Heroin: The Go-To Drug for Today’s Addicts

Heroin, commonly known as H, smack, or black tar is an illicit drug commonly used for recreational purposes. Heroin has been a popular drug for decades and films like ‘Requiem for a Dream’, ‘Trainspotting’, and ‘Basketball Diaries’ has brought mainstream attention towards the drug. Classified as a “downer,” heroin induces a state of euphoria and extreme relaxation almost immediately after use. Like other opiates in its class, heroin inhibits the brain’s ability to perceive and recognize pain. Heroin’s analgesic effects combined with the artificially induced euphoria makes it a popular drug among both low and high-income individuals.

Initially, heroin users are able to conceal their drug use. However, tolerance builds up rapidly and users become more desperate to obtain the drug. The same doses will not produce the same desired effect and users will constantly escalate their drug use. Eventually, users will be tempted to steal from family and friends to fund their drug habit. Some of the early signs of heroin drug abuse include the possession of paraphernalia used to prepare and inject the heroin as well as an obvious sense of desperation and common drug seeking behaviors. Studies have proven that short-term addiction to heroin is developed at a similar rate as morphine.  Unfortunately, with the higher costs of prescription drugs today, many painkiller patients have begun switching to heroin because it is cheaper.  This has resulted in a significant increase in heroin addictions and overdose rates nationwide.

Compared to other opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and pethidine, the effects of heroin has a faster onset. The rapidity of onset is a contributing factor the the popularity of heroin. Extensive studies by researchers have attempted to document and observe the culture behind heroin use. Sociological theories focus on the lack of social, emotional, and financial support amongst heroin addicts. This lack of support is often tempts otherwise rational individuals to engage in deviant, self-destructive acts like heroin usage. Heroin addiction is a serious affliction and can cause irreversible damage to both social relationships and the physiological wellbeing of an abuser.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Drug withdrawal is a common phenomenon associated with the discontinuation of an addictive substance. Like other addictive agents, heroin causes severe withdrawal symptoms after an extended period of non-use. Heroin users will almost certainly be compelled to continue abusing the drug because of its natural painkilling or analgesic effects. After being accustomed to these effects, tolerance will build and larger doses will be needed to achieve the same effect. High-purity heroin is expensive and withdrawal symptoms can occur between a few hours and one day after stopping sustained use.

Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person; however, the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • profuse, uncontrollable sweating
  • intense heroin cravings
  • severe muscle aches and cramps
  • vomiting and nausea
  • uncontrollable crying
  • cold sweats
  • insomnia
  • chills
  • runny nose
  • diarrhea
  • fever

These withdrawal symptoms are debilitating and often force users to actively seek heroin in order to feel normal again. The severe and intense withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin are the primary factor leading to addiction. Once you start using heroin regularly, it can be very difficult to cut the habit. Eventually, the drug habit will cause a significant strain on an abuser’s finances and relationships. Addicts will often borrow or steal money simply get to the next “high.” After a while, simple activities and hobbies that used to bring the addict joy don’t deliver the same amount of ecstasy. The need to consume heroin will become the addict’s primary goal and motivation in life. In essence, heroin robs users of their ambition and facilitates a self-destructive cycle: Obtain heroin, get high, go through withdrawal, repeat.

Heroin Culture

Heroin use has always been considered taboo. However, the popularity of the drug and its abuse potential cannot be ignored. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), about 9% of the American population has been addicted to heroin at some point of their life. One of the most common signs of heroin use is the distinct change of priorities. Heroin addicts will often lose interest in activities that once gave them joy and replace old, lifelong friends with friends that share the same interests. If you are a parent, you may notice that your child has changed his or her circle of friends over a short period of time. The congregation of heroin addicts is a common occurrence. Because heroin is more expensive than softer drugs like marijuana, users usually combine financial resources to obtain heroin. This is the reason heroin addicts often change their circle of friends. As a person becomes more addicted, he or she adopts a “culture” of heroin abuse and surrounds themselves with like-minded individuals. As a person slides into heavy addiction, older friends become secondary and are usually ignored. Additionally, family members gradually become a source of income as the addict leeches onto parents and siblings for financial support to fund their destructive habit.

Treatment Options

Most addicts will attempt to detox on their own. However, self-treatment is not recommended because a majority of addicts relapse. The only viable option is to seek a reputable treatment or rehabilitation center. Rehabilitation centers are available to people of all economic backgrounds. Oftentimes, the government will subsidize treatment in order to alleviate the financial pressure associated with seeking help.

A strong support system is needed to properly rehabilitate from a heroin addiction. Without this support system, relapse is common and almost inevitable. After discovering that a friend or family member is addicted to heroin, it is important not to use harsh language as this may cause the user to alienate himelf or herself from the family and go back to their “heroin friends.” Love and understanding is needed to effectively treat a heroin addiction. After recognizing obvious heroin dependency signs, research local rehab centers and choose the best clinic for the addict. Luxury clinics are a bit more expensive, but they provide an enriching environment that will distract the addict from the urge to seek heroin. Even low-end clinics are effective at treating addiction. Without proper treatment, the heroin addict risks legal intervention and financial ruin. Do not hesitate and contact your local drug rehab center for treatment options.

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