Basic Facts About Heroin
Heroin is a powerful narcotic made from morphine, one of the substances found in the opium poppy. Current figures indicate that about 669,000 U.S. adults and teenagers use the drug at least once a year, and its popularity has risen steadily since 2007. Close to a quarter of all heroin users ultimately develop a physical dependence on the drug and become heroin addicts. The American Psychiatric Association categorizes heroin addiction as a subtype of a condition known as opioid use disorder, which includes all forms of opioid addiction and opioid abuse. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.
Heroin manufacturers chemically process morphine in order to make the drug. This processing leaves behind a powder with white or brown coloring, or in some cases, a dark, tacky material sometimes referred to as “black tar.” Like all other mind-altering substances derived from the opium poppy, heroin’s effects include pain disruption and intense feelings of pleasure. Heroin and other opioid substances also slow down the rate at which nerve cells in both the brain and body communicate with each other. Among other things, this communication reduction results in significantly slowed breathing and changes in normal blood pressure levels.
Since heroin is not made in regulated conditions, it also commonly contains impurities or additives that can produce a range of additional, potentially seriously harmful effects. Some people ingest the drug by smoking it or inhaling it. Others use needles and syringes to inject it under the skin or directly into a vein.
Heroin Addiction Onset
Since heroin ramps up sensations of pleasure, users of the drug sometimes take it repeatedly in an effort to extend or recreate its pleasurable effects. Unfortunately, as is true with all other opiate drugs, recurring heroin use alters the part of the brain responsible for producing pleasurable feelings and sets the stage for opioid addiction. Once addicted, users experience a powerful urge to consume more of the drug, lack of control over the amount of the drug consumed, the need to use increasing amounts of the drug in order to feel its effects, highly unpleasant withdrawal in the absence of opiates, and a dysfunctional pattern of behavior that puts heroin use above all other priorities.
Diagnosing Heroin Addiction
According to guidelines set forth by the American Psychiatric Association, the opioid use disorder diagnosis encompasses heroin addiction and all other forms of opioid addiction, as well as debilitating cases of opioid abuse. The mildest cases of opioid use disorder occur in people with two or three out of 11 possible symptoms of opioid abuse or addiction. Moderate cases occur in people with three or four symptoms of these problems. Severe cases of opioid use disorder occur in people with six or more symptoms of opioid abuse or addiction. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.