If your loved one uses alcohol or other drugs, it is normal to be concerned for their well-being and future. In fact, being concerned is validation that you care for them and only want the best for them. For instance, you may fear that your loved one’s substance use could progress into a heroin addiction. Thus, becoming familiar with what heroin is and how a heroin addiction typically develops can help you encourage your loved one to seek treatment if required.
At 12 South Recovery, we have seen it all – from mild substance use disorder (SUD) to severe cases of opioid and heroin addictions. We also recognize that SUD often co-occurs alongside mental health disorders, complicating the treatment and recovery process. Despite this, we have the knowledge, expertise, and skills that your loved one needs to achieve lasting sobriety and sustain long-term wellness in their lives. A heroin addiction can be frightening, but recovery is possible.
What Is a Heroin Addiction?
The National Insitute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that heroin “is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia.” Individuals who use heroin may utilize one of several routes of administration, including snorting, smoking, or injecting into veins. Although heroin is an extremely addictive chemical on its own, these methods of administration send the chemical to the brain very quickly, increasing its addictive potential.
In another publication, NIDA defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.” Aside from keeping this description in mind, it is necessary to understand that addiction is a brain disorder. Chronic, repeated drug use informs lasting changes to valuable brain circuits. Thus, a heroin addiction develops from impaired brain networks as a result of recurrent heroin use.
Effects of Heroin
The use of heroin can trigger a host of profound short-term and long-term effects, most of which can be damaging to an individual’s mental and physical health. Initially, a person may use heroin in an attempt to achieve desired “high,” marked by feelings of euphoria and pain relief. In addition, NIDA highlights the following short-term effects of heroin:
- Dry mouth
- Increased body temperature
- Feelings of heaviness in the body
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe itching
- Clouded mental functioning
- Frequent shifts from a conscious to a semi-conscious state
Moreover, NIDA also highlights the following long-term effects of heroin use:
- Liver and kidney disease
- Lung complications
- The development of mental health disorders
- Sexual dysfunction for men
- Irregular menstrual cycles for women
- Damaged nasal tissue for those who snort it
- Collapsed veils for those who inject it
- The development of SUD and/or a heroin addiction
Is There a ‘Gateway’ to a Heroin Addiction?
Simply put, any kind of substance use can increase an individual’s vulnerability to addiction. However, the use of painkillers, specifically, is known to open the door to heroin use.
Opioids are a broad class of painkillers that include illegal drugs like heroin, synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and prescription pain relievers. Unfortunately, due to the addictive potential of all opioids, many people develop substance dependence, SUD, and addiction initially as a result of the misuse or abuse of prescription opioids. NIDA sheds light on the following examples of prescription drug misuse:
- Taking medication in a way other than what was prescribed
- Consuming someone else’s prescription medication, even for a legitimate medical complaint
- Taking medication with the intent to get high
Prescription drug misuse is a slippery slope; once an individual engages in drug misuse, they will work to seek out the chemical repeatedly. Furthermore, as NIDA explains in the previously mentioned publication, “[A]bout 80% of people who used heroin first misused prescription opioids.”
Validating Concerns of Drug Overdose
Another concern you may have about your loved one’s risk of a heroin addiction is the possibility of a drug overdose. As overdose continues to become more prevalent, you have every right to be concerned. Recent research from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discusses the increasing prevalence of overdose and overdose death rates. The research revealed that “More than 106,000 persons in the U.S. died from drug-involved overdose in 2021, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids.”
Additionally, the CDC explains, “In 2020, heroin-involved overdose death rates decreased nearly seven percent from 2019 to 2020,” and more than 13,000 lost their lives from a heroin-related drug overdose in the United States. As these statistics sink in, recognize how important your support is for your loved one’s ability to recover.
Treating a Heroin Addiction at 12 South Recovery
As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) points out, more than 900,000 people are currently addicted to heroin in the United States. At 12 South Recovery, we understand the complex challenges that often arise as a result of substance abuse, especially for a person with a heroin addiction. We offer several outpatient treatment options for those seeking recovery from SUD and addiction.
Within our treatment programs, we assist our clients as they participate in individual therapy, group counseling, and holistic modalities. Using a wide range of interventions and approaches, we ensure that our clients are not only able to secure sobriety but also achieve lasting wellness in their lives free from the temptations of substance abuse. If your loved one is struggling, we can guide them to lasting healing and recovery.
A heroin addiction can cause catastrophic effects on an individual’s well-being as well as the lives of their loved ones. Leaving addiction unmanaged can cause it to fester, triggering worsening mental and physical health consequences down the road. If your loved one is using alcohol or drugs, or especially if they are misusing prescription drugs, they are uniquely vulnerable to developing a heroin addiction. Fortunately, 12 South Recovery is here to provide the education and support you need to help your loved one participate in treatment. We offer flexible outpatient programs that can be individualized to fit the unique needs of each client. Additionally, we are passionate about holistic healing for lasting recovery. To learn more, call (888) 830-8374 today.