Trying to get help for a heroin addiction can tend to feel like a lonely endeavor, but it shouldn’t be. Here at the Granite Recovery Center, we understand that heroin is one of the most devastatingly addictive drugs in the world. The physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual toll that it takes on its victims can last a lifetime. According to drugabuse.gov, the number of deaths in the United States involving heroin rose from 1,960 in 1999 to 14,019 in 2019.
One of the reasons that heroin use is so prevalent has to do with its relatively low cost compared to similar drugs like prescription opiates. When you add the fact that heroin is easily accessible, you have a potentially volatile situation.
The positive takeaway is that many people beat heroin addiction every single year. Recovery is possible when addicts realize that using heroin simply becomes too high of a price to pay for what the drug is doing to their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
What Is Heroin, and Why Is It So Addictive?
Heroin is an extremely addictive opioid made from morphine. Morphine is actually a plant alkaloid found in the opium poppy. Opioids are a class of drugs that are derived from the opium poppy plant. Prescription opioids, including ones like fentanyl, Vicodin, morphine, and oxycodone, are used by hospitals and doctors to treat patients suffering from moderate to extremely severe pain. Opioids have chemicals in them that help relieve pain while simultaneously relaxing the body and flooding it with “feel-good” feelings, making people feel relaxed and high.
Heroin is a non-prescription, illicit opioid that was created to mimic the effects derived from medically prescribed opioids. It usually comes in a white or brown powder, but it can also be manufactured as a black sticky substance called black tar heroin. Heroin is known by a wide variety of street names that are either derived from the way it looks or where it’s from. Some of those names include Horse, Smack, Hell Dust, White Junk, Mexican Horse and Chinese Red.
People take heroin by sniffing it, snorting it, injecting it, or smoking it. Most heroin addicts inject the drug because it enters the bloodstream faster, allowing them to feel the effects instantly. Some people take heroin to another level by mixing it with cocaine. This practice is called speedballing. It enhances the effects of the two drugs while supposedly canceling out the negative effects of each, and it’s often lethal.
Short-Term Effects of Heroin Use
Once people take heroin, it floods the mind immediately, binding to opioid receptors located throughout the brain. Those receptors are the ones that are involved with managing pleasure, pain, sleeping, heart rate, and breathing.
People feel the short-term effects of heroin almost immediately, entering an intensely euphoric state that is characterized by an intense rush of pleasure. The high occurs within seconds after injecting it, and the trance-like state lasts anywhere from four to six hours.
The initial feeling is so pleasurable that most users ignore the other, not-so-pleasant short-term effects of heroin, including a heavy feeling in the limbs, severe itching, foggy mind, dry mouth and nodding. Nodding involves being in a state that alternates between consciousness and semi-consciousness. A few hours after the euphoric feeling, users feel as if the world has slowed down. Many users describe the feeling as similar to the way that one would feel walking in a dream.
As the body continues to be exposed to heroin, it loses its ability to produce its own endorphins. It now becomes heavily dependent on the artificial endorphin release that accompanies heroin use. Unfortunately, the more people use heroin, the more their body builds up a tolerance to it. Because of that tolerance, they end up having to use even more of the drug to get the same high. Their bodies are now completely dependent on the drug. If they try to withdraw or are unable to get their usual dose, they develop severe withdrawal symptoms, including chills, bone and muscle pain, cold flashes, uncontrollable leg movements, and jitters.
Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use
While the euphoric, short-term effects of heroin keep users coming back, the long-term effects can actually kill them. The biggest problem with repeated heroin use is that it changes the actual structure of the brain, as well as its physiological properties. This results in imbalances in the body’s hormonal and neural systems.
Many people who have suffered from long-term heroin abuse have experienced a deterioration of the white matter in their brains. Less white matter makes it much harder to do things like make decisions, respond appropriately to stress, and regulate behavior. Add in the immense physical dependence and tolerance of the drug, and the addict will end up needing to consume huge amounts of the drug in order to function. Other long-term side effects include lung complications, sexual dysfunction, irregular menstrual cycles, constipation, collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the heart valves, clogged blood vessels and rheumatological problems.
Without having access to heroin, the withdrawal symptoms are swift and intense. In general, the worst withdrawal symptoms occur between eight and 24 hours after the cessation of use, and they usually start to diminish in about a week. This is not true for many people, however, with some showing withdrawal symptoms for months after their last dose. Many heroin addicts suffer from heroin use disorder. This disorder is characterized by chronic relapsing that goes far beyond the addict’s physical dependence on the drug; they’re in a constant state of uncontrollable drug-seeking that can’t be stopped without serious medical intervention. Once a person has reached this disorder, their only purpose in life is to get more heroin.
What’s the Correlation Between Heroin and Prescription Opioid Abuse?
