Heroin is an opioid. Opioids have been used for thousands of years. Opioids come from a plant called a poppy plant. So, humans have known about this plant and drug for a long time. Some heroin is made in a laboratory. Addiction to heroin is something that has not really been talked about until recent years in history.
Humans and Heroin
Heroin is so incredibly powerful and addictive that there is no medical use for it in the United States. Heroin comes from a simple poppy plant. The wax, opium, that bled from a poppy plant was used for pain relief for a long time. Purified morphine was first extracted from opium in the early 1800s, becoming the most powerful painkilling substance at the time. Seeming like overnight, a new extremely powerful substance is introduced to man. Morphine is 10 times more powerful than the plant-based opium. After it was introduced morphine became known as our first narcotics, opiates, and opioids. About 70 years later, a British chemist was the first to synthesize heroin. It was mostly ignored by the scientific communities at that time.
Right before 1900, heroin was being used, in different forms, and was being widely used for pain, respiratory infections, even certain mental conditions. As this drug was being used more and more patient’s tolerance grew along with it. Tolerance to a drug is when the body becomes adapted to the drug, it begins to take more and more to get the desired effect. In 1910, a hospital in New York admitted its first case of heroin addiction or dependence. 5 years later, the hospital admitted 425 patients for heroin addiction. This is the beginning of treatment for opioid addiction.
After relentless regulations and prohibitions, there is no medical or recreational use for heroin in the US. Any heroin in the country was brought here illegally. The use of heroin and other opiates today is higher than it ever has been before. The addiction to heroin and other opiates is higher than it ever has been before. When heroin is used it is converted to morphine in the brain and immediate euphoric effects are felt. It can be snorted, smoked, injected, and more. The body rapidly adapts to the overstimulation of the opioid receptors in the brain. Chemicals in the brain, like dopamine, are all released at once when heroin is used. After all the chemicals are released, the user will have to wait for the brain to make more “feel good” chemicals on its own or get more drugs to feel “good” or even “normal”. This is called tolerance. Tolerance creates addictions. Heroin gets into a user’s brain and changes it. It chemically changes it and it will take time for the brain to get back to regulating itself. After long-term or heavy use, the body and brain are so adapted to drugs, users will go through a painful withdrawal when they stop using.
How Dangerous Heroin Can Really Be
2018 data shows that every day, 128 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. Overdosing can happen to anyone. It could be a seasoned addict or a first time user. This drug is so powerful that it can and does change thoughts, behavior, and lives. It affects full families and full communities.
Withdrawal will keep a lot of users using it. Withdrawal is extremely painful. This happens when a chronic user just stops taking opiates. Symptoms of withdrawal can be nausea, pain, shaking, depression, aggressive behavior, anxiety, cravings or obsessive thoughts, and more. This can last up to 5-10 days. Medically, heroin withdrawal is not life-threatening. However, because this drug is so powerful, suicide can become an option just to stop feeling those withdrawal symptoms.
It is highly recommended to be in detox when going through withdrawal. Treatment can provide a safe place to go through those painful 5-10 days. There are medications that doctors and other medical professionals can prescribe to help with the withdrawal. Medications like Suboxone, Methadone, or Vivitrol can be extremely helpful in getting clean. Detox is the safest place to be because there are medical professionals there 24/7. There are also peers there. Other people that understand what it is like to feel like that. Heroin is so addictive, that it may leave your brain chemically in 10 days, but addicts never forget it. After detox, rehab is also highly recommended. Rehab gives an addict time to focus on life. It can offer time and the resources to make real change in their lives. Recovery specialists and therapists can truly help an addict in a safe environment. Getting clean is the first step in recovery. Long-term sobriety is the goal. Sometimes, that goal isn’t met. Help will always be there. Help will always be a phone call away.