount of overdose fatalities related to these substances increased by five times
This means that 350,000 United States Citizens have perished at the hands of heroin and it’s counterparts. The first epidemic came in the 1990’s with prescription medications. At the time, pharmaceutical companies paid for studies that made the bogus claim that patients weren’t becoming dependent on opioid substances.
These studies were used by physicians to justify an increase in opioid medication prescriptions, which in turn led to their eventual abuse. As of 2016, over 11 million individuals reported having abused their opioid pain medication. Two million of these people reported that it was their first time doing so
That same year, the number of United States Citizens who lived with an active pain medication dependence reached 2.1 million. These people, many of whom rely exclusively on prescription opioids, will eventually build a tolerance to pharmaceuticals, and turn to the cheaper, more
powerful alternative, heroin.
Many things contribute to the slow descent into addiction. Genetics is most commonly cited as a major factor. Children of those afflicted with addiction are predisposed to addiction themselves, possibly through learned behaviors.
When a person is putting heroin into their body for an extended period, they experience repressed dopamine because they body ceases to produce it. This explains the debilitating depression and lack of ability to feel joy that is associated with cessation of use.
Addictions to heroin most often start with a legal prescription from a physician which develops into abuse and the need for larger and more powerful drugs to get a similar high.
This process alters the state of the brain at a fundamental level, and what proceeds is full blown addiction.
Being cheaper and more easily accessible than powerful prescription medications, it’s no wonder that the heroin problem in America has reached epidemic proportions.
Signs of a Proble
There are a multitude of behaviors that can indicate that you or someone you know is suffering from a dependence on heroin. These include:
- Easily exhausted after minimal exercise
- Cotton mouth
- Constricted pupils
- Swings from alert to unconscious
- Inability to stand upright
- Itchy skin
- Sudden drop in weight
- Upset stomach
- Difficulty speaking clearly
- Small red dots on the arms and feet from injecting
- Poor nutrition
- Wounds from picking at the skin
- Shifts in personality
- Confused demeanor
- Difficulty focusing
- Elated mood
- Difficulty remembering things
- Uncharacteristically indecisive
- Lack of emotion
- Changes in habits
- Problems controlling oneself
- Thought life is centered around obtaining drugs
- Shady behaviors, lying
- Can’t show up for important aspects of life
- Ineffectiveness as work
- Persists in using drugs despite negative effects
- Theft and larceny
The Effect of Heroin
The experience with heroin and other pain medications vary wildly, many reporting that the feeling is uncomfortable, while others describe it as the best feeling of their life. It’s important to note that most people who slide into addiction are doing so out of a need to neutralize pre-existing suffering from underlying causes.
When a person experiences a stressful situation, say from a break-up or death of someone close, the use of heroin results in an influx of the brain’s feel good mechanism. Those with pre-existing exposure to prescription opioids are particularly vulnerable. This is what gives addicts the feeling of being high.
As of today, the landscape has shifted dramatically. Everyone from students to teachers to well established professionals with turn to heroin to alleviate emotional turmoil.
Interestingly, most first time heroin users never use a second time. This is because the sensation isn’t appealing, or simply that the individual isn’t an addict.
Vomiting is commonplace among users, as is constipation. Heroin use is also known to cause a reduction is sexual function, and ability to climax.
Drug dealers routinely mix heroin with other drugs, many that are very dangerous, and coming across it in any kind of pure form is highly unlikely. Because it is impossible for most addicts to tell if the heroin has been cut with something else, there are a wealth of other harmful effects that injecting could produce.
Nearly every biological system in the human body is altered negatively by long-term use of heroin, including the neuron pathways and hormones that regulate the body’s functions.
Studies have indicated that extended heroin use may lead to degeneration of white matter, a substantial part of the brain. This hinders the ability for your brain operate, resulting in profound indecisiveness, impaired inhibitions, and altering the way a person reacts to emotional turmoil.
When a resistance is built up to heroin, the addict is then required to use larger quantities to achieve the same desired euphoria. Once one becomes fully physically addicted, extreme withdrawal symptoms with activate if they attempt to stop.
Their decision making and inhibitive instincts subdued, heroin addicts will do most anything to continue usage of their drug of choice, often destroying relationships and lives. Those who administer the substance intravenously or nasally are at an even greater risk due to the quickness of these methods transport heroin in to the bloodstream.
Trying to Quit
Most heroin users continue use due to the painful reactions their body exhibits when they stop using the drug.
An individual suffering from withdrawals may experience wild shifts in mood, pain throughout the body (particularly in the muscles), with bouts of nausea and throwing up.
Added to this is the unpleasant sweating that accompanies withdrawal, along with the flu like symptoms such as shivers. At this point the addict will mostly sleep, and when they are awake they will intensely desire to use heroin.
Withdrawal can be dangerous, and if the case is severe enough the addict may experience convulsions, distressing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and is at a higher risk of stroke.
Symptoms will occur shortly after cessation from the drug, and will become most intense from 24 to 72 hours. Eventually, the effects of withdrawal will dwindle away. This may be a week, or in extreme cases could take months.
What are the Options?
Being that heroin addiction has such a prevalent physical component, behavior modification must be accompanied by use of medicine.
Heroin users will likely be prescribed specialized medicine during the beginning stages of detoxification, and these will alleviate the symptoms associated with stopping use.
When the effects of withdrawal have diminished, a doctor may prescribe alternative medicines. This is referred to as Medication Assisted Treatment, and is hailed as one of the top treatment options. These may include:
Methadone or other agonists produce a lower intensity, slower acting euphoria. This allows the heroin user to taper off instead of going cold turkey. Methadone in particular is not used by rehabilitation facilities, and must be obtained through a Methadone clinic.
Partial agonists such as buprenorphine is shown to be effective at reducing the desire for heroin, without the high that comes with Methadone. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are allowed by law to prescribe this form of medication.
Antagonist medications are used to hinder the body’s uptake of opioids, neutralizing their effect. This means that if the addict returns to using, they will not receive the effect of the high. This removes some of the attraction of impulsive relapse. This medication can be given once a month, so there’s no need for daily oversight regarding whether to continue use or not.
Treatment for Heroin Dependence
Detoxification is required as a beginning measure when treating dependence to this opioid. We work with several secure, clinically strong and welcoming facilities, with on-site oversight by doctors. The process may take up to a week.
Following detox, a one to three-month residential program is advised as the best way to ensure success.
We use proven methods in our program to address issues related to heroin addiction. This includes:
- Inspirational Therapy
- Behavior Modification Therapy
- After-treatment Strategy Therapy
- Medically Assisted Treatment