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Heroin is drug that is processed from morphine. Morphine is derived from the opium poppy plant. As asserted by the Center on Addiction, any substance that comes from the poppy plant has been categorized as an opiate (i.e. codeine, morphine, heroin…etc.). Prior to 1920 heroin was considered a legal medication prescribed for both children and adults by doctors in America as pain management treatment and even as cold medicine. Due to its addictive qualities, in 1924, the U.S. government illegalized heroin. While still illegal, heroin remains to be a present illicit substance that is abused by individuals across the country. Heroin can be sniffed, snorted, injected and/ or smoked. 

Heroin works by affecting the neurotransmitters and affecting the way one’s brain perceives pain and pleasure. The neurotransmitters that heroin affect also control an individual’s heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. Heroin is an illegal substance, and its manufacturing process is completely unregulated. Therefore, each batch of heroin created is entirely in the hands of the specific manufacturer. It is highly common for heroin to have additives (i.e. starch, powdered milk, sugar…etc.) that can cause permanent damage to the user (i.e. clogged blood vessels that travel to areas of one’s body resulting in kidney damage, liver damage, brain damage…etc.). Each method of ingestion comes with its own risks. It is important to note that the use of heroin can lead to severe and in some cases life-threatening consequences. 

Smoking and Snorting 

An individual that smokes heroin does so by burning the substance and inhaling the smoke into his or her lungs. Smoking heroin provides a rapid absorption process, as it reaches the lungs very quickly. Snorting heroin requires the drug to be in powdered form that is then inhaled through the nasal cavity of the user. Over time, snorting heroin can cause severe damage to the mucus membranes in the nose. This can lead to infection and sinus problems. According to American Addiction Centers, habitual heroin abuse via snorting can result in developing holes in one’s septum. Snorting heroin takes approximately five minutes, much slower than other methods of ingestion, for the substance to absorb into the body and the “high” (burst of euphoric feelings) to commence. Although the time it takes for the substance to affect one’s body may vary slightly, and different complications may present directly related to the method of use, the effects of heroin will remain the same regardless of the method of ingestion. 

Side Effects

The long and short-term side effects that may arise from heroin abuse can be vast. Every individual is different and may experience varied combinations of side effects with differing severities. When abused for a long period of time, heroin can result in permanent damage to one’s brain and body. The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides examples of commonly reported side effects that have occurred as a result of heroin abuse. They include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Severe itching
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation 
  • Vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Feeling a rush of euphoria
  • Vacillating between a state of semi consciousness and consciousness 
  • Stomach cramping
  • Insomnia
  • Abscesses
  • Damaged tissue inside the nose
  • Lung complications
  • Liver disease
  • Infection of the heart lining and/ or heart valves
  • Kidney disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Developing mental disorders (i.e. anxiety disorders, antisocial personality disorder, depression…etc.)

Due to the fact that the production of heroin remains completely in the hands of each manufacturer, it is impossible for a consumer to know the exact contents or potency of the heroin they use. This puts an individual at risk of overdose and/ or lethal complications every time he or she uses heroin. The highly addictive qualities of heroin lend itself to be known as one of the most notoriously dangerous illicit substances that continue to circulate America.  

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792.