To those with no experience of addiction, the idea of continuing to use a drug that is causing negative consequences is unbelievable. In fact, most wonder why anyone would even try illegal drugs such as heroin in the first place. Moreover, many believe that taking heroin just once will mean an instant addiction. But it does not usually happen like this. The reality is that those who dabble with drugs will often find that heroin is a drug that does not have as many immediate side effects as other illegal substances. If you have ever wondered what heroin addiction is like, you might be surprised by what some users have to say about it.
What Is Heroin and What Does Using It Feel Like?
Heroin is a Class A illegal drug that is derived from the opium poppy plant. It has been used for centuries in some form or other and was initially used to treat conditions such as insomnia and pain. Heroin is actually made from morphine, which is a strong painkiller used by medical professionals to treat patients in severe pain.
When sold on the streets, heroin is either a brown or white powder or a sticky tar-like substance, which is known as tar heroin. The immediate effect of the drug is to make the user feel relaxed and happy. Unlike other street drugs such as cocaine that make the user feel alert and confident, heroin is a drug that has the effect of making users feel mellow and content.
Another noticeable difference between heroin and other drugs is that the comedown is less severe. With drugs such as cocaine, the user tends to feel depressed and ill when the effects of the drug wear off. With heroin, this does not happen. This is the main reason many continue to use the drug.
These individuals are surprised that they feel so good after taking it, and because it is relatively cheap to buy, they wonder what all the fuss is about. Contrary to popular belief, most of those who experiment with heroin will not inject the drug. In truth, most people first experience the drug through opiate medications or by smoking a street equivalent. They can continue to use these drugs for many weeks without suffering any withdrawal effects. To a drug user, this is fantastic; he or she is waking up without any obvious side effects, so the temptation to use repeatedly is too great. But somewhere along the line, things start to change.
When Does Heroin Use Become a Problem?
Heroin may seem like a wonderful drug in the beginning. Those who take it are still functioning normally and it is not having an adverse effect on their health or their daily life. However, a person’s tolerance to heroin will quickly increase, meaning that he or she is soon at the point where they are not getting the same high achieved in the early days. This can result in the person continuously chasing that elusive first high, which will mean he or she will need to take more of the drug to be satisfied.
The drug that was once cheap and wonderful becomes something much more expensive and harder to find. As the person begins using more of the drug to chase the high, a physical dependence will slowly occur. Their body will adapt to the presence of the drug and he/she will begin to crave it. When the effects of the drug wear off, the affected individual will start to feel early withdrawal symptoms that are akin to having the flu. It is only the drug that can make these feelings subside, so the user begins to take it more regularly.
Those who find themselves craving the drug will be tempted to turn to injecting it in a bid to get the feelings they desire. When this happens, there is no turning back; the person is addicted and in need of professional help to get better.
The Dangers of Heroin
As you might expect, heroin is a Class A drug for good reason. It is highly addictive and very dangerous. One of the biggest dangers with this drug is the risk of accidental overdose due to purity issues. Street heroin is often mixed with other substances by manufacturers who want the drug to go further in order to make more money.
So one batch of heroin could be twenty per cent pure while another could be sixty per cent pure. The person who has been taking twenty per cent pure heroin for a long time would be at extreme risk of an overdose by taking the same quantity of sixty per cent pure heroin. The trouble is that there is no way to know from looking at a batch of heroin how pure it is.
It is also worth mentioning that a person’s tolerance to heroin decreases rapidly. This means that someone who has been through a heroin detox, even for many days, would be at a substantial risk of overdose by returning to the drug and taking the same amount of it as they were taking before beginning the detox.
There are also many long-term effects of using the substance. Those who are injecting the drug are risking the collapse of their veins, which can then lead to various infections. Sharing needles, which is common among heroin users, can result in hepatitis C and other infections, such as HIV.
In addition, heroin users may suffer with the following conditions:
Weight loss and malnutrition
Sores on the body
Inability to orgasm
Loss of libido
The Effect of Heroin Addiction on Others
It is easy to assume that heroin addicts are only harming themselves and that they should be left to get on with their addictive behaviour. Nevertheless, as with all other addictions, heroin addiction affects far more than the individual.
Family members and friends often cannot understand why their heroin-addicted loved one just does not stop taking drugs. They cannot comprehend why the person they love continues to abuse this drug – a drug that is causing so much harm to their lives. Nonetheless, it is not easy to just stop. The addict may want to stop and might know deep down that their use of the drug is causing harm to those they love, but their need for it is much stronger than anything else.
