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Heroin Addiction: The Last Resort

Heroin, while now known as a dangerous, illegal drug, was originally developed and marketed in the 1800’s as a safer alternative to morphine.

In 1924, amidst a skyrocketing number of Americans experiencing legal, health and other issues caused by heroin use, Congress passed a law banning heroin manufacturing, distribution and importation. Since that time, the battle against heroin, and other illegal drug use, has raged on, culminating in what is now being called a public health crisis.

The opioid epidemic is in many ways driven by the millions of Americans currently misusing or addicted to prescription pain medications. The numbers of Americans misusing pain pills are in the tens of millions as of 2016. However, as those pain pills become more difficult, and more expensive, to obtain, some individuals begin to look to heroin as the solution. Less expensive than prescription medication and readily available, heroin is the solution to many experiencing debilitating withdrawals when unable to get the pills they need.

While some are driven to heroin because of an inability to access pain medication, others were exposed to it by friends or even family. It is much less scary to try something even as dangerous as heroin when people you trust are also doing it.

All in all, the numbers about heroin don’t lie:
626,000
948,000
>600,000
13,000
Facts About Heroin

Heroin is known by many different names that vary greatly by geography and culture. Commonly known terms include Smack, Dope, Junk, Chiva, H, China White, Horse, Big H, Black tar, Mud, Skag, Brown Sugar and many more.

Heroin comes in 3 colors and two forms. The first version is black tar; a black, sticky substance known to be less pure and also less expensive than other forms of heroin. Powder heroin can be either brown or white depending on the area it is from and its purity level. White-powder heroin is the most refined and typically the most potent, though it can be combined or “cut” with other substances to make it go farther. Some distributors combine the heroin with poisons that can make it stronger and more likely to cause an overdose.

Heroin can also be purchased, or used, in combination with other drugs, which increases the danger of experiencing an overdose. Using heroin and cocaine together is a common practice, but the combination of heroin and other central nervous system depressants such as benzodiazepines or alcohol is the most hazardous. Each of these depressants suppresses the respiratory system and together, can cause an individual to stop breathing entirely.

For more information about heroin, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse Drug Facts: Heroin.
Signs of Heroin Use
Individuals who are using heroin, in any form, will begin to show signs as use increases. It is very difficult to hide heroin use for long because of the physical impact the drug has on its users. While they may begin mildly, these signs will likely increase in severity and include:
Behavioral Signs:
  • Depressed mood, apathy, irritability
  • Unusual cheerfulness that is typically short-lived as the initial “surge” or rush of drugs stimulates the brain
  • Loss of focus or interest in work, social activities and hobbies
  • Inability to be present for family and participate in family activities
  • Memory problems
Physical Signs:
  • Fresh injuries or scars, commonly known as “track marks”
  • Drowsiness and slowed movement
  • Slurred speech
  • Severe itching and flushed skin
  • Small pupils
The long-term effects of heroin are devastating. Its use can cause irreparable damage to the lungs, kidneys and liver, not to mention the damage to veins or tissues in the nose depending on the method by which the drugs were used. Additionally, intravenous users are at a very high risk of contracting illnesses such as Hepatitis C and HIV. The greatest effect of all is at the core of opioid addiction itself: the changes that heroin makes to your brain. It is very difficult to retrain your brain to function without the drug when it has become so dependent on it. Click here to learn more about the science behind opioid addiction, known medically as opioid use disorder.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the signs of physical dependency or addiction, and would like to discuss treatment options, please reach out to the MedMark Treatment Center nearest you.
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