Heroin is a highly addictive and dangerous illicit drug. Derived from morphine found in the seed pods of the opium poppy plant, heroin floods the brain with dopamine and creates intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Unfortunately, it damages the brain’s ability to naturally produce dopamine, quickly making one dependent on heroin for any joy or pleasure in life. The opioid epidemic is a national health crisis in the United States, and many people turn to heroin when they can no longer obtain prescription opioids. Heroin presents many challenging side effects and life complications, in addition to the ever-present risk of overdose and death.
Heroin Side Effects
Most people understand heroin causes physical short and long-term effects. However, personal problems, tolerance, and addiction are all heroin side effects you need to be aware of as well.
Physical Short-Term Effects
The short-term effects of heroin occur when you first take it into your system. Your heart rate will increase, breathing may be impaired, and nausea, vomiting, and sleepiness are possible. If you cannot acquire the drug, you will likely experience intense withdrawal symptoms if not enough of the drug is in your system. Heroin’s initial effect is to slow breathing.
The drug can be taken in several ways:
- Injected into a vein
- Inhaled by snorting
- Smoked from a pipe or foil
- Substituted in pill form inside of another pill
Injection is the most common method used due to the rapid effect of the drug on the brain. A heroin high typically begins within 5 to 10 minutes of injection. The short-term effects tend to last three to six hours, with the most intense effects dissipating within one or two hours. While on heroin, users typically feel drowsy and confused and may nod in and out of consciousness as feelings of euphoria wash over them.
Physical Long Term Effects
The long-term physical effects of heroin are severe. They include:
- Scarred and/or collapsed veins
- Bacterial infections at injection sites
- Abscesses (pus-filled pockets)
- Liver disease
Risks increase for users who inject the drug more frequently than every five days. Damage to their cardiovascular system, including the right side of the heart, liver damage, kidney disease, lung complications, and an increased risk for getting blood-borne infections are all additional risks.
Heroin also reduces your immune system’s ability to fight off illness. This is especially dangerous since people who use heroin often suffer from other illnesses or diseases. They may have difficulty recovering from side effects because of heroin’s suppression of their immune system. It may take several months for former users to recover physically from heroin’s long-term effects.
Personal Life Complications
Many don’t realize heroin causes personal life complications. That said, frequent use leads to harrowing relationship, financial, legal, career, and education problems. These problems may result in a domino effect.
Often, heroin users experience changes in behavior. As a result, they’ll experience personal relationship tension as well. They often lose their spouses, friends, and even children. Even worse, domestic violence and child abuse are devastating results of heroin use as well. Frequent lying and irresponsible behavior cause relationship damage as well.
Financial and legal problems often occur because heroin is an expensive habit. Users may spend their money on heroin instead of food, housing, and other basic needs. When they run out, they might resort to stealing to obtain the drug. If authorities catch them, they could serve jail time.
Heroin affects people’s performance as well. Typically, people using the drug do poorly at work or school. Unfortunately, relationship problems may extend to coworkers and classmates. This could lead to job loss or school expulsion.
Heroin Side Effects Include Tolerance
Over the course of an addiction, chemicals from heroin cause the brain and body to adapt. At first, the body is unused to heroin, allowing for quick and potent highs. Over time, however, the body adjusts, and it takes more heroin used more often to achieve the same high. As the body builds tolerance, the brain drives cravings, which in turn fuels the vicious cycle of addiction.
What makes heroin tolerance so dangerous is the high overdose risk. Taking too much heroin can make the body go into shock. Most importantly, the response causes irreversible damage, coma, and death.
When a physical dependency is unfulfilled, the affected person undergoes withdrawal. Withdrawal is particularly severe for heavy users and for users of alcohol, heroin, and benzos. This severity is dangerous not only to a person’s health but also to their recovery. If a person undergoes withdrawal but has access to heroin, the urge to relapse will be powerful. Withdrawal is the first, and perhaps the most difficult, roadblock to your recovery.
Since withdrawal is so severe, doctors strongly recommend against going through withdrawal alone, aka “cold turkey.” Instead, doctors recommend that patients seek detox treatment. At San Antonio Recovery Center, we offer detox programs for heroin for both men and women.
Detox starts with withdrawal, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. The benefit of heroin detox is that it takes place in a secure, medically monitored environment. Some withdrawal symptoms, like seizures or delirium tremens (for alcoholics), can be fatal if left untreated. Medical professionals monitor detox patients 24/7 to keep them comfortable and safe as their body purges the heroin.
Heroin Treatment Is Available
If you or a loved one is exhibiting heroin side effects, San Antonio Recovery Center leads you down the right path. We offer several opiate addiction rehab programs, including: