Heroin is a drug that, when abused, can easily and quickly result in physical addiction. It’s important to seek treatment should such dependence occur because heroin abuse could be deadly.
Heroin is created from opium poppies, which are also processed into several different prescription medications. Approximately 87% of the world’s opium is thought to be produced in Afghanistan, with Mexico a distant second. These medications must be highly regulated by the doctor because the opiate substance in them is highly addictive. The opiate substance is used to treat severe and/or chronic pain. Heroin, however, is used recreationally to obtain similar effects. Users get a pleasurable high from injecting the drug, smoking it, or taking it in a pill form. The sooner the drug reaches the bloodstream, the faster the high is reached, and it is usually more intense.
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There are also several side-effects to abuse heroin. These include:
- Vomiting or upset stomach
- Trouble breathing
- Pain insensitivity
- Damaged veins (from needle use)
- Kidney damage
- Death from overdose
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However, some of the worst side effects come not from the drug itself, but from the environment in which the drug is often taking. The risk of contracting blood-transmitted diseases, such as HIV or Hepatitis, is high due to needle sharing. Abusers often face financial ruin due to the high-cost of heroin and the hospitalizations that occur from accidental overdoses. Roughly 84,000 hospitalizations occur each year due to heroin abuse, and half of the drug related deaths in the United States are related to heroin. In 2008, 3,070 deaths were attributed to heroin, and that number has grown from the 2,550 that occurred in 2006.
Withdrawing from heroin is a strenuous experience that often requires medical supervision to avoid immediate relapse. Some of the symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:
- Cold or flu symptoms
- Muscle and joint pain
- Severe body temperature changes
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