What started as a drug to help take the edge off painful feelings or memories has become something that consumes them. They have no control over their compulsion to take it, no matter how much harm their use causes to everyone around them.
Some heroin addicts become so desperate to fund their habit that they will steal from others, even if that means stealing from family members and friends. Whatever it takes to get the money to buy the drug they will do because all logical thought goes out the window when they are desperate for the drug. When in need of the drug, the affected person will often sell anything they can get their hands on, and if it gets to the point where he or she has nothing left to sell, many will sell their body.
To see a loved one reach such a low is heart-breaking. Knowing that this person who you love with all your heart will steal from you given half the chance can destroy these family members or friends. Many families have been ripped apart by heroin addiction, and young children have been neglected and put in harm’s way by parents who can think of nothing except their need for this powerful drug.
With heroin addicts ready to steal and commit other crimes to get the drug they need, it is no surprise to hear that this illness negatively affects entire communities as well.
Can a Heroin Addiction Be Overcome?
The good news is that treatment is available for those with a heroin addiction. The bad news for family members is that it can be difficult to get a loved one to accept their need for help and to want to give up the drug that controls them.
It is extremely difficult for heroin addicts to separate themselves from the substance. They need to really want to get better in order for treatment to be successful. Some addicts will say that they want to change and put their days of substance abuse behind them, but when the first withdrawal symptoms manifest, they may change their minds.
Due to the way that heroin affects the brain, the addict can be incapable of making logical decisions, even when these decisions will ensure their own survival. Heroin addicts usually display manipulative and extreme behaviour as their need for the drug becomes stronger. They will beg and plead with whoever is overseeing their recovery to allow them to take the drug. Some will exaggerate their symptoms, or even pretend to have severe symptoms, believing that this will help their cause.
Heroin addicts will require a physical detox in the first instance in order to overcome their addiction. This should be carried out in a dedicated facility and overseen by medical professionals with experience of the process. Most patients will go through various stages of withdrawal, which are usually graded from 0-3 in terms of their intensity.
The first symptoms are typically feelings of anxiety, with the addict suffering cravings and displaying drug-seeking behaviour. Grade 1 symptoms follow with the affected individual displaying physical symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, restlessness, yawning, sweating, and trouble sleeping.
As the withdrawal process continues, the patient may experience Grade 2 symptoms, which include irritability, loss of appetite, dilated pupils, twitching muscles, and leg cramps. The withdrawal will reach its peak at Grade 3, where the patient may suffer with a rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, raised body temperature, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea.
A heroin detox can be a very unpleasant experience, with most patients suffering symptoms that gradually worsen before peaking and then subsiding. For most, the symptoms will be almost completely gone within a week to ten days. However, there are some symptoms that will linger for a little bit longer, and cravings can continue for months.
Many experts continue to believe that heroin addicts should be prescribed methadone to help with the withdrawal symptoms of the drug. Methadone is prescribed in reduced doses as a replacement for heroin. The idea is that the addict can be weaned off heroin without suffering the worst withdrawal symptoms.
Nevertheless, there are many others who believe that it would be far better to treat heroin addicts with a programme of rehabilitation that included reduced doses of heroin instead. The problem with the methadone programme is that many addicts are essentially parked on this substitute drug and end up on it for years.
With the right programme of rehabilitation, heroin addicts can overcome their illness. Nevertheless, it must be noted that addiction is in the person and not the drug. There is no cure for heroin addiction and those who do manage to get sober will have to work hard to maintain their sobriety going forward. Constant vigilance is the key.
If you would like more information about what heroin addiction is like or generally about heroin addiction, contact us here at UKAT. We have a number of clinics throughout the UK providing excellent treatment programmes for those affected by all types of addiction. If you would like advice for yourself or someone you love, our team of experienced and fully trained advisors can help. Call today.
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08 Jul 2020
My treatment at Liberty House has given me the opportunity to make drastic changes in my life and make a new start. For that I will be eternally grateful.
08 Jul 2020
Friendly and knowledgeable staff who will help you through the early stages of recovery. A very nice atmosphere around the place which is helped by both staff and the house itself and garden. All in all it is a brilliant place in which to gain a good foundation on which to build a recovery from addiction.
07 Jul 2020
Very good and friendly service. All needs met, dispite covid its been ok.
06 Jul 2020
I’m hugely fortunate and very grateful to have landed in Liberty House Rehab Clinic. The staff, bar none have been incredibly supportive and honest with me throughout. Tough love at times, but always delivered in a productive way. I’ve learned so much about addiction and myself thanks to them. This is a deeply empathetic and spiritual unit, to which i owe my life. Thank you Rosie and team xx
06 Jul 2020
This service from Liberty house was a very good idea, I would tell other people who suffer from the any issues with alcohol/Drugs to come to liberty house for the best treatment as they make it possible and are always there for you.
