Injection Drug Use Hiv And Hepatitis
People who inject drugs such as heroin are at high risk of contracting the HIV and hepatitis C virus. These diseases are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids, which can occur when sharing needles or other injection drug use equipment. HCV is the most common bloodborne infection in the Unites States. HIV can also be contracted during unprotected sex, which drug use makes more likely.
Read more about the connection between heroin and these diseases in ourHeroin Research Report.
People who use heroin over the long term may develop:
- irregular menstrual cycles for women
Snorting Smoking And Injecting Physical Symptoms
When an addict is snorting or smoking heroin, there are certain physical symptoms that will manifest. Someone who is smoking heroin will have sores on their nostrils or lips because they have burned and then irritated the skin in those areas. They will also have burn marks on their mouth or fingers. If a person has been snorting heroin, they will quite often get a lot of nosebleeds. For those who inject, they will have needle marks somewhere on their arms or legs which will be small bruises or little dots.
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An Overview Of Heroin Addiction
Heroin addiction is a recognized mental disorder and is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as opioid use disorder, although heroin is just one of several opioids that people can become dependent on. More and more people are becoming addicted to prescription opioid painkillers, and the lines are blurring between these formerly very different groups of drug users.
Research shows that compared to users of other illicit drugs, such as cannabis, meth, and cocaine, people addicted to heroin may have a tougher time. However, it is not clear from the research whether this is an effect of heroin itself, or whether there are characteristics of the people who get addicted to heroin, or even take it in the first place, that makes them vulnerable to these difficulties.
What Happens To The Brain When A Person Takes Drugs
Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit,” causing euphoria as well as flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. A properly functioning reward system motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with loved ones. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy behaviors like taking drugs, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again.
As a person continues to use drugs, the brain adapts by reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drugan effect known as tolerance. They might take more of the drug to try and achieve the same high. These brain adaptations often lead to the person becoming less and less able to derive pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, like food, sex, or social activities.
Long-term use also causes changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well, affecting functions that include:
Despite being aware of these harmful outcomes, many people who use drugs continue to take them, which is the nature of addiction.
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How Does Heroin Addiction Develop
Most people assume that the first time one takes heroin, he or she will be hooked, but this is rarely the case. In fact, many heroin addictions begin with a dependency on opiate medications, prescribed by doctors for genuine medical conditions.
Even those who dabble with the street form of the drug may not necessarily develop an addiction immediately, or indeed at all. Those who do develop an addiction to heroin often feel in full control of their use of it for a while before they notice withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the drug wear off.
The fact that some individuals can use heroin for some time before ever seeing or noticing any side effects is probably one of the main reasons they keep going back for more. That and the fact that the effects of heroin last for hours at a time.
But while not everyone who uses heroin will develop a crippling habit, there are those who will. When the body and brain adapt to the presence of heroin, cravings tend to occur. An increased tolerance to the drug will result in the user feeling the need to increase his or her consumption of the substance. When this happens, an addiction tends to quickly follow, and some users will look for different ways to ingest the drug. Those who have been smoking it might go on to inject it instead to achieve the feelings they desire.
Advice From People Leaving Treatment
In 2016, Recovery Brands conducted a survey that asked people leaving a treatment center what clinic attributes they believed to be the most vital things to examine when looking at a program. The top consideration was the programs payment policies, for example insurance accepted, financial support, and payment options. They also placed a high importance on the facilitys offerings a lot more upon leaving treatment. Individuals considering treatment should examine a centers financial policies as well as program offerings to help with their facility choice. Read More
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How To Get Help
If you or someone you know has progressed from heroin use to heroin addiction, seek help as soon as possible. Heroin addiction is well-recognized by the medical profession, and treatment services are available.
If you haven’t already, finding a needle exchange is a good first step if you are injecting heroin. Although not intended to provide treatment, needle exchange programs can also be a good place to find out about sympathetic doctors and free clinics.
Although overcoming heroin addiction is a difficult journey, recovery is possible. A range of treatments are available to help detox, manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and help get life back on track. Many people who are unable to quit heroin completely are able to transition to methadone or suboxone to deal with withdrawal and help with harm reduction.
