The Leading Expert in Treatment for Alcohol and Substance Abuse
and Founder of The Hills Treatment Center
Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a highly addictive opiate that is a synthetic derivative of morphine. It is synthesized from the Asian opium poppy and processed mainly into a white or brown powder. These are known as "china white" and "black tar" heroin. It can be snorted, smoked or injected; all routes of administration deliver the drug quickly to the brain and create an immediate high. Heroin is an opiate or a "downer" meaning that it slows the heart rate down and clouds mental functioning. It binds to the Opioid receptors in the brain that control the brains sense of pain and reward. Opioid receptors are located in the brain stem. The brain stem controls the most basic levels of brain function such as respiration, arousal, and blood pressure. Other effects of the heroin high are a feeling of euphoria, heaviness of extremities, a wakeful sleepiness, and regression of pain. Nearly twenty three percent of people who use heroin become dependent on it. Heroin addiction is a dependency on the opiate heroin; there are many symptoms of heroin addiction and treatment options.

Symptoms of heroin addiction include persistence of using despite negative consequences, mental or emotional problems, social problems, and physical problems. Addiction is also categorized by withdrawal when the substance is taken away. Many heroin users experience mental or emotional problems as a direct result of using heroin, these may be mood swings, lack of ambition, and a complete mental obsession with getting more drugs. Social problems may include stealing, lying, and cheating in order to get more heroin. Physical symptoms of heroin use are loss of appetite, weight loss, arthritis, and other rheumatoid problems. Other physical problems associated with heroin use are collapsed veins, infections of the heart lining, and HIV or hepatitis C. individuals with heroin addiction will experience painful withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer present in their body. Withdrawal symptoms include sweating, intense bone and muscle pain, nausea and other flu like symptoms, restlessness, and cravings for more drugs. Often it is these extreme withdrawal symptoms that lead to social problems such as stealing because the addict will go to any lengths to avoid withdrawal.

There are treatment options for heroin addiction. Generally treatment for heroin will begin with a detoxification period. Due to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms patients are usually given medication to ease the symptoms. There are a variety of medications that ease the symptoms of withdrawal, though many programs wean the addict of the substitute drugs as well so they don't develop a dependency on them. The physical part is only the beginning of treatment, in order to achieve long-term abstinence addicts have to do talk therapy, group therapy, a twelve-step program, and more to assure that they get to the root of the problem. It is important to remember that drugs were an addicts solution and whatever underlying problems exist have to be dealt with in order to begin recovery.

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