Learn More About the Dangers of Heroin
Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug made of morphine.1 Morphine comes from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants that grow in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Opioid drugs can be either natural, synthetic, or sometimes semi-synthetic. Opiates like morphine and codeine are naturally found in the opium poppy.2 Some, such as methadone, are synthetic opioids and are chemically made. Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid and is made from chemically processed morphine.
Heroin is classified as an opioid.
According to the Drug Enforcement Association, all drugs fall between one of five categories. How they are categorized depends on the drug’s acceptable medical use.3 The abuse rate is also a factor in determining the scheduling of a substance. For example, Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and create severe psychological and physical dependence. As the drug schedule changes, so do the abuse potential. Schedule V drugs usually have the least potential for abuse.
Heroin is a Schedule I substance; it is not currently accepted under medical usage and holds a high abuse potential.
Heroin is a fast-acting substance.1 According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin binds to opioid receptors in the brain quickly, especially receptors that deal with feelings of pain and pleasure and those that control heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.
Heroin, like other drugs, can be taken in a variety of ways.5 Some of the which include the following:
As with any drug in the Opiates category, substances like heroin can affect you psychically and behaviorally.
The use of opiates, such as heroin, directly affects the pupil.6 According to the National Library of Medicine, drugs that act through the opioid receptors μ, κ, and δ can decrease pupil size and its ability to respond to light. The effect usually starts within 15-60 min and lasts for 3-5 h.
Heroin use over time leads to the following effects:
A heroin overdose can occur when enough of the drug is taken to produce life-threatening reactions or death. A sign of Heroin overdose includes dramatically slowed or stopped breathing.1 Heroin can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain. This dangerous effect can have short- and long-term mental effects, including coma and permanent brain damage.
The use of heroin increases the risk of HIV and viral Hepatitis exposure.8 HIV and Hepatitis travel through infected blood and other bodily fluids. Blood-borne illnesses are more common with syringe use, especially when multiple people use the same syringe.
Heroin addiction is treatable and is available through various methods.
Detox is commonly the first step in treating heroin addiction. Detox should be done under medical or trained professionals supervision as there is an increased risk of death during withdrawal. The body has chances of going into shock or experiencing seizures due to low oxygen in the blood. Nonetheless, detoxing is the first step in Heroin treatment.
Medication-assisted treatments are developed to treat opioid use disorders by targeting the same receptors affected by the drug. These medications are safe, can address symptoms of withdrawal, and improve quality of life.9 Three types of medications are used to treat an opioid use disorder, they include:
Medication is prescribed based on specific medical needs and other unique factors.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy provides effective long-term addiction treatments for opioid use disorder, such as those involving heroin. 1 According to the National Institute on Drugs Abuse, contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy can treat heroin use disorder, especially when used alongside medications.
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