Heroin is a sticky black, brown or white powder made from morphine, a substance naturally derived from the poppy plant. People who use heroin often mix the drug with water or other substances and inject the resultant solution into the body through use of a syringe. It’s also snorted through the nose or smoked from a pipe. Despite the various methods people consume heroin, the drug is considered one of the most addictive drugs today.
Heroin Addiction Recovery Statistics
1. As much as 1/4 of people who try heroin develop a debilitating addiction.
2. According to statistics from 2008, about 3.8 million people tried heroin at least once.
3. In the previous year, 13.6 percent of patients to treatment facilities had to be admitted for heroin abuse and addiction.
4. A heroin addict is said to spend as much as $150 per day supporting their drug habit.
5. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), heroin addiction treatment success rates for outpatient medication therapy is known to have a 35 percent completion rate. The completion of residential programs is as high as 65 percent.
6. According to a study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, medication therapy for heroin addition was shown to be effective in preventing heroin use.
7. The aforementioned study also found that heroin addition treatment success rates (with methadone or burprenorphine) ranged from as low as 20 percent (low dose methadone) and as high as 72.7 percent (higher dose of methadone). Again, the same study found that the rate of heroin use decreased by as much as 90 percent after the patients started treatment.
8. As many as 1.2 million users in the United States casually use heroin; as much as 200,000 out of that group are classified as addicted to heroin.
9. There are as many as 700,000 people within the United States who need heroin addiction treatment, but aren’t receiving it in some way.
10. SAMHSA found that only 2.6 million people out of 23.5 million people actually received treatment for drug addiction (including heroin addiction) at a specialty facility. That accounted for as much as 11.2 percent of the same group.
Why Heroin is Addictive
Heroin is addictive for a specific reason: heroin affects the brain in a certain way that causes addictive effects. When heroin reaches the brain, it turns back into morphine. Morphine is known to bind to the brain’s receptors, specifically the receptors that control the perception of pain and reward. These receptors are known as the opioid receptors.
As soon as the reconverted morphine reaches the opioid receptors, it causes euphoria to envelop the entire user. Once the effects from the drug wear off, the feeling dissipates. The urge to feel that particular feeling again is what causes users to develop the addictive behaviors associated with taking heroin. Since the body also adapts to how heroin works, people who don’t take heroin will experience withdrawal symptoms until they consume more.
The Case with Heroin Dependence
Heroin withdrawal may make people realize that they might be dependent on heroin. Heroin dependence, the term describing that phenomenon, describes when a person is completely reliant on the drug to prevent their body from experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms often include restlessness, cold flashes, diarrhea, muscle pain and bone pain. People who develop an uncontrollable need to do heroin or find it hard to stop using the drug likely suffer from heroin addiction, due to their inherent dependence on the drug.
Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
People who use heroin may start showing certain signs and symptoms of having an addiction to heroin. Despite that, people who abuse the drug don’t exhibit the same symptoms. The signs and symptoms of abuse will vary from person to person. The signs and symptoms of heroin abuse generally include:
2. Irresponsibility, notably at work or school, and lying
3. Wearing long clothing, like shirts and pants, in warm weather
4. Weight loss
5. Bouts of hyperactivity, followed by fatigue
6. Increased periods of sleeping
7. Problems with talking clearly, such as slurred speech
8. Constant runny nose
9. Bruises and/or scabs due to skin picking
The signs and symptoms of heroin addiction mainly notify outside parties if a loved one is suffering from the condition. For the person with the addiction, they typically experience side effects that impact their physical and mental well-being.
Effects of Heroin Abuse and Addiction
Heroin not only has significant mental effects, but it also has significant physical effects. After people take heroin, they feel a sensation of the drug ‘rushing’ directly into the brain. Since the drug enters the brain so fast, people continue to use heroin to maintain the ‘high’ experienced from the drug. Users of heroin are known to experience the following side effects:
1. Severe itching
2. Vomiting and/or nausea
3. Heavy external body parts, such as arms or legs
4. Dry mouth
Heroin users also experience various long term side effects. These side effects typically develop after a user continues to use heroin for a prolonged amount of time. These side effects include:
1. Collapsed and/or scarred veins
2. Infections of the heart’s lining and/or valves
3. Kidney disease
4. Skin infections and abscesses
5. Increased chances of developing chronic diseases
6. Increased chances of contracting viruses, including HIV
7. Increased chances of overdosing on the drug
Various treatment options, including addiction recovery programs, exist for people to eventually stop abusing heroin. People with heroin addiction (or a loved one) are recommended to seek immediate treatment if they suspect they have a problem with heroin addiction.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 4.2 million people over age 12 had some experience with heroin at some point in their life. Due to the prevalence of heroin use, various drug abuse resources and organizations have studied how heroin use affects people across the country. The statistics in the following section depict data from research trials, studies and other resources.
Treatment for Heroin Abuse and Addiction
As mentioned, a large selection of heroin addiction and abuse treatment options are available throughout the country (and the rest of the world). The United States Department of Health and Human Services actually considered heroin addiction to be a chronic brain disease. That means heroin addiction now has newer approaches to help effectively treat the disease. This ruling also allows health care providers to find better ways to help people recover from a heroin addiction.
The most ideal treatment for heroin abusers is an inpatient treatment program, a type of recovery program designed to help heroin abusers get the better of their psychological and physical addiction to the drug. These treatment programs also allow the patients to undergo a safe detoxification period. The detox period generally varies between patients, as different patients may have different degrees of drug abuse.
Methadone is a medication used to help curb heroin addiction symptoms. It works by blocking the brain receptors that constantly rely on stimulation from heroin or, at that point, morphine. It also helps eliminate heroin cravings and reduces withdrawal symptoms. Other medications are often used during the recovery process, including buprenorphine.
Many inpatient treatment programs are also designed to help patients understand why they might abuse heroin. Also, the instructors and doctors of these programs also help patients learn how to maintain a sober and healthier lifestyle.
Patients who complete inpatient treatment programs eventually ‘graduate’ to outpatient treatment programs. These programs provide recovering addicts support via heroin addiction recovery programs and meetings. They don’t, however, give abusers a controlled environment like an inpatient treatment program.