06 Jul 2020
I came to get well, and I leave 28 days sober, with a new mind set of my life with my illness.. thank to all at SL, food, hose keepers, support team and therapist all had a part on my recovery.
05 Jul 2020
I felt low when I arrived but started to feel positive within a short space of time. I’m ready to get to runcorn and get going.
04 Jul 2020
This detox has gone better than any of my others, I have enjoyed my time here and I would definitely recommend this to someone else. The isolation has been difficult not being able to exercise but I just got on with it. Staff have been good and supportive .
04 Jul 2020
This was my first detox, I found it to be comfortable, I did not struggle. I got a wake up call yesterday when I saw somebody who was really I’ll, I now understand the effects that alcohol can do to you.
04 Jul 2020
When I came to Recovery Lighthouse I was in a bad way (to put it politely). I am actually sad to be leaving here tomorrow as it has been such a positive experience for me. The house is very homely and comfortable, the food is amazing but more importantly I have learned so much during my time here. I feel that I have sufficient enough knowledge and tools to help maintain my sobriety when I go onto secondary treatment, knowing that also it is only me who can make it work for myself, and for my family! the staff here are very supportive & friendly…. Love to you all and a massive thank you! Except for Daisy who kicked my sorry butt at Cluedo one night! I’ll forgive but I shall not forget 😀 … Jokes aside ALL of the staff are wonderful! I hope to see each of you in the future with some added sobriety time under my belt… They have just informed me that Chris always gets mentioned on these so here is to you guys lol…. Mehdi, DAISY!!!!, Paula, Marcia, Mark, Debbie, Cameron, Dave, Lewes, Brooke, Linzi, Lee and Nicky – All of you are amazing! Thank you so much for everything during my stay here and best wishes for the future! …
03 Jul 2020
I’d like other alcoholics and users to be aware of the benefits and high level of counsellor and staff’s all round care.
03 Jul 2020
The care and support I have received has been excellent. I have started a journey of recovery from my addiction which I can continue when I return home.
03 Jul 2020
Thank you to the recovery lighthouse for the past 28 days. All the staff are really lovely but they will really push you to open up and get the most out of you and tackle your addiction. It is obvious they genuinely care about your well being and making sure you understand the importance of sobriety as a recovering addict. It can be tough at times but if you put the work in it is worth it and you will leave feeling you have the tools to implement them in real life! Food is really good too, thanks Chris! Highly recommend.
02 Jul 2020
Beautiful and helpful staff, anything you need is given if possible. Good food and a genuinely warm welcome.
02 Jul 2020
I am very pleased at myself for having the heart to come to terms with my addiction and take the step to change my life by going into rehab it was the best move i did in starting new life, the program help not just with detoxing but it help by getting to route of the problem the staff are extremely sportive and highly experienced and professional. not forgetting the food also amazing i will always be grateful to the team of liberty house thank you for letting express myself and being there to listen
02 Jul 2020
I couldn’t of ended up in a better place the staff are awesome, they are more than attentive and will bend over backwards to make sure the care you receive is provided to the best of there ability. The food was great, which is always a plus especially when kicking a habit. It has been the best decision of my life coming here i cant thank them enough for all the help and support. Id highly recommend Liberty House to anyone trying to tern there lives around . Many thanks
02 Jul 2020
i entered here a very broken and scared individual. the staff bend over backwards for you here nothing is to much trouble. the chef also caters to your personal needs. i leave here with a great understanding of what i suffer with and direction of the right paths to take. im still fearful but lernt there is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of fear. cos rosie sharron dave pablo tony hsve given me a gift i will never be able to show my true gratitude for. thanks to qall at liberty house
01 Jul 2020
I have been very happy with my treatment, I didnt want to go home. However I feel ready to go home. I have learned to manage my stress levels. Fantastic team.
01 Jul 2020
I really enjoyed my time at Banbury Lodge the staff here work so hard and never fail to make sure we are looked after. I have gained my life back thanks to the support from all the staff. Big thank you to Lianne for ,aking the days here brighter.
01 Jul 2020
I am overall extremely pleased with the treatment I’ve had here at Recovery Lighthouse. The staff have been absolutely wonderful, so kind and easy to approach. All the workshops I found engaging and enjoyed thoroughly. I am thankful for all the help I’ve been given and I feel confident I can succeed in my recovery journey.
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