Heroin Addiction Treatment Help-Line: 1-866-851-1619
Heroin a Brief Summary:

Heroin, a morphinelike drug with no currently acceptable medical use in the United States. Heroin is controlled by law in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. According to this law, it may not be prescribed to patients but only used for research and teaching use or for chemical analysis by permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration of the Department of Justice. Heroin, like other opium products, can produce relief from pain, slowing of breathing, spasms in the digestive system, and physical dependence. Its major effects are on the brain and spinal cord, the bowel, and the hormone functions and nervous reflexes. Illegally-gotten heroin is commonly used by persons who become addicted and suffer from higher death rate than nonaddicts of similar age. Some studies conducted in the United States and England have shown that the majority of heroin users are relatively young people who have been introduced to the drug by friends, first start using heroin out of curiosity, but continue because of its pleasant-feeling effects. Such persons commonly show similar patterns of behavior, social problems, and disease. Heroin use in the United States reached epidemic proportions during the 1960s and in 1971 became a major cause of death. The problem decreased somewhat during the 1970s but has apparently increased and spread from the larger cities to the smaller communities across the country. Street use of the drug commonly begins with sniffing powdered heroin, which is absorbed through the moist lining of the nose, throat and breathing tract. Other methods of taking the drug include injecting it under the skin or into a vein. Heroin, which loses much of its pain-killing power when taken by mouth, is more powerful than morphine and acts more rapidly. It is changed into morphine by the body and builds up in the organs, bones, and brain. Heroin taken in the vein is felt almost immediately and produces reactions that last from 3 to 6 hours. Many users compare the initial feeling to a sexual orgasm. Heroin addicts may easily spend as much as $300 or more daily for the drug and inject themselves every 3 to 6 hours. Repeated use of this drug causes a gradual decrease in the effects felt (tolerance). Physical dependence develops along with tolerance. Withdrawal from heroin after using it even a few times commonly causes severe symptoms. Withdrawal signs usually come shortly before the next planned dose and include anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and craving for another dose. Other withdrawal signs that may appear 8 to 15 hours after the last dose include watery eyes, perspiration, yawning, and restless sleep. On awakening from such sleep the severely addicted heroin user may experience further withdrawal signs, as vomiting, pain in the bones, diarrhea, convulsions, and heart attack. Withdrawal signs usually peak at between 36 and 48 hours and gradually fade during the following 10 days. Anxiety and depression related to use of the drug may persist for months in many heroin addicts under treatment. Most authorities consider such addiction a complex disease caused by imbalances in body chemistry brought on by the heroin, together with deep psychological and social factors. A variety of liquid substances, as quinine, are used to dissolve street heroin for injection. Impure states of such liquids, together with dirty needles and other unhealthy factors are responsible for more than half the deaths related to the illegal use of heroin. The most frequent disorders related to injections of impure heroin are tetanus, skin abscesses, infection, and swollen veins. Heroin-connected lung complications may include pneumonia, internal bleeding, and tuberculosis. Many nerve disorders may result from the use of street heroin. Women heroin addicts who become pregnant often give birth to premature babies who easily get blood poisoning and may well be addicted to heroin at birth. Heroin addicts frequently return to use of the drug during withdrawal treatment.
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