What is Heroin?
Various effective treatments are available for heroin use disorder, including both behavioral and pharmacological (medication) heroin treatment. Heroin is an illicit, highly addictive drug. It is either the most abused or the most rapidly acting member of opioids.
Nearly a third of all opioid deaths involved heroin. More than 14,000 people died from a drug overdose involving heroin in the United States last 2019, a rate of more than four deaths for every 100,000 Americans. 
Heroin is made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. 
People inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin. Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine; a practice called speedballing.
Repeated heroin use changes the physical structure and physiology of the brain, creating long-term imbalances in neuronal and hormonal systems that are not easily reversed.
Studies have shown some deterioration of the brain’s white matter due to heroin use, which may affect decision-making abilities, the ability to regulate behavior, and responses to stressful situations.
Heroin also produces profound degrees of tolerance and physical dependence. Tolerance occurs when more and more of the drug is required to achieve the same effects. With physical dependence, the body adapts to the presence of the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced abruptly.
Effects of Heroin Addiction & the Reasons Why Heroin Treatment is Crucial
Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.
Abusers describe a feeling of a surge of pleasurable sensation, named as “rush” or “high.” Unfortunately, major health problems from heroin include miscarriages, heart infections, and death from overdose. People who inject the drug also risk getting infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. 
Regular use of heroin can lead to tolerance. This means users need more and more drugs to have the same effect. At higher doses over time, the body becomes dependent on heroin.
If dependent users stop heroin, they have withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, diarrhea and vomiting, and cold flashes with goosebumps.
People who use heroin report feeling a surge of pleasure or euphoria. However, there are other common effects, including:
- Dry mouth
- Warm flushing of the skin
- Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe itching
- Clouded mental functioning
- Going “on the nod,” a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious
People who use heroin over the long term may develop:
- Collapsed veins for people who inject the drug
- Damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
- Constipation and stomach cramping
- Liver and kidney disease
- Lung complications, including pneumonia
- Mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder
- Sexual dysfunction for men
- Irregular menstrual cycles for women
Other Potential Effects
Heroin often contains additives, such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk, that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage. Also, sharing drug injection equipment and having impaired judgment from
drug use can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. 
The rising number of opioid overdose deaths has led to increased public health efforts to make naloxone available to at-risk persons and their families and first responders, and others in the community.
Naloxone is a medication that can treat an opioid overdose when given right away. It works by rapidly binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of heroin and other opioid drugs.
However, sometimes more than one dose may be needed to help a person start breathing again, which is why it’s essential to get the person to an emergency department or a doctor to receive additional support if needed.
Naloxone is an injectable (needle) solution and nasal sprays (NARCAN® Nasal Spray and KLOXXADO®). Friends, family, and others in the community can use the nasal spray versions of naloxone to save someone who is overdosing.
Heroin Treatment & Withdrawal Timeline
Tolerance occurs when more and more of the drug is required to achieve the same effects. With physical dependence, the body adapts to the presence of the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced abruptly.
Withdrawal may occur within a few hours after the last time the drug is taken. Symptoms of withdrawal include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goosebumps (“cold turkey”), and leg movements.
Significant withdrawal symptoms peak between 24–48 hours after the last dose of heroin and subside after about a week. However, some people have shown persistent withdrawal signs for many months.
Repeated heroin use often results in heroin use disorder—a chronic relapsing disease that goes beyond physical dependence and is characterized by uncontrollable drug-seeking, no matter the consequences.
Heroin is highly addictive no matter how it is administered, although routes of administration that allow it to reach the brain the fastest (for instance, injection and smoking) increase the risk of developing heroin use disorder. Once a person has heroin use disorder, seeking and using the drug becomes their primary purpose in life. 
Fortunately, a medically assisted heroin treatment in a controlled environment can make you more comfortable and lead to a greater chance of success.
Heroin Treatment & Medically Assisted Treatment
A range of treatments, including medications and behavioral therapies, are effective in helping people stop heroin use. It’s essential to match the best heroin treatment approach to meet the particular needs of each client.
Medications to help people stop using heroin include buprenorphine and methadone. They work by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as heroin, but more weakly, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Another heroin treatment is naltrexone, which blocks opioid receptors and prevents opioid drugs from having an effect.
Heroin Treatment & Comfortable Detox
Here at Level Up Palm Beach County, the needs of each client are specific and personalized, as we aim to provide comprehensive support for mental health, addiction, dual diagnosis, or heroin treatment.
Clients in our residential therapy programs will live comfortably within the facility during this crucial and fragile time.
This supportive environment is designed to give clients 24-hour care for sobriety, removing temptations for relapse and applying an air of recovery into every component of the treatment timeline, including heroin treatment.
Whenever you need someone to talk to about heroin treatment options to suit your situation, call us. Even if we can’t help you, we’ll guide you to where you can get help. There’s never any obligation.
 Heroin Overdose Data – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[2,4,6] Heroin DrugFacts – National Institute on Drug Abuse
 Heroin – medlineplus.gov
 What are the long-term effects of heroin use? – National Institute on Drug Abuse
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