Heroin is an illegal, highly-addictive drug that is created from the seed pods of opium poppy plants. The drug has led to thousands of overdose deaths in the U.S., including nearly 13,000 in 2015 alone. That was the first year that death by heroin overdose exceeded death by homicide in this country. This grim reality demonstrates the alarming rise in heroin use in recent years, in part due to the increased use of prescription painkillers that has led to addiction and more users turning to heroin as a more accessible alternative to prescription opioids.
What is Heroin?
Heroin falls into the class of drugs known as opioids, which includes both prescription narcotics like Oxycodone and Vicodin, as well as illicit drugs like opium and heroin. Heroin is a chemically-modified version of morphine, a narcotic that continues to be used today for management of severe pain. Heroin is dangerously addictive with its intense but fleeting high and the way it alters the function of the brain in a relatively short period.
Heroin has not always been illegal; in fact, the drug was introduced as a treatment for tuberculosis and morphine addiction at the end of the 19th century. By the middle of the 20th century, the addictive nature of heroin had become apparent as well, and scientists began introducing other drugs to work as a treatment for heroin dependency.
How does Heroin Work?
The draw of heroin is the nearly immediate “high” people get when they use it. The substance binds to opioid receptors in the brain, especially the ones that control the sensations of pain and pleasure. In addition to an influx of euphoria, users may also experience skin flushing and heaviness in the limbs. The rush is followed by a period of drowsiness and then an almost insatiable craving to experience the high all over again. Some users can become addicted to heroin after just one or two times of taking the substance, due to the intense cravings they experience almost right away.
Heroin is used in different ways, including snorting, smoking and injecting. All these methods create the quick rush users are seeking. Users may combine heroin with other crack cocaine, a dangerous practice known as “speedballing.”
What are the Signs of a Heroin Addiction?
If you suspect that someone close to you is abusing heroin, these signs could indicate a problem:
- Physical signs like sleepy eyes and small pupils, flushed skin and a persistently runny nose
- Noticeable actions like slurred speech, constant scratching and failure to eat
- Changes in sleeping patterns and a tendency to nod off easily
- Neglect of personal care and grooming
- Symptoms like vomiting, nausea and constipation
- Wearing long sleeves, even in hotter weather
- Paraphernalia like small bags, burnt spoons, powdery residue or small glass tubes
If you notice any of these indications, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Heroin overdoses are a common danger among addicts, so it is vital you seek help for someone you care about before it is too late.
Help is Available
Heroin addiction usually requires medical detox before an effective treatment program can begin. Once that is completed, our treatment plans can be tailored to the precise needs of each of our clients, with eight proven treatment modalities designed to work synergistically to provide the highest level of care. Now is the time to get the help you need for yourself or someone you love. Call Tree House Recovery PDX today at 855-969- 5181.
Understanding heroin addiction
Being able to identify the signs of heroin addiction is an important first step in helping a loved one who may be struggling. Whether it is a child or friend who you suspect is using heroin, being familiar with the street names, paraphernalia, and signs of addiction can help you determine whether they need help.
Heroin street namesBlack Tar, Boy, Brown, Chiba, China, Diesel, Dog food, Dope, H, He, Hero, Horse, Junk, Skag, Smack, Tar
Missing & Burnt Spoons
Heroin is often prepared for injection using a spoon. Missing and burnt spoons, q-tips with the cotton pulled off, and orange syringe caps are all signs of IV heroin use.
Needle marks are a sign of IV heroin use. These can be found on the inner arms, hands, feet, or neck. Heroin users will often wear long-sleeve shirts to hide their marks.
Heroin use constricts the eyes, making pupils appear small or “pinned.” Also look for puffiness around the eyes.
Burnt tinfoil is a telltale sign that a loved one has been smoking heroin. Also look for hollowed out pens and straws.