Whether its you or your loved one, heroin addiction is a severe illness that hijacks a person’s life. Heroin is highly addictive and poses potential life-threatening consequences to people who use it. Just one dose can kill. For this and many other reasons, being able to recognize the signs of heroin addiction can be critical to saving a life.
Who’s at Risk?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2016, some 948,000 Americans reported having used heroin in the past year. The greatest age group among these numbers where those aged between 18 and 25. Further, the number of people meeting criteria for a heroin use disorder increased from 214,000 in 2002 to 626,000 in 2016, according to the study.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid, which means that it is derived from the opium plant. It can come as white or brown powder that can be snorted, smoked, or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected into the veins. It can also come as a sticky black substance known as black tar heroin, which would be smoked in most cases.
Signs of Heroin Addiction
According to criteria listed in the DSM – V, signs that heroin use has become an addiction include:
Frequency of use: A person begins using daily to multiple times a day.
- Tolerance: The more a person uses, the more it takes to get the same effect. Though the high will never come as close to the pinnacle time. It’s chasing after that initial euphoric rush where the term “chasing the dragon” derives.
- Continued use despite adverse effects: In most cases, heroin addiction will lead a person to putting friends, family, once-loved activities on the back burner. The main prerogative will be to obtain and use heroin.
- Withdrawal symptoms: Heroin induces both a psychological and physiological addiction, meaning that when the drug is not taken, the person will suffer from withdrawal symptoms. These are likened to flu or cold symptoms and will range in degree of severity depending on how extreme a person’s addiction has become.
People who get addicted to heroin are often thought of having a worse addiction than those who get addicted to other substances. In other words, heroin addiction appears to be one of the hardest to quit. It’s uncertain whether this has something to do with the drug itself, or characteristics inherent to the people who end up with a heroin addiction.
In many ways, heroin addiction becomes an identity that becomes intertwined with a person’s day-to-day lifestyle. Addicts often feel a love-hate relationship toward the drug. On one side, they mourn for their lost life they had before they ever tried the drug. On the other side, is the insatiable desire for the drug. This paradox is what makes drug addiction such a complex disease. Understanding the signs of heroin addiction can offer awareness in order to help you, or someone you love, break out of the cycle.
Effects of Heroin on the Brain
When a person takes heroin, the drug binds itself to mu-opioid receptors in the body. Neurotransmitters naturally bond to these receptors to regulate hormones, and feelings of pain or pleasure. When heroin activates this system, the brain floods the system with dopamine, a naturally occurring hormone, which sends a message of reward to the body.
This activation increases the body’s demand for the drug, reinforcing the will to use again. According to research, repeated use of heroin alters brain function, damaging parts of the brain responsible for decision making ability, stress response, and behavioral regulation.
These effects on the brain can cause other mental illnesses to develop or exacerbate already existing ones. In this case, finding a treatment center that offers dual diagnosis and seeks to treat a person holistically offers the best chance at creating a plan that works. Despite its severity, heroin addiction is treatable.
At First Step Center of Arizona, our team of addiction specialists provide individualized care for each client. With only 10 beds, our all-male clientele benefit from receiving a personalized treatment program tailored to meet specified needs.
We offer programs and therapies like:
- Dual Diagnosis Treatment
- Residential Treatment
- Partial Hospitalization Program
- Intensive Outpatient Program
Don’t wait any longer to get the help you need. No one need stay trapped in darkness. First Step Center understands this urgency and believes in offering integrated treatment that offers a holistic method in helping you or a loved one get well. To find out more about our heroin addiction treatment program, call us now at 866.832.6398.