Heroin is highly addictive, incredibly destructive, and notoriously difficult to quit. Derived from Morphine and first developed in the late 19th century as a pain reliever, Heroin found it’s way to becoming a controlled substance in 1914, and is widely considered to be the most abused opiate. Heroin comes in many forms. Heroin’s pure form is a white, bitter powder – although it can vary in appearance depending on manufacturing impurities and presence of different additives.
Most street heroin is “cut” by dealers with other drugs or substances such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk. There have also been documented instances of it being cut with strychnine or other poisons. People buying street heroin risk overdose or death because they don’t know the actual strength of the drug they buy.
It is very easy to become addicted to heroin because it creates such a strong physical dependence. Heroin addiction is powerful, often taking over the user’s life so that their primary focus becomes obtaining more heroin. Heroin causes a temporary feeling of euphoria, but has side effects that include dry mouth, skin flushing, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, and itching, all in varying degrees of severity. Drowsiness can persist for several hours after initial use, and if too much is taken, heart function and breathing can stop entirely, resulting in death.
How to stop?
Stopping heroin use abruptly is always unpleasant. Because of the strong physical dependence that using heroin creates, the withdrawal symptoms are often overwhelming. This is why few people are able to stop using heroin, unless they undergo medical detoxification followed by a supervised treatment program. To minimize heroin cravings and the accompanying withdrawal symptoms, medically supervised detox programs utilize medications such as methadone and Suboxone to help heroin addicts gradually wean off heroin and prepare to participate in therapeutic recovery programs. Detox is great for limiting withdrawal symptoms, but it’s only the first step in recovery. Attempting to be successful in detox without any follow-up care will only set recovering users up for future relapse.
The next step is to enroll in a drug rehabilitation program. This is where the most work is done to address and remove the root causes of the substance abuse. Through counseling, individual and group therapy, and incorporation of twelve-step programs, the addict is able to fully realize the damage their addiction has done and learn the proper skills to regain control of their lives. Inpatient rehabilitation programs have a proven track record of helping users overcome their addiction and return to happy, healthy lives.
After detoxification and a successful treatment program, the next step is a solid aftercare plan. Some people choose to continue on with therapy or counseling, most often remain involved in twelve-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous. The key thing to remember is that recovery doesn’t end when treatment does. It’s something that has to continue to remain effective. The tools you learn in treatment will help you for the rest of your life to avoid temptation, properly deal with stress, and create a much needed structure that will enable you to live a life free from the clutches of addiction.
Can you cure a heroin addiction? Well, no addict or alcoholic is ever truly cured, but with the right mindset and a proper recovery plan, people go on to live their lives heroin-free everyday. If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to heroin, seek help immediately. The road to recovery always starts with a first step.