Heroin is an illicit opioid made from morphine. Morphine is a natural substance taken from poppy plants mostly harvested in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin often comes in a white or brown powder or a dark sticky substance known as black tar. People refer to heroin as big H, horse, hell dust, and smack. The most common heroin use methods are injecting, sniffing, snorting, or smoking the drugs.
In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the US died from an overdose involving opioids —including prescription drugs, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Since then, the issue has become a national crisis that continues to take lives and destroy families.
What are the effects of heroin?
Heroin is a drug that directly affects your whole being. It rapidly enters the brain and binds to the opioid receptors, which immediately affects your feelings of pain, pleasure, heart rate, and even breathing.
Short-Term Effects of Heroin Use
The most common effects of heroin use include:
- Dry mouth
- Warm flushing of the skin
- Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
- Clouded thinking
- Nod (back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious)
Possible Long-Term Effects
- Collapsed veins
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Liver and kidney disease
- Lung complications (including pneumonia)
- Sexual disfunction
Furthermore, those who inject heroin are at a much higher risk of contracting HIV and Hep. C.
Physiological Effects of Heroin Use
Once inside the brain, heroin converts to morphine, which binds to opioid receptors. These receptors are located in many places in the brain, especially in the areas that perceive pain and pleasure. There are also opioid receptors in the brainstem that controls critical processes, including breathing, blood pressure, and awareness.
Many who inject heroin describe a rush, which is a surge of euphoria. Also, sometimes they experience dry mouth, the heaviness of extremities, and altered mental functioning. Sniffing or smoking may not cause this rush.
Like other opioids, heroin slows body function. People who use heroin say the drug soothes their anxiety and makes them feel warm, relaxed, and detached. Opioids also have an analgesic effect, so heroin diminishes physical and emotional aches and pains. After the initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” where he alternates between wakeful and drowsy.
Heroin is fast-acting and long-lasting, so the effects appear quickly and continue for hours, depending on the dose and the route of administration. The speedy and long-lasting neurological changes caused by heroin increase its risks for health problems and misuse. One of the most significant risks is an overdose.
Heroin use decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can have short or long-term effects on the nervous system, including coma and permanent brain damage. A heroin overdose occurs when the amount of oxygen is not enough and, breathing slows down or stops altogether. Since the latest surge of Fentanyl, overdose has been climbing at a level never seen before. The combination of lockdowns due to covid, and open borders with Mexico, has created a perfect storm to further strengthen the opioid crisis.
Although the situation of those suffering from heroin addiction has just worsened in the last year, the availability of Naloxone has greatly improved the odds of survival. Naloxone blocks the effects of heroin and fentanyl by binding to the receptors. Sometimes, due to the strength of these powerful drugs, multiple doses are needed. It is crucial for those who use opioids and their loved ones, to have direct access to Naloxone at all times.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Fortunately, treatment is available for those who become physically dependent upon or addicted to heroin. Medical heroin detox administered by a medical professional subdues withdrawal symptoms to help dependent individuals endure the withdrawal process. Rehabilitation, including behavior modification, helps control heroin addiction.
Waismann Method® Heroin Detoxification
If you or someone you know is using heroin and experiencing heroin side effects, we can help. Waismann Method of medical detoxification is a process that can get the person through withdrawal safely and comfortably and without the unnecessary suffering usually involved with other drug detoxification methods.
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