Signs, Withdrawal Symptoms & Treatment Options
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An Introduction to Heroin Addiction
An Overview of Heroin Use in America
Addiction, as it relates to heroin and other narcotics, is the conditioning of the body to expect a continued infusion of the drug through its continued use. This holds true for both prescription and illegal narcotics. During the initial use of heroin, or similar drugs like oxycontin and fentanyl, the human body stops making its own painkilling chemical called endorphins, and substitutes for it the narcotic that the addicted person is using. The result is that upon ceasing the narcotic the body experiences intense pain, flu-like symptoms, spasms, hallucinations, and feelings of impending death. This is called withdraw. Withdraw lasts from three to five days as the body ‘reboots’ itself and begins making its own endorphins again.
Heroin abuse has been on the rise since 2007. Almost 1 million individuals in the United States reported using heroin in the last year. Of those 1 million people who abused heroin in the last year, 20% used it for the first time. Heroin addiction is expected to continue to rise as access to pharmaceuticals like oxycodone and hydrocodone becomes more difficult due to the opioid crisis currently affecting America.
Endorphins are our bodies own natural painkiller. They are, in fact, a narcotic too. Endorphins are what makes us feel good after we exercise, or look at a loved one. Endorphins are naturally released when humans look at their dogs (and visa-versa), an occurrence peculiar to humans and dogs and to no other known cross-species pair.
What Is Heroin? Why Is It Addictive?
Why Do People Abuse Heroin?
The problem is that throughout history, endorphins alone have not been enough. Sure, they work great for torn muscles in the leg after a run, but not so good for broken legs. Few effective solutions existed for intense pain until the 19th century. This was a time when humans began to fully grasp the science of chemistry.
Chemists, particularly in Great Britain and Germany, began an intensive race to look for the solution to the problem of pain. It was a race between nations for a new kind of weapon. Pain, of course, had been a plague on armies throughout history. The first country that could make a break-through in the treatment of pain would have the upper hand militarily.
This led to the synthesis of morphine, codeine, and later heroin. Morphine and codeine were the first narcotic drugs given to soldiers during the American Civil War and the many skirmishes between colonial powers of the time. For a time, narcotics were thought to be a great medical advancement. But then, as soldiers came home, the reality and effects of addiction became apparent.
So the search was on for non-addictive substitutes, and that search continues to this day. The 19th century saw the invention of aspirin as one of the first non-addictive alternatives to morphine. Heroin was also created during this time in Germany by Bayer. It too was thought to be non-addictive. Turns out it was more addictive than morphine or codeine.
By the late 19th century and early 20th century, the United States had a drug problem that was probably worse than the one of the last half-century, though no scientific statistics are available from the time. Not only were morphine and heroin readily available and popular for recreational use (heroin was available without a prescription until 1910), employers dolled out cocaine to heavy laborers like it was coffee. In prisons, guards would inject unruly prisoners with narcotics in order to ply obedience. The practice of employers giving narcotics to employees continued well into the 20th century with factories keeping doctors on staff for just that purpose.
After World War II, with so little being understood about conditions like PTSD, many former soldiers resorted to narcotic use to treat their physical and psychological pain. Addiction was considered a shameful and taboo subject, which further hampered people’s access to treatment.
What are the Signs of Heroin Addiction?
How Do I Know If Someone is Abusing Heroin
The signs of heroin addiction are both physical and behavioral. The primary sign of addiction, of course, is an individual’s constant need for the drug. However, most of those addicted to heroin learn to hide their drug-seeking behavior. Often, it’s a family member who notices the first changes. This can be things like changes in routine that result in a lot of unaccounted for a time as the addicted person seeks out their drug of choice. It can also manifest in embarrassing ways like neighbors asking about the disappearance of drugs from their medicine cabinets. Other physical symptoms of heroin use include:
- Shortness of breath or slowed breathing
- Dry mouth
- Constricted (pinpoint) pupils
- Cycles of sudden alertness and nodding off
- Droopy appearance
- Track marks on arms or legs from IV (intravenous) use
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Extreme itching or scratching
- Sudden and extreme weight loss
- Sudden changes in behaviors (see below)
Behavioral changes are the best indicators of possible addiction. Keep in mind, that symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on other factors. Some of the most common behavioral signs of heroin addiction include:
- Lying about use
- Avoiding loved ones; isolating
- Decreased attention to personal hygiene
- Inability to perform at work, school or home
- Constant irritability & agitation
- Erratic sleeping patterns
- Legal issues including arrests and participation in criminal activity to support one’s habit
- Hiding of paraphernalia such as burnt spoons, straws, syringes, empty bags, etc.
Again these are just some of the many symptoms that a person can exhibit if they are abusing heroin and/or other opioids. Let the team at Odyssey Recovery’s men’s only drug rehab in Orange County help you recover from heroin once and for all.
What are the Typical Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?
The Detoxification Process When Quitting Heroin
Withdrawal has often been described as one of the worst experiences a person can go through. Imagine your worst flu, compound that with intense pain all over your body, add to it hallucinations and violent mood swings, and that’s pretty much how you’ll experience withdrawal from heroin without any medical assistance.
Fortunately, there is help for you or your loved one.
Detoxing is the process of removing the symptoms of withdrawal by utilizing a combination of environmental support and medication. Inpatient detox programs like Odyssey Recovery, seek to give the recovering addict a serene place, free from everyday stresses, in which to begin their recovery. Anti-anxiety and other medications are administered which ease the physical and emotional symptoms of withdrawing. Like many detox programs for heroin, Odyssey Recovery utilizes modern medications such as Suboxone, to help alleviate most of the symptoms associated with heroin abuse. It’s still an unpleasant experience, but you won’t have to suffer the full brunt of the symptoms.
Most Commonly Abused Drugs
Explore More About How Each Drug’s Effects & Symptoms
Treatment Options for Heroin Addiction
How to Find the Right Heroin Treatment Program
Treatment for heroin is different for each individual and unique to their circumstances. Most of those who are successful at staying sober view their recovery as a life-long process. One of the most effective methods of treatment for heroin abuse is a full continuum of care, meaning from detox to inpatient and then outpatient treatment, followed by continued participation in a recovery support program. Odyssey Recovery offers detoxification and residential inpatient treatment to those addicted to heroin seeking a way out. We offer outpatient and sober living referrals through our aftercare planning process, which sets clients up for the best possible outcomes when recovering from heroin addiction.
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Get Help for Heroin Addiction at Odyssey Recovery in Orange County
Escape an Addiction to Heroin at Our California Heroin Rehab
Odyssey Recovery is committed to helping each patient form a successful path to an addiction-free life. Our comprehensive approach and leading-edge understanding of the addiction and recovery process, along with our beautiful Orange County location, position Odyssey as a premier center for recovery from a disease that affects so many communities. Contact us today to discuss treatment options so you and your family can begin a new life, one that right now might seem like an impossibility. But with our help, you can have the heroin free life you’ve imagined.
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