Heroin is an incredibly addictive Schedule I narcotic that’s been illegal in the US since the Anti-Heroin Act of 1924. Heroin gets processed by extracting morphine oils which is the principle component opium plants. Heroin affects the body by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. Like all opiates including prescription painkillers, heroin is effective in reducing pain or inducing a numb feeling throughout the body. Most of the worlds heroin production according to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) comes from Mexico, South America, Southwest and Southeast Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand). Recent estimates suggest that the United States consumes 80 percent of the global opioid supply. Most alarming is the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s population. In 2015 alone, medical professionals prescribed 300 million prescription painkillers, equalling a 24 billion dollar yearly market. Cheaper, more powerful and fearfully more accessible is heroin. It is no surprise that 3 out of 4 who suffer from heroin addiction report starting with prescription painkillers.
People who use heroin report feeling a surge of pleasure and euphoria. Heroin is classed alongside many addictive drugs euphoriant because the enhancing characteristics they have on the brains reward system. The “heroin rush” the user experiences is so elusive that for many who have used other drugs testify that it is impossible to replicate. The result of heroin’s unique euphoria is the user will continue to stay active in addiction despite experiencing negative consequences. The fear of withdrawal symptoms creates a substantial barrier for any attempt at addiction recovery. As a result of heroin’s addictive nature, after prolonged use, a heroin user is required to increase their intake amount just to experience the same effect or feel normal. Their rise tolerance also affects levels of physical withdrawal symptoms experienced by those with a substantial degree of heroin addiction.
Heroin withdrawal normally begins 8 to 12 hours after the last use. The worst of the symptoms, which can include hallucinations normally persist between 24 and 72 hours. Symptoms of heroin withdrawal normally begin to dissipate after 72 hours but can last for approximately 7 days.
The physical need for heroin gets so desperate it that little will stand in the way of the heroin addicts next fix. Heroin’s chemical composition will imitate the brains natural chemical messengers that are responsible for activating neurons interfering with the way information is sent, received, and processed. Heroin’s copycat qualities and interference with the natural structure of brain messengers creates a chemical fabrication urging the heroin addict they need more. In conclusion, the brain tells the body I need heroin, and the body responds with the same request. A double edge sword that because of its mimicking qualities on brain function is unique mainly to heroin addiction and directly responsible for heroin withdrawal.
Signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal include; anxiety, depression, fever, chills, stomach cramps and diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and an increased heart rate and blood pressure. A person going through heroin withdrawal will feel very similar to as if they had contracted the flu.
Heroin can be ingested in the body several different ways. The least favorite method to use heroin is orally. When heroin gets ingested orally, the body takes longer to metabolize it resulting in a lesser potency and euphoric “rush” that is most desired from heroin. When smoking heroin commonly referred to as “chasing the dragon” the standard method of use is aluminum foil, light bulb, or from a glass pipe. An interesting point about the term “smoking heroin” is it refers to vaporizing the drug to inhale its fumes, not its smoke. Aluminum foil the most popular method to inhale the fumes of heroin. Suppository is another way of using heroin. Very little research has been put forth with the technique of a suppository, also known as plugging. Heroin addiction for these individuals involves the anal insertion or vaginal insertion carried out commonly by using an oral syringe. After the heroin is dissolved, the user will fill the needle and then plug the anus or vagina with the heroin suppository liquid.
Injecting Heroin or IV heroin use is most popular among those who participate in heroin addiction. Consequently, injecting heroin is associated with the most significant health risk to the individual. The most considerable health risk to anyone injecting a drug is death by overdose. In addition to overdosing when individuals suffer from heroin addiction they also run the risk diseases such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis as a result of sharing unsterilized needles. Sharing spoons, water dispensaries, and cotton will run the risk of blood transmitted diseases.
Snorting or sniffing heroin also known by medical term of Insufflation is a standard way heroin abuse enters the body. Heroin drug users especially opioid prescription drug abusers, will crush heroin or opioid painkiller into a fine powder and inhale it up their nose. This method of use is quick to hit the bloodstream by the fast absorption to the mucous membrane and sinus cavity. Snorting heroin or painkillers in comparison to injecting heroin the “rush” isn’t as strong nor is the duration of the high.
Some of the short-term effects of using heroin are; nausea, itchy skin, flushing of the skin, “nodding out”, reduced mental function, and a heavy feeling in their arms and legs. Most severe of the short-term effects of heroin use are overdose that can lead to death. A heroin overdose causes a person’s breathing to slow and even stop. This causes “hypoxia”, which is a condition where there is not enough oxygen reaching this brain. The effects of hypoxia can include coma, permanent brain damage, and death.
Some of the physical long-term effects of heroin use are; Insomnia, constipation, liver disease, kidney disease, sexual dysfunction, irregular menstrual cycle, and complications such as abscesses (for those injecting the drug). Long-term use of heroin can also lead to mental disorders like depression and severe anxiety. Heroin use also carries with it many mental consequences. A person that has abused heroin for an extended period of time will severely alter their brain chemistry. One primary consequence of heroin abuse is increased anxiety and depression. Many heroin users develop a mental dependence on the drug as well. When they are not able to get the drug, they feel like their world is out of control and they can only think about using again.