Heroin is a type of drug classed as an opioid – these are drugs that are made from the seeds extracted from poppy plants. The original purpose of poppy plants was in a medical setting to control pain and other topical discomforts. However, with the discovery that they could also cause mind-altering feelings of euphoria and elation soon introduced the deadly and somewhat unspoken about, world of Heroin addiction.
Heroin is a depressant. It works by slowing down the brain, central nervous system, breathing, and heart rate of the person who takes it. Heroin is typically injected into veins on the arms, thighs, fingers and toes - but it may also be consumed by smoking or snorting. It’s often mixed with other substances such as tobacco or cannabis for smoking.
Looking Death in the Eye
Heroin’s physical appearance is available in various different forms including white powder, off-white granules, or small brown rocks. Black tar heroin is another form of heroin that resembles tar in colour and consistency. When white in appearance, this indicates the drug is 100% pure. Any additional colour within a cut of Heroin such as brown or tar indicates that it has been laced with other substances. It’s not entirely possible to tell how pure heroin is just from looking at it, however – dealers often ‘cut’ powdered heroin with similar-looking substances such as paracetamol, sugar, or caffeine.
These aesthetic inconsistencies are a dangerous element to the Heroin culture. A lack of transparency with the product being dealt and used, makes it difficult to know the strength of a dose or what exactly is in heroin sold on the street. Risk of an overdose or poisoning from added substances, such as strychnine, is high and extremely common. Inexperienced users don’t have the ability to accurately control how much they should be using at one time, and this is another contributing factor to the high overdose fatality rate both in Australia and the United States.
The effects of heroin depend on the strength of the dose, the size of the person taking it, if it’s taken alone or with other drugs, and their tolerance to the drug (a regular user will be less affected). Heroin gives the person taking it a ‘high’ or feeling of euphoria and pleasure within about five minutes of taking it.
Common short-lived effects include:
Relief from pain
Feeling relaxed and sleepy
Slowed breathing and heartbeat
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of sex drive
Slurred and slow speech.
When Heroin is not your Heroine
Heroin is a very addictive, dangerous and risk-evoking drug habit. Both physically and mentally, frequent users develop dependence quickly because the effects of the drug last only for a few hours. The body soon builds a swift and sturdy tolerance to each injected dose, and addicts become frantic to find new veins, better areas of circulation, and higher dosage amounts used with each hit.
The higher the dosage, the stronger the effects but then ultimately the increase of tolerance for the next round. Danger becomes very real and very scary when Heroin-influenced associates are giving new users advice on how much to use, and where. The culture and environment associated with the use of this drug has never been spoken of in a way that could possibly appeal to even a recreational drug user. It’s a very dark, bleak and scary environment.
Not everyone who tries heroin will become addicted, but approximately one in four people who try heroin for the first time will develop an addiction. If you suspect someone close to you is abusing drugs, you may find signs of heroin use including:
Finding drug paraphernalia such as syringes, glass or metal pipes, or dirty spoons
Track marks inside the arm, behind the knees or other parts of the body
Changes in behaviour and withdrawal from social relationships, school, and work
They may ask to borrow money for suspicious reasons or you may notice money or valuables have gone missing
Engaging in illegal activities
The only thing that can be said with a certain degree of confidence and evidence-based fact, is that overdose is a risk at any time of taking Heroin. It’s just about all you can assume with good reason when considering whether or not to try this drug. It is impossible to know the exact dose of the drug unless it is administered in a medical setting. So, you may be a first-time user and get a bad batch, or, too much of a standard batch. Either way, it’s the Russian Roulette of drugs and a seriously unpredictable situation to expose your body to. No matter if it is your first time taking the drug or you are a long-time user, every time you take heroin you risk death.
Symptoms that might indicate a heroin overdose include:
Blue lips and fingertips
Low body temperature
Cold and clammy skin
If you think that you might have overdosed on heroin, or you notice these overdose symptoms in another person, it’s important to seek help quickly. Overdose can lead to heart failure, respiratory failure, coma, and death. Some of the symptoms of heroin overdose, such as sleepiness, are similar to the usual effects of taking the drug. However, if you find you can’t wake someone who has taken heroin, or they seem to be having trouble breathing, you must call an ambulance immediately.
Heroin Dependence and Tolerance
Dependence on heroin develops gradually over time with regular use. This can affect both mental health of the drug user and also the relationships in their social and family circles. Heroin addicts can turn to crime to fund their increasing consumption of the drug, stopping at nothing to ensure they source their next hit.
Heroin’s dangerously addictive nature stems from it being related to the opioid drug field. Opioids are highly addictive and mind-altering, due to their direct implication on the key processes of the brain and memory. After taking heroin, enzymes in the brain convert it into morphine and it then attaches to a type of cells called opioid receptors. Opioid receptors are located throughout the body including in the brain stem, the spinal cord, and the digestive tract. After morphine has attached to these opioid receptors, the body releases that infamous dopamine chemical - the rush of light, laughter and elation.
However, as heroin is a physically dependent drug, regular users who stop taking it suddenly will experience extreme and relentless withdrawal. It has been widely discussed that the withdrawal symptoms from Heroin are so unbearably horrific, that most addicts keep taking the drug to avoid them, even when they want to stop.
Many of the damaging long-term effects caused by Heroin addiction, can be reversed or reduced when the user stops taking the drug. Many ex-addicts go on to live healthy lives after recovering from addiction
Residential treatment is often extremely helpful for addicts to be removed completely from the situation and lifestyle in which they started a drug habit. Inpatient treatment can provide a haven for drug users to battle their addiction in a safe and supportive environment, as well as providing medical supervision for detoxification and drug therapies. Most individuals need a minimum of 90 days in treatment to break the addiction cycle and have the best chance at a new life without drugs.
There are many options for treating heroin dependence to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal and help heroin users to live their lives without drugs:
First and foremost, you will require a comprehensive consultation from your chosen Rehab Addiction facility
A specialised Opioid-withdrawal management & ongoing recovery plan catered exactly to your personal medical and psychological requirements
A trusted team of therapists, medical experts and specialised substance-abuse counsellors
An attitude that can come solely from you and your determination to fight this addiction!
All of the above and more can be discovered through visiting the Sober Living Housing. The Melbourne-based drug and alcohol addiction treatment centre has a passion for community-based addiction support, an empathetic structure and an environment that will set you up for the drug-free future you will walk away with.