Many people have heard of the correlation between prescription opiate use and heroin use. Prescription opiate use has gone down as laws governing them have become much tougher and doctors have prescribed them less. It’s much harder to get a prescription for opiates today than it was even five years ago. Unfortunately, due to the addictive nature of opiates, many people became addicted to their prescriptions. Once they were cut off by their doctors, they had to look elsewhere for their high.
Some of them went on the black market to buy their drugs, but they ended up paying black market prices, a situation that wasn’t sustainable for many people. This is why many people ended up turning to heroin. With heroin, they were able to get the same high that they received from their prescription opiates, and it cost them a lot less. Why? Heroin is a lot cheaper than prescription opiates.
How Much Does Heroin Cost?
One key reason that heroin use has risen is because of its relative low cost and high availability. With fewer opiate prescriptions issued, more people are turning to heroin. The production and supply of the drug have actually increased to meet this increased demand. Since prescription opioids and heroin provide essentially the same effects in their users, users see no difference.
The price of heroin is based on the quality of the heroin, how it’s cut, how it’s processed, and how available it is in a certain area. Dealers price the heroin they sell according to its purity, with the highest prices reserved for the purest level of the drug. The danger with this, however, is that an addict will not know how pure the heroin they receive actually is. Many are so ready to buy it from their dealer that they don’t even care.
According to Justice Department reports, street heroin cut and sold on the streets in little envelopes usually sells for as little as $10. This is a remarkably low price for someone looking for an immediate high.
Heroin costs for 0.1 gram of heroin generally range between $10 and $20 in most states. Heavy users spend upwards of $100 or more due to the amount of heroin they need to ingest in order to get the same high they attained when they first started using. In spite of this relatively higher cost, it’s still much less than the street value of prescription pills. Street Market prescription pool costs can run as high as $80 per Pill, while the average cost is generally thought to be anywhere between $60 to $100 Nationwide.
In addition to the high cost of prescription pills, they’re all so much harder to crush than they used to be. This was an intentional design change created to make it harder for people to crush and inject or snort the drug. Heroin’s low cost and ease of use have made it a natural go-to choice for addicts.
Heroin addicts who are in dire financial straits often turn to criminal activity to find money to fund their addiction, but the generally low cost of heroin creates a low bar of entry for nearly anyone who wants to try it and keeps people coming back.
How We Help With Heroin Addiction at Granite Recovery Centers
It’s easy to see how devastating heroin addiction and abuse can be. The good news – and there is good news – is that at Granite Recovery Centers, we know how to help people who have been affected by heroin. We’ve helped people who are longtime addicts, and we’ve helped people who are relatively new to heroin and simply want to get off before things get worse. Our treatment programs are set up to help heroin addicts at whatever stage of use they’re in.
When you first come to our program, our medical professionals will do an assessment. We’ll be able to determine where you are in the heroin addiction process, and we’ll figure out what you’re going to need to take the next steps. We have professionals on staff who are able to take physical, mental, and physiological assessments so that we can determine how to handle the withdrawal process.
One of the most important parts of heroin withdrawal is the detox process. Heroin addicts must go through a monitored medical detox program in order to keep them safe as the drug works its way out of their systems. We offer medication-assisted treatment programs like these at Granite Recovery Centers, and we also help monitor the first crucial hours after the cessation of use of the drug. This period is where many people could fall victim to dangerous side effects of withdrawal. With our program, we’re able to closely monitor our patients as they go through withdrawal so that we can make sure that it isn’t affecting them in a dangerous way. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
Inpatient or Outpatient
Whether or not someone gets involved in an inpatient or outpatient program completely depends on the individual. Heroin addicts are often part of a community of addicts, and expecting them to detox safely and responsibly while remaining in that community isn’t a good idea. For these addicts, inpatient treatment may work best. Outpatient treatment may be ideal for people who are able to detox in an environment where they can be looked after by loved ones capable of keeping an eye on them. Our medical professionals can speak with you about the program that would make the most sense for your circumstances.
Therapy and Aftercare
Aftercare is one of the most important parts of the heroin addict’s treatment process. Detox is only the first step. Afterward, the next step will be to break the cycle of addiction. Addiction is usually fueled by unresolved mental and emotional issues. Getting to the root of why the addict became addicted to heroin in the first place will make all the difference in terms of how successful their treatment will be.
We provide all types of therapies, including group therapy, family therapy, and many other forms of traditional therapies. We also help our patients utilize non-traditional therapies and practices like yoga and meditation. Learning spiritualism and mindfulness can help people replace formerly addictive behavior, teaching them to respond to stress in healthy and restorative ways instead of via the use of drugs.
Reaching out for help with addiction may feel like the most difficult aspect of the process, and it may be, but it’s also an important and crucial first step towards a life that’s healthy and free from the ties of addiction.