Heroin is an incredibly addictive, highly toxic drug that affects the central nervous system. Dependence strikes quickly, and frequent use has detrimental, long-term effects on the brain and on your health in general.
What is Heroin?
A psychoactive depressant drug, heroin is a synthetic product of one of the oldest narcotics known to man: morphine. (The drug is in fact converted to morphine once it enters the brain.) Heroin drug is typically a whitish, brownish color and is often cut with sugars or other illicit substances. The brand of heroin most often portrayed in media is a hard and sticky form called black tar, which users liquify and then inject straight into their bloodstream using hypodermic needles. Users often share these needles, and because addicts are often impulsive and negligent when it comes to personal hygiene and health, this method of heroin use puts users at serious risk for infection and diseases such as STDs and blood-born diseases. And because shooting up – or “slamming,” as many call it – delivers the most powerful high, users who have turned the needle tend to be the most severely addicted.
One of the scariest aspects of heroin dependency is that it is probably the easiest addiction to fall into completely by accident. Although the drug itself is illegal, it is often sought after as a cheaper, more powerful alternative to legal pain-reducing drugs to which patients become addicted following an injury or physical condition that necessitated a prescription.
In the brain, morphine binds to molecules on opined receptors on the central nervous system, effectively altering various automatic processes such as blood pressure, respiration, and arousal. Most importantly, it changes how our brain perceives pain. This is the basis for its analgesic use, of which it indeed has much potential, but this relief often transcends into a euphoria that cannot be resisted, or managed, by the individual. Tolerance builds quickly and dependency often leads to, and exacerbate, an array of medical, legal, and financial issues. Heroin use alters brain functions that regulate decision making skills, making us even less likely to break the cycle ourselves, which is what makes heroin so addictive.
Today’s Heroin Epidemic
Since it was introduced in cough syrups in the early 1900s, heroin has become a major problem for societies all around the world, and for the last 70 or so years, heroin abuse in the United States has plagued more and more people, with the demographics becoming increasingly younger and more varied economic class wise.
The bottom line?
Anyone can fall into heroin addiction.
But anyone can break free from it as well. Over the years, various rehab programs, inpatient and outpatient, have proven successful by utilizing a combination psychotherapies and pharmaceuticals to steer addicts toward healthy living, with appropriate consideration of the addict’s time and financial availability.
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