Detox is often a good choice for people who want to quit heroin, as they will receive medical help to relieve withdrawal symptoms. However, it is a good idea to line up residential or community-based treatment immediately after detox. The risk of overdose is very high once heroin is out of the system, and people in recovery face the stresses of life without the buffer of heroin.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
Signs Of Someone On Heroin
It is when someone is actually on heroin that they have a hard time concealing their reality. Heroin is an extremely powerful narcotic that hits the users brain instantaneously. This is what makes it so addictive and also gives loved ones sure signs of heroin use. It might also be helpful to look at a heroin quiz to get insights of symptoms. The most common signs include:
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What Is A Relapse
Heroin relapse is defined as the resumption of heroin use after a period of abstinence. It frequently occurs in connection with strong cravings or as a response to a stressor.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people struggling with addiction often experience one or more relapses over the course of their recovery journey. Many schools of thought adhere to the concept of addiction as a chronic, relapsing disease, which means that drug addictionand the desire to relapseis an issue that a person may struggle with for the rest of their life 4.
The book Relapse and Recovery in Addictions also states that addiction is a disease and that relapse is an unrelenting part of recovery 5. It also presents the idea that relapse is a part of a larger learning process that may ultimately lead to abstinence in that each relapse gives a person clues into areas that can be strengthened to prevent future relapses.
Although it can take multiple relapses before a person is truly able to remain abstinent, a strong aftercare program is an essential component to staying on the path to recovery.
Nearly 90% Of Patients Who Began Regular Use In The Last Decade Were White
Regarding age of initial opioid use, 16.5 years was the average age in the 1960s which increased to 22.9 by the year 2010.
WHY IS THIS STUDY IMPORTANT
This study showed significant demographic differences between patients with heroin use disorder who initiated using opioids 40-50 years ago versus patients who initiated use in recent decades.
Patients with a heroin use disorder who began regular opioid use 40-50 years ago often initiated use with heroin , were about 16 years old when they first used an opioid, predominantly male, and equally likely to be white or nonwhite.
Patients who began regular opioid use in recent decades often initiated use with prescription opioids, were almost 23 years old when they first used an opioid, equally likely to be male or female, overwhelmingly white, & living in small urban or non-urban areas.
These findings can be compared to mainstream media reports suggesting individuals suffering from heroin use disorder are from the inner city, poor, & of ethnic minority background.
Contrary to media speculation which may have racialized heroin use disorder as minority problem, this data suggests that ethnicity was not a factor among treatment seeking individuals who began their first regular opioid use prior to the 1980s.
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Heroin Addiction And Abuse
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Why Can Heroin Addicts Not Just Stop Using
It is difficult for those who have never used heroin to understand what heroin addiction is like, but for those addicted to the drug, it is all that matters. Nothing else compares and the pull is stronger than anything else, including family members and friends.
It is common for loved ones to wonder why their addicted loved one cannot just stop using the drug. In fact, this is something that most people wonder. To them it is cut and dry the drug is causing the problem and the way to rectify this is to stop taking the drug. Plain and simple. But is it really?
Logic dictates that if something is bad for you, you stop doing it. But when it comes to addiction, there is no logic. Addicts have no control over how they feel to them, there is nothing that makes them feel as good as a hit of heroin.
Some addicts admit that when they are under the influence of the drug, they feel great. When the effects wear off, they start to feel down again, and many of these individuals then think why they would want to be free of the drug when it makes them feel so good. Some believe that their life is not worth living unless they have a bag of heroin. Furthermore, the effect that addiction has their brain means that they cannot see the reality of their situation in the same way that everyone else can.
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Behavioral Or Personality Changes That Are Typical In Heroin Addicts
The behavioral changes that a heroin addict displays are fairly obvious. Someone abusing heroin is going to lose a part of their integral character. They will likely change in drastic ways as though theyre going through a personality overhaul in the most negative way. Here are some of the behaviors that can indicate heroin addiction:
How Heroin Is Injected
Smoking and snorting heroin has become more common, but people still inject the drug using a needle and syringe. The reason people might prefer this method of using heroin, even though its more dangerous, is because when you directly inject heroin the high is more powerful and occurs more quickly. When people begin snorting or smoking heroin, they often ultimately end up shooting it because they develop a tolerance and want to find different ways to continue achieving a high. With intramuscular heroin injection, peak effects usually occur within five to eight minute after taking the drug and with intravenous heroin use, it occurs with a few seconds.
