At Needle’s Point: Heroin


Heroin use is on the rise in the United States, perhaps aided by stricter regulations on pain relievers and the proportionally lower cost of heroin. Heroin is a devastating drug that destroys lives, but those who suffer from heroin addiction can overcome this struggle with understanding and help.

Heroin and Its Use

Heroin is created by processing morphine, a natural pain reliever derived from poppy plants, into a white or brown powder. This powder can then be blended with other substances, from sugar to other drugs, in order to reduce the amount of heroin intake. When introduced into the body, heroin attaches to opioid receptors. These receptors are connected to pleasure and pain responses, which is why heroin has such a devastating impact.

There are a variety of ways in which heroin may be used. For those who don’t wish to use needles, smoking or snorting heroin is a common choice. These methods don’t generate the initial rush often associated with heroin use, but within a few minutes, euphoria and other effects begin to take hold.

The other method of delivery is injection. An intense rush occurs almost immediately with euphoria, drowsiness and other effects following shortly after. Because of the more rapid high, this method is often favored, but it also carries the biggest risks. In addition to the normal effects, using needles also presents the risk of infection from HIV and other bloodborne pathogens.

How to Recognize Heroin Addiction

Extended heroin use may lead to addiction as the body adjusts to the presence of the drug. The opioid receptors become accustomed to regular doses of heroin, which may drive a person to use more in order to achieve the same high as before.

You may recognize addiction through a variety of changes in both appearance and behavior. Needle marks are an obvious sign of repeated injection, which may indicate heroin use. Slurred speech, repetitive sniffing or rapid weight change are other physical factors.

Behavioral changes may also indicate heroin addiction. Reckless behavior, lack of personal hygiene and distance from family and friends may be the result of heroin use. You may have witnessed these types of changes in friends, or even in yourself; addiction very well may be the culprit.

What Heroin Withdrawal Looks Like

Though addiction can be difficult to break away from, it is possible to overcome. In order to break the cycle of addiction, you have to purge heroin from your life. This includes enduring detoxification and withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxious or agitated behavior
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia

While these symptoms may not sound pleasant, there are medications that can reduce withdrawal pains. Those symptoms are caused by the body reacting to the absence of heroin, to which it has grown accustomed. These medications can act as temporary substitutes for heroin, calming the body’s reactions.

How to Break the Habit

Once detox has been completed, further treatment is necessary to prevent a relapse. Though the body no longer has an immediate need for heroin, the habits and emotional addiction may continue to persist. A variety of medications exist to treat heroin addiction by either safely engaging the opioid receptors in the body or blocking the reward response associated with heroin.

Behavioral therapy is another important part of the recovery process because often addiction stems from emotional turmoil. Therapy can help those suffering from addiction to understand why they fell into those habits and how they can live without heroin. Ongoing therapy may supply them with different perspectives on life, provide coping mechanisms to deal with cravings and teach them to manage the stress which may have originally pushed them toward addiction.

Heroin use has a terrible impact on your life and the lives of those around you. Through a combination of medication and therapy, heroin addiction can be overcome. Recovery may be a difficult path, but living a healthy life is worth the struggle.