Heroin is a powerful opioid drug that is derived from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant, a plant that is native to Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. People who use heroin experience a rush of pleasure and euphoria followed by pain relief, relaxation, and sedation. The drug is so powerful and so addictive that some people get hooked after using it just one or two times.
Long-term heroin abuse is extremely damaging to the mind and body. It can increase the risk for certain health conditions, skin, blood, and cardiovascular infections, and even mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
Despite the risks of using heroin, it is estimated that 4 out of every 6 people who abuse prescription painkillers eventually switch to heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 691,000 people aged 12 and older were addicted to heroin in 2020, and more than 13,165 people died from an overdose involving heroin that same year.
Using heroin even one time can result in a life-threatening overdose. If you or someone you love is using heroin, it is vital that you seek help. The sooner the addiction is treated, the easier it is to avoid the devastating, long-term effects.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Heroin Abuse?
Overdose is commonly associated with heroin abuse because of how potent heroin can be as well as the drug’s potential to contain stronger synthetic opioids like fentanyl. However, there are many long-term side effects of abusing heroin. People who abuse heroin over an extended period of time may develop:
- Stomach cramping
- Collapsed veins or abscesses on the skin from injecting heroin
- HIV, hepatitis, and other bloodborne illnesses from sharing needles
- Damaged nasal tissue and septum for people who snort heroin
- Infection of the heart valve lining
- Lung complications such as pneumonia
- Liver and kidney disease
- Sexual dysfunction in men
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Depression and anxiety
- Antisocial personality disorder
Additionally, heroin usually contains an unknown number of additives, like sugar, powdered milk, and starch, all of which can clog blood vessels when injected and cause permanent damage to the lungs, liver, kidneys, and brain.
Finally, heroin is a central nervous system depressant, meaning it slows down the heart rate and respiration. Taking high doses of heroin over an extended period of time may reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the brain, potentially leading to issues with memory and cognition.
The best way to reduce these risks is to seek professional treatment and stop using heroin completely.
3 Ways a Heroin Addiction Treatment Center can Help
Stopping heroin on your own will likely be unsuccessful, as the vast majority of people who try to self-detox fail to complete the detoxification process. At the same time, people who only seek help during detox but don’t complete a treatment program are at high risk for relapse. Addiction treatment is crucial because it helps you unlearn the behaviors you developed during your addiction, heal from the root cause of your heroin abuse, and learn how to prevent relapse.
Three ways an addiction treatment center can help you avoid the long-term effects of heroin abuse and addiction include:
1. Safe, medically-assisted heroin detox
Detoxing and overcoming the symptoms of heroin withdrawal is the first hurdle people face in recovery. Lack of proper medical treatment almost always results in relapse, causing people to get stuck in a never-ending cycle of heroin abuse. Heroin treatment centers offer safe, medically assisted detox that can alleviate symptoms of withdrawal and reduce drug cravings so you can detox comfortably.
2. Comprehensive medical and psychiatric support
Heroin rehab centers incorporate comprehensive medical and psychiatric evaluations into the intake and assessment process to better address your needs. Any physical or mental health conditions you are suffering from as a result of your heroin abuse will be diagnosed during this time and a personalized treatment plan will be provided for you. The earlier you receive this kind of medical care, the better chances your body can heal.
3. Preventing future heroin relapse
Returning to heroin use after a period of sobriety can increase your risk of overdose due to reduced tolerance. It can also further increase your risk of experiencing heroin’s long-term side effects.
One of the most important things a heroin rehab center can help you do is prevent relapse. Relapse is prevented by addressing the root cause of your substance abuse, replacing harmful behaviors and thought processes with positive ones, and creating a relapse prevention plan to guide you in the future. Staying sober from heroin will allow your body to heal and get healthy once again.
Find Treatment for Heroin Addiction Today
At Sheer Recovery, we have a talented team of licensed medical and clinical professionals who have more than 50 years of industry experience. We are dedicated to providing a safe, supportive environment where you can heal from the effects of heroin abuse while enjoying scenic ocean views, private and semi-private rooms, weekend activities, and more.
Take the first step toward recovery by contacting us today to speak with a qualified admissions counselor.
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