If someone is taking heroin thats cut with a stronger drug or a harmful toxin or chemical, it can be dangerous and potentially fatal. People who shoot up heroin, as its typically referred to, are also at risk of contracting HIV and other bloodborne diseases if they share needles. Since this is one of the primary ways that heroin is injected, many local organizations and governments have started providing people addicted to heroin with clean needles, but that doesnt mean theyre taking advantage of these programs.
Seeking addiction treatment can feel overwhelming. We know the struggle, which is why we’re uniquely qualified to help.
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People Grow And Change
Personally, I am skeptical that many people substitute addictions. In my experience, people who are addicted tend to have a particular affinity for a particular class of drug, not for all drugs and alcohol. This is probably based on some combination of their neurochemistry and their psychological makeup. I was addicted to opiates, but didnt have difficulties with substances in other classes. I have seen this to mostly be the case with thousands of my brothers and sisters in recovery who I have had the honor to interact with. People continue to add to their coping skills toolbox throughout life, so the unhappy 18-year-old who is struggling is not the well-adjusted 50-year-old who has worked through many of their problems, or who has improved their life circumstances. Vulnerabilities can improve over time. People arent static, which is what reminds us to never give up hope when dealing with an addicted loved one, no matter how dire the circumstances appear to be.
Diagnosing Opioid Use Disorder
The following symptoms indicate that a person has gone beyond heroin use to heroin addiction.
- Frequent, often daily, use of heroin. Someone who has an addiction may even use heroin several times a day.
- Tolerance to the effects of heroin. Increasing doses of heroin are needed to feel its effects. One of the dangers of tolerance to heroin is that when a person decreases their heroin use , and then returns to their previous dose, there is a much greater risk of overdose.
- Continued use despite negative effects on personal life. Heroin use can cause problems at work or in relationships because of missed obligations, Someone who has a drug use disorder will keep using anyway.
- Withdrawal symptoms. These occur when a person stops or decreases using heroin. Heroin users often refer to this as “getting sick,” and most accept the unpleasant heroin withdrawal symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as part of heroin addiction.
Recognizing the problem is the first step in getting well. Change can take time, and you are encouraged to connect with your doctor or addiction clinic for support.
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Indirect Deaths: Risk Factors For Early Death
Substance use is responsible for 11.4 million premature deaths each year
11.8 million deaths are attributed to substance use each year we look at the this breakdown between direct deaths and indirect deaths from increased risk of various diseases and injury here.
What we see from this breakdown is that the majority of these deaths are indirect: they result from more than smoking increasing the risk of lung and various other cancers, heart disease, stroke and diabetes and alcohol and illicit drugs increasing the risk of suicide, hepatitis and liver diseases.
The Global Burden of Disease is a major global study on the causes and risk factors for death and disease published in the medical journal The Lancet.8 These estimates of the annual number of deaths attributed to a wide range of risk factors are shown here. This chart is shown for the global total, but can be explored for any country or region using the change country toggle.
In this chart you see deaths from smoking, secondhand smoke, alcohol use, and drug use: collectively these accounted for 11.4 million deaths in 2017. If we consider these deaths collectively, this makes substance use the leading risk factor for premature death globally.
Heroin Facts And Figures
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 15,000 Americans died from a heroin overdose in the year 2018 alone. This is a rate of about 5 out of every 100,000 residents. In total, 115,000 Americans have died due to heroin since the year 1999.
Whats sadder is that adolescents are also using this fatal drug. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 21,000 adolescents used heroin in the year 2015 alone. To make matters worse, 6,000 of these adolescents already suffer from heroin use disorder.
However, heroin cases have seen a sharp rise in 3 states, especially in Kentucky where cases jumped by a whopping 50%. The highest death rate was noted in Vermont, where 12.5 out of 100,000 people succumbed to heroin use.
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