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Health risks of certain drugs – Part 3: Shooting heroin

Health risks of certain drugs – Part 3: Shooting heroin

Heroin is the perfect example of a wonder drug going wrong, thanks to the people who used it as a recreational drug rather than a therapeutic medicine. Heroin is an opioid drug prepared from morphine, a natural product extracted from the seedpod of the Asian opium poppy plant. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and health (NSDUH), approximately 35,000 people, aged 12 to 17 years, had used heroin at least once in their lifetime. Among people aged 18 or older, around 5.1 million people reportedly used heroin at least once in their lifetime, followed by 0.81 million in 2015 and 0.31 million in the past month (current users).

There are various methods of taking heroin. Shooting heroin or intravenous use of heroin is associated with increased risk of many comorbidities, including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal diseases, chronic kidney disease and infections.

Effects of heroin use

Heroin delivers a sensation of pleasure, a “rush,” the intensity of which depends on the quantity of the drug and the time it takes to enter the brain. The sensation of the rush is usually accompanied by various side effects, including dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, nausea, vomiting and severe itching at times. After the initial effects, users usually remain drowsy for several hours with clouded mental function, reduced heartbeat and severely slow breathing. A heroin overdose can be life threatening with slowed breathing likely to induce coma and permanent brain damage.

The repeated use of heroin may have an adverse effect on the physical structure and functions of the brain, causing long-term imbalances in hormonal and neuronal systems that may be difficult to reverse. According to a study, published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, heroin abuse might damage the white matter in the brain, which might affect a person’s decision making abilities and response to stressful situations.

Heroin use also enhances the tolerance limits and physical dependence. While increase in the tolerance limits leads to increased drug requirement to achieve the same effects, physical dependence makes the body habituated to the use of heroin, which in turn produces withdrawal symptoms if the user is unable to procure the drug within a few hours after the last dose of the drug. Typical symptoms of heroin withdrawal include restlessness, insomnia, diarrhea, muscle and bone pain, vomiting and cold flashes. Major withdrawal symptoms usually peak from 24-48 hours after the last use and alleviate after about a week, with some people reporting persistent withdrawal signs for many months.

Medical complications of chronic heroin use

In addition to experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, heroin use is also associated with some serious medical complications including insomnia, lung complications (including pneumonia and tuberculosis), and sexual dysfunction in men. Heroin use may cause mental disorders including depression and antisocial personality disorder. Further, chronic injection use causes scarred and/or collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves, and other soft-tissue infections. Drug users who share contaminated needles are likely to develop diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C, and many other blood-borne viruses, which drug users tend to pass on to their sexual partners and coming generations.

Helping heroin users lead a healthy life

Substance abuse of any type is dangerous not just for the user but for their loved ones as well. Getting rid of substance abuse is the way to a healthy and happy living. Contact the Texas Drug Addiction Treatment to know more about quitting heroin and seeking information on various drug addiction treatment centers in Texas. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-5757 or chat online for more information.

Read the other parts of the series “Health risks of certain drugs:”

Part 1: Marijuana

Part 2: Snorting cocaine

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