Heroin, which is one of the drugs making headlines as part of the current opioid crisis, is definitely at the forefront of the public’s mind lately. Get the facts about heroin addiction and educate yourself about this powerful illicit drug.
Facts About Heroin Addiction
1. Heroin is processed from morphine, a substance which is extracted from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant.
2. Not all heroin users inject the drug. It can also be smoked or sniffed. It doesn’t matter how a person ingests the drug; heroin has a high potential for addiction.
3. There is no “typical” heroin addict. Many heroin users are young people in their late teens and early 20s. This is not an issue that limits itself to people from a particular background or socioeconomic group.
4. Heroin addiction is linked to prescription drug abuse. The number 1 risk factor for heroin addiction is whether someone has a history of abusing prescription pain medications such as oxycodone and Vicodin.
5. Tolerance for heroin builds up with regular use over a short time. It doesn’t take long for someone using heroin to find they need more of the drug to achieve the same effect they previously experienced on a smaller amount.
6. Withdrawal symptoms for heroin addicts start within a few hours of the last dose. These symptoms include muscle and bone discomfort, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes (accompanied by goose bumps) and feelings of restlessness. The withdrawal symptoms peak at approximately 48-72 hours after the last dose; they may last up to seven days for some people. Some people continue to experience withdrawal symptoms for a few months after the last time they used heroin.
7. There are “bad batches” of heroin on the street. Heroin can be mixed with other ingredients by dealers to make their initial batch go further (and increase profits) or as a marketing tactic. When heroin is combined with the more powerful opioid Fentanyl, it can be promoted to users as giving a more intense high. However, drug dealers aren’t knowledgeable about the right amount of Fentanyl to mix with heroin and run the real risk of providing a lethal product to their customers.
8. Every time someone uses heroin, they are at risk of an overdose. Heroin acts as depressant on the body’s central nervous system. After the original feeling of euphoria (the “high”), the heroin user feels calm and sleepy. If too much heroin is taken, the respiratory system will shut down. Other problems heroin users can face include HIV, hepatitis, collapsed veins, liver or kidney disease, and infections of the heart valves or lining.
9. Heroin cravings can occur for years after someone stops using. Stress or being exposed to someone who is actively using can trigger cravings to use the drug.
There are approximately one million heroin users in the US. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s World Drug Report 2016 found that heroin use had reached an “alarming” level.