Heroin is a highly addictive drug and is typically injected, snorted or smoked. Heroin is the most abused of all the opiates. Injection provides the fastest rush and greatest intensity of the drug, usually within seconds. When heroin is snorted or smoked the effects are usually felt within 10 to 15 minutes. All three forms of using heroin are addictive however smoking and snorting heroin do not produce the rush as quickly or as intensely as injection does.
Effects of Heroin Use
Shooting up (injecting) is the most commonly used method of administration among heroin addicts. However, researchers have observed that patterns are shifting to more addicts snorting or smoking heroin. This has introduced heroin to a more diverse group of users.
Short-term Effects Include:
- Physical rush
- Shallow breathing
- Poor mental functioning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Numbness and dulling of pain
- Spontaneous termination of pregnancy
Long-term Effects Include:
- Abuse and dependence
- Infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, TB, Hepatitis)
- Collapsed veins
- Bacterial infections
- Heart damage and failure
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms can start a few hours to one day after using heroin. Withdrawal symptoms are not life threatening as it can be with alcohol, benzos and barbiturates but they can be profoundly uncomfortable and painful which makes the heroin addict want to use again to avoid discomfort.
Withdrawal Symptoms Can Include:
- Muscle cramping
- Runny nose
- Severe bone aches
- Nausea and vomiting
A common condition that many heroin addicts also describe experiencing is known as itchy blood. This condition which literally feels like the addict’s blood is itching results in the addict scratching, tearing or compulsively picking at their skin. So while there is no imminent threat of death from the withdrawal symptoms of heroin, the side effects are intense and a drug detox center is often needed to help with symptoms.
Heroin addiction treatment can be done in an inpatient, residential or outpatient setting. Suboxone and Methadone are counteractive drugs used to treat opioid dependence that works on the opioid receptors curving cravings for heroin. Suboxone is available at pharmacies while Methadone is typically administered at clinics. Medication interventions should be coupled with cognitive behavioral work, therapy, drug counseling, education and 12 step support groups.
Many heroin rehab programs add in other techniques as well, creating a total wellness package for the mind, body, and soul.
Treatment Techniques Include:
- Somatic experience
- Art therapy
- Biofeedback and Brain imaging
- Couples and family work
- Massage therapy
- Sports psychology
- Spiritual counseling among other modalities.
An interdisciplinary team creates a multi-faceted treatment approach that addresses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual challenges present within addiction. A team approach helps to identify areas where an individual’s coping mechanisms are no longer working and assists the heroin addict in developing their internal healing capabilities to sustain a life long sobriety.