Heroin is one of the most addictive of all drugs, including both illicit and legal, controlled substances. With long-term use, heroin can cause a number of serious health problems, up to and including death from an accidental overdose. If someone you care about is using heroin, it’s never too late to help rescue her from her addiction. Help her see the problems that heroin is creating in her life and what it will do to both her mind and her body over time. The reality is scary, but anyone struggling with addiction to heroin can get treatment and begin to reverse the ill effects.
Long Term Effects of Heroin on the Brain
As with any drug of abuse, the primary and immediate effect of heroin is on the brain. Once in the bloodstream, heroin goes straight to the brain and acts on receptors that produce a flood of the chemical called dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel good and it is this flood that is responsible for the high the user gets from heroin. Over time and with regular use, this hijacking of the pleasure center in the brain leads to lasting changes to the brain’s circuitry. The result is that the user needs more and more heroin to get high and eventually just to feel normal and to mitigate the terrible withdrawal symptoms. At this point it becomes extremely difficult to stop using heroin and the user could be considered to be addicted.
Long Term Effects of Heroin on the Body
Anyone who uses heroin regularly will become addicted and will suffer the consequences of changing brain circuitry, but she will also experience damage to her body. Heroin is typically used by injecting it directly into the bloodstream, and users often share needles. This means that using heroin can lead to someone contracting a communicable disease like HIV or hepatitis C. Heroin and liver damage commonly occur together when a user contracts hepatitis C. Even when a heroin user is consistent in using new, clean needles, her immune system gets weakened by the regular drug abuse. Heroin addicts are vulnerable to all kinds of infections, including the flu, tuberculosis and even infections in the lining of the heart.
The repeated injections also cause damage to the veins. Chronic heroin users often have collapsed veins, especially those who use black tar heroin. Infections in the veins are also common. Other types of long-term damage caused by heroin use include damage to the lungs and kidneys, excessive itching, gum disease and tooth decay, loss of appetite and malnutrition, insomnia and impotence.
Heroin is a dangerous drug, and addiction and overdose are not the only ways in which it causes damage. The lasting effects of this drug on the brain and the body of regular users are devastating. Even when an addict gets clean, she will have to live with many of the aftereffects of heroin use. If someone you love is using heroin, now is the time to act, before it’s too late. With treatment and medication, it is possible to heal from heroin addiction.