Heroin Addiction Recovery
By Tiffney Yeager
Heroin is an addictive drug that belongs in the family of drugs known as opiates. This family of
drugs also includes many prescription medications used for the management of pain. Heroin is made
from Morphine, which occurs naturally in some varieties of poppy plants. Heroin looks like a powder,
usually white or brown in color. It may also be sold as a black, sticky substance which is referred
to as “black tar” heroin. In most cases, other substances are combined with heroin (“cut” in).
There have been many cases where the “other” substances added to heroin are poisonous, such as cutting
heroin with strychnine. This is one of the risks related to heroin use – users often have no idea
what substances may be “cut” into their heroin and they may inadvertently poison themselves. Also,
because heroin is usually cut with other substances, users have no way of knowing the actual
concentration of heroin they are ingesting. This puts heroin users at risk for overdose, because
the same amount of the drug (visually or by weight) can contain vastly different amounts of heroin
itself. Additionally, although heroin can be snorted or smoked, it is often injected which increases
ones risk for acquiring blood borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.
Heroin readily crosses into the brain, providing a rapid sensation of pleasure. This sensation is
often referred to as the “rush”. One reason that heroin is so addictive is that it enters the brain
quite rapidly. Following the initial rush, heroin often makes users feel tired for several hours
after using. In addition to feeling tired, the user’s heart rate and breathing are slowed down
considerably, sometimes resulting in death.
Heroin use leads to physical dependence fairly rapidly and regular users will experience very uncomfortable
withdrawal symptoms if they discontinue heroin use. Although heroin withdrawal symptoms are at their most
intense 1-2 days after last use, some heroin addicts have experienced ongoing withdrawal symptoms for weeks
after discontinuing heroin use. This makes it very difficult for heroin addicts to sustain recovery,
because they often get the sense that their withdrawal symptoms will never go away.
In addition to the risk of addiction, poisoning, blood borne infections and overdose, heroin use can lead
to a number of other medical problems. As with any substance that is injected intravenously, chronic use
can lead to scaring of the veins and collapsed veins. Infections of the blood vessels and heart can occur.
If heroin is used during pregnancy, it can lead to miscarriage, as well as a host of developmental and
If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, don’t face it alone. There are many addiction recovery
facilities that can help. Contact your physician, a local counseling service, or a local 12 step support
group for recommendations. Treatment of heroin can be difficult, but many wonderful people have found
success with addiction recovery programs and are able to live a full and complete life without heroin.
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