Heroin – A Top Drug to Kick
Heroin was first developed in 1874 by British chemistry and physics researcher Charles Romley Alder Wright. It is an extremely addictive analgesic drug derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance in poppy plants/opium. The drug is two to four times stronger than morphine. Heroin is internationally labeled as a Schedule I and IV opioid narcotic. Illicit heroin is sold on the black market but laboratory manufactured heroin is sold legally in prescription drug such as analgesics, cough suppressants and anti-diarrhea medications.
Many factors are involved in becoming addicted to heroin. Chemically, the morphine in heroin activates the opioid receptor sites in the brain flooding it with an increase in endorphins. Endorphins are the natural opiates of the body that produce feelings of well-being. When the brain is flooded with endorphins from heroin use, they create an intense euphoric high, feelings of well-being and an analgesic effect against pain. The morphine in heroin binds to the endorphin receptor sites in the brain producing a more potent effect than the body’s natural endorphins do. The initial rush produced by the flooding of endorphins in the brain lasts for a few minutes. The heroin will then become absorbed into the bloodstream and become a useable form of morphine. This high lasts from four to five hours and creates feelings of pain-free contentment and well-being. The morphine also creates a cozy, cocoon-like sense of distance from the user’s environment.
The person who repeatedly uses heroin will build up a tolerance to the drug causing them to take in larger amounts of the drug to achieve the desired psychoactive effects. Anyone seeking to escape from life’s problems or is coping with chronic pain or illness is susceptible to heroin addiction because of the drug’s ability to mask the problems. There are numerous physical, psychological and behavioral factors associated with addictive behavior that will need to be addressed to begin recovery.
Physically, the brain’s neurotransmission starts to dull as neuronal circuitry changes due to the constant surge of incoming opiates caused by heroin use. These neuronal changes create an imbalance in brain chemistry that interacts with the central nervous system. Opioid receptors are located in the brain, brain stem and body and they control numerous automatic processes vital to life such as blood pressure and respiration. Overdosing on heroin causes a suppression of the respiratory system. When this occurs there is a decline in the amount of oxygen reaching the brain resulting in short or long-term effects that can cause permanent brain damage, coma and death.
Recovery from Heroin
Unfortunately, not every heroin addict is able to recover from addiction. Relapse is a common occurrence even among the strongest and most determined addicts, therefore unrealistic expectations should not be forced on a recovering heroin addict. Recovery is a difficult, long-term process that includes education of heroin addiction and recovery and requires many behavioral changes by the addict.
Heroin has a powerful hold on its victims and the painful process of detoxification and withdrawal is well known. When an addict tries to stop using heroin cold turkey, they will encounter powerful symptoms such as an intense craving for the drug, bone and muscle pain, anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea and more. Getting experienced medical intervention in a drug rehabilitation center can help to alleviate many symptoms, however, this is just the first step in recovery. The addict may need many years of counseling, support and accountability groups to stay on track. Learning how to respond to temptations and triggers are a vital part of the learning process and behavior modification strategies. Continued positive reinforcement and the support of family, friends and peers are very important in helping the addict win the battle against heroin addiction.