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Heroin is a highly addictive and an illegal substance obtained after processing morphine. Available as a white or brownish powder, it has been classified as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Pure heroin is available as a white powder, primarily in South America and Southeast Asia. It can either be smoked or snorted. New users might be more drawn towards using pure heroin because of the stigma associated with injectable heroin. However, it is often cut with starch, sugar, powdered milk, and quinine, to increase profitability.

Another form of heroin available is black tar heroin. This has a dark color because of the crude processing methodology used which leaves behind impurities. Black tar heroin can be injected under the skin, into the muscles or veins. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 494,000 people, or 0.2 percent of the population aged 12 years or older, were present users of heroin.

Immediate or Short-term Effects of Heroin Use

Upon entering the brain, heroin gets converted into morphine which then binds to the opioid receptors. Heroin users start feeling a “rush” or a feeling of pleasure upon consumption. The extent of this pleasure depends on how much heroin is taken by the user and how soon it binds to the opioid receptors. Heroin use causes:

  • Flushed skin
  • Heavy feeling in the extremities
  • Dry mouth
  • Intense itching
  • Nausea and vomiting

Once the initial effects subside, the user may feel drowsy for a couple of hours and their mental function might get clouded, and heart function and breathing might slow down. The breathing can sometimes get so slow that it can get life-threatening. This slowed breathing can cause coma and irreversible brain damage.

Long-term Effects of Heroin Use

The long-term use of heroin alters the brain structure and physiology, leading to chronic neuronal and hormonal imbalances. Heroin use causes deterioration of the white matter because of which a teen faces problems in

  • Decision making
  • Regulating behavior
  • Reacting to stressful situations

Heroin also gives rise to physical dependence and tolerance. Physical dependence causes the body to adapt to the physical presence of the drug, in the absence of which it experiences withdrawal symptoms. Tolerance develops when more and more amount of the drug is required to produce the same effects.

Heroin causes withdrawal symptoms after a few hours of the last time the drug is consumed. The withdrawal might manifest as

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Goose bumps and cold flashes
  • Involuntary leg movements

Major withdrawal symptoms are felt between 24-48 hours of the last time the drug was taken and subside in about a week, however, many people show continued withdrawal symptoms for many months. Chronic use of heroin causes heroin use disorder, characterized by an uncontrollable urge of drug seeking behavior. Taking heroin through smoking or an injection increases the susceptibility of developing heroin use disorder.

Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Symptoms of heroin abuse include:

  • Skin infections
  • Slowed breathing
  • Itching
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Dry mouth

Long-term abuse of heroin is especially harmful in teens as it causes reproductive problems, persistent mental health issues, and risk of developing infectious diseases. The drug-seeker faces problems in personal, profession and social life, along with financial strain and legal issues.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

A comprehensive treatment for heroin addiction consists of a medically supervised detoxification treatment followed by behavioral therapies or counseling sessions to teach the teen coping skills to deal with cravings and triggers post treatment.

In a medically supervised detox, medicines like methadone, naltrexone and suboxone can be used to treat opioid dependence by reducing the side effects of withdrawal and curbing cravings, which often lead to relapse. Methadone is an opioid agonist that binds to the same receptors as heroin, resulting in a similar high. The amount of methadone is slowly tapered over time, so that the body can readjust to the changing dose. But many patients have reported getting addicted to methadone, resulting in a vicious cycle.

Considering the side effects of using methadone, in 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the combination of buprenorphine/naloxone (suboxone) to manage heroin dependence. This combination medication is known as a partial opioid agonist/antagonist and antagonist combined.

Naltrexone is a well-known opioid antagonist used for the treatment of opioid and heroin addiction and prevention of relapse. It is extremely important that the body is completely free of opioids because administration of naltrexone can result in severe withdrawal effects, as the medication targets elimination of all opioids from the body.

Heroin addiction recovery requires pharmacological treatment that can be obtained at certified heroin addiction treatment or rehab centers and behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive remediation, dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), and group and individualized therapy.

Choose ADEONA Healthcare to Live an Addiction-Free Life

At ADEONA Healthcare of Rancho San Diego, we have extensive experience in dealing with heroin and all other forms of opioid addiction. Our team of experienced behavioral health professionals keeps abreast of the latest breakthroughs in opioid research, and administers state-of-the-art treatment for sustained recovery.

What sets us apart is that ADEONA Healthcare provides customized treatment plans as per the specific needs of young patients. Heroin detox treatment is followed by psychotherapies and evidence-based treatment modalities including CBT, DBT, and experiential therapies like art therapy, yoga, meditation and music therapy that allow a teen to focus on their recovery.

If you know a teen, aged 12-17, seeking treatment for heroin addiction, get in touch with ADEONA Healthcare. Located in the midst of wide open green spaces, our facility at Rancho San Diego provides a non-confrontational environment conducive to healing young minds, bodies and spirits. To know more about our heroin addiction treatment options, call at our 24/7 helpline (888) 997-3966 and speak to a member of our admissions team. You can also chat online with a representative for immediate response.

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