Heroin Addiction Treatment Help-Line: 1-866-851-1619
Long-Term Health Effects of Heroin:

One of the most debilitating effects of heroin use is dependence and addiction. Dependence follows the same trajectory as tolerance.

Eight to twelve hours after the addict's last dose, the user begins to experience the onset of flu-like symptoms: watery eyes, sneezing, muscle aches, weakness, and vomiting. The symptoms increase in severity over the next two to three days and include shivering, muscle spasms, paranoia, fear, hallucinations, and debilitating cramps in the stomach and extremities. Within a week, the body has corrected the imbalance created by the regular ingestion of heroin, and the symptoms subside. However, intense cravings for the drug last for a much longer period of time and often contribute to relapse.

Health consequences of chronic heroin abuse include scarred and collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves, boils, a variety of soft-tissue infections, kidney problems, and liver disease. Pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other lung diseases are also common among long-term users, which can be attributed to either poor nutrition and depressed respiratory function or both. Many of the additives heroin is cut with do not dissolve in the body and can block blood vessels, translating into higher risk of sudden death from stroke or heart attack.

Recovering heroin addicts often endure years of corrective dental work due to neglect and the side effects of regular drug use. Heroin addicts often have cavities along the gum-line and gum disease, because the drug causes a marked decrease in the production of saliva. Saliva protects the mouth by neutralizing acids that cause cavities and providing lubrication that reduces the retention of food debris.

A NIDA-supported study conducted by the University of Southern California Los Angeles examined the lives of some 587 heroin addicts admitted to criminals' addiction programs in the early 1960s. The researchers found their lives were marked by cycles of abstinence, relapse, crime, incarceration, chronic disease, and early death. By 1997, nearly half of the group had died. A full 40% of the survivors were still struggling with their addiction and reported using heroin in the last year. Fewer then 10% were in a working addiction program.

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