Heroin is an illicit opioid that is highly addictive and dangerous. Heroin abuse can negatively impact every impact of a person’s health. The longer a person abuses this drug, the more severe the damaging effects will be.
If you are struggling with heroin abuse or addiction, The Bluffs is here to help. We have several treatment options that are catered to each patient’s unique needs. Our intensive recovery programs can help you overcome heroin addiction and reclaim your life and health.
What Does Heroin Do To The Body?
Heroin works similarly to other opioids in that it binds to the opioids receptors in the brain. This mechanism helps to reduce feelings of pain while also increasing the release of dopamine into the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of well-being and, in high enough quantities, euphoria. Heroin is an incredibly strong opioid, so it causes high levels of dopamine to be released and elicits feelings of extreme pleasure.
Due to its potency, heroin is highly addictive. Individuals who only use the drug a few times can end up dependent and addicted to heroin. Tolerance to heroin can also be quickly built up, meaning that a person will need more of the substance to experience the same euphoric effects.
Long-term heroin abuse can have a severe impact on a person’s health and can even change the way the brain functions. It can also result in decreased white matter in the brain, which can affect a person’s overall cognition and memory. The more heroin a person uses, the more severe the physical and mental damage will be.
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Short-Term Effects Of Heroin On The Body
Using heroin can have an immediate impact on the body. The intensity and severity of symptoms will depend on how much of the drug is consumed. Someone who takes more heroin in one sitting will experience more severe physical short-term effects of the drug.
Immediate physical effects of heroin may include:
- dry mouth
- flushed skin
- heaviness in the arms and legs
- slowed breathing
- slowed heart rate
- increased body temperature
A person who uses heroin even for a short period of time is also at an increased risk of overdose. This is because heroin directly impacts the neurochemical activity in the brain that is responsible for breathing and heart rate. Ingesting too much heroin in one sitting can result in a dangerously low heart rate and slowed or stopped breathing that can cause coma, brain damage, or even death.
Long-Term Effects Of Heroin On The Body
Heroin abuse can also have long-term negative effects on the body that range from mild to severe to life-threatening. Because of how quickly a tolerance is formed to the drug, regular heroin use often leads people to continually increase their doses of the drug. Increased heroin consumption can speed up the rate in which the drug deteriorates the body and increase a person’s risk for long-term health conditions.
Potential effects of long-term heroin use on the body include:
- skin problems
- sexual dysfunction
- inflamed gums
- damaged teeth
- weakened immune system
- damage to the membranes in the nostrils (if snorted)
- collapsed veins (if injected)
- blood and/or heart infections
- cold sweats
Additionally, how a person uses heroin can also impact the physical effects he or she will experience from long-term use. Individuals who inject heroin are at risk of infectious diseases such as HIV, bacterial infections, abscesses, and tissue damage.
People who abuse heroin long-term are also more likely to develop lung problems like pneumonia or tuberculosis. The toxins and contaminants that are often mixed with heroin can also cause arthritis and other permanent health conditions.
Signs Someone Is Abusing Heroin
It can sometimes be hard to tell whether or not a loved one is abusing heroin. Knowing the signs of addiction and what to look for can help you determine if a person you love is battling an addiction to this dangerous drug.
The following are some common signs that may indicate your loved one is using this drug:
- track marks on the arms or other parts of the body
- behavioral changes such as mood swings
- withdrawal from friends and family
- trouble at work or school due to drug use
- stolen money or drugs
- referring to heroin in slang
- the presence of drug paraphernalia
- trouble with the law
- flushing of the skin
- upset stomach and regular constipation
Individuals who abuse heroin may go through a number of behavioral changes that become more and more obvious as their addiction progresses. They may begin to hang out with new “friends” who also do heroin or completely isolate from old friends in an attempt to hide their heroin use. They may also steal or borrow money in order to buy more of the drug.
If you believe a loved one is abusing heroin, it is crucial to confront him or her about the drug use and provide support if he or she decides to seek treatment. Heroin addiction can be fatal without proper and often professional help.
Getting Help For Heroin Abuse Or Addiction
Heroin addiction is a cunning and baffling disease that can consume a person’s life and well-being. Seeking formal treatment is the best and often most successful way to overcome an addiction to heroin and reclaim your life in sobriety. The Bluffs offers evidence-based treatment options that are individualized to meet each patient’s needs and condition. Our programs incorporate various forms of therapy and counseling to provide a comprehensive approach to recovery.
To learn more about what heroin does to the body or to get more information on our addiction treatment programs, contact one of our treatment specialists today.