Effects of Heroin on the Brain

In the past, heroin was used as a prescription painkiller, but it was made illegal in the 20th century because of its highly addictive nature. Today, it’s defined as a Schedule 1 drug. In 2015, there were more than 13,000 deaths involving heroin. From 2002 to 2015, deaths attributed to the drug increased 6-fold. With today’s ongoing opioid crisis, a growing number of people have started to use the drug.

Heroin is an opioid that is made from morphine, a naturally occurring substance that can be found in opium poppy plant seeds. The drug can be injected, snorted, or smoked, and those who are highly addicted to heroin often mix it with crack cocaine to achieve an even stronger (and more dangerous) high.

Like all harmful substances, heroin impacts the major organs in the body, especially the brain. Long-term heroin use can lead to irreversible damage to various parts of the brain. If someone you know is addicted to heroin , it’s important to understand the health implications of the drug, as well as the best way to go about finding treatment.

Signs of Heroin Use

Someone who is addicted to heroin has a physical dependence on the drug. Because of this, the body exhibits all sorts of symptoms that are telltale signs that your loved one is addicted. The most common signs of heroin addiction include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Weight loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Lack of personal hygiene

As with most addicts, those addicted to heroin often lie about their drug use and are in denial that they are addicted to the substance. If you find any heroin-related paraphernalia, like a white powdery substance or needles, burned spoons, or a glass pipe, chances are your loved one is addicted to heroin and needs immediate assistance.

Effects of Heroin Addiction

The implications of heroin use and abuse vary, from person to person, depending on how much heroin is used, how often it’s used, and other drugs that may also be taken. Short-term side effects include mood swings, loss of appetite, dry mouth, flushing of the skin, and slowed breathing. Prolonged use of heroin causes symptoms to become much more severe.

Long-term heroin use can cause skin disease, liver disease, and even kidney disease. Misuse or sharing of needles can lead to Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV—health conditions that can be fatal if left untreated. Over-injection of the drug can cause the veins to collapse or become extremely scarred. Most addicts start by injecting in their arms but, over time, must use other areas of the body to successfully inject the drug.

Can Heroin Cause Brain Damage ?

While heroin use impacts other areas of the body, it most notably impacts the brain. When used, heroin enters the brain very quickly and binds to the opioid receptors. These receptors control heart rate, breathing, and sleeping, as well as feelings including pain and pleasure.

Heroin also impacts the risk/reward system of the brain, which, in turn, causes a decrease in serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters that are produced. Disrupted levels of neurotransmitters can cause mood swings, depression, and anxiety.

Since heroin causes the brain to artificially release neurotransmitters, addicts experience withdrawal symptoms if they’re unable to take heroin when the brain needs it. Withdrawal causes flu-like symptoms, including chills, body aches, fatigue, nausea, and even depression.

According to studies, heroin use causes brain damage that’s often only seen in Alzheimer’s patients . Because heroin changes the natural structure of the brain’s reward system, the brain’s function is impacted.

Heroin addicts also risk further brain damage because of the lack of oxygen. The drug causes depressed breathing, which means less blood is moved throughout the body. A lack of oxygen in the brain can cause brain damage, as well as damage to other vital organs.

Studies continue to be conducted to better understand the long-term effects of heroin addiction. While heroin abuse does damage the brain, some of this damage may be reversible, but, at the least, the damage and its impact can be managed. In fact, most people who overcome heroin addiction are able to lead full and healthy lives.

To prevent serious brain damage, if you or someone you know suffers from heroin addiction, seek help immediately. Finding a local detox center is the best chance for you or a loved one to break free from the chains of addiction.

How to Help Someone with Heroin Addiction

If someone you know is battling an addiction to heroin, it’s hard to know how to address the issue, let alone help your loved one. More often than not, addicts want to stop using but don’t know how to stop. More importantly, many don’t want to experience withdrawal symptoms.

One of the best things you can do is to learn everything you can about heroin so that you can better understand what your loved one is facing. Understand the heroin health effects, as well as how you can help your loved one get the treatment they need.

Addiction is an uphill and life-long battle, but, with the right support system, the disease can be overcome.

The next step is to look for detox centers in the area. A reputable detox facility is the safest place for your loved one to be during their battle to end addiction and reach sobriety. Encouraging your loved one to quit cold turkey may seem like a good idea, but most addicts who quit a hard drug like heroin on their own often relapse. It’s best to seek professional help from a detox facility that is experienced in helping those with heroin addiction.

Since the road to recovery can be long and sometimes bumpy, it’s crucial that you’re available to support your friends or family members throughout their journeys. Give them the courage and confidence that they need to get through this rough patch. Be a listening ear on those tough days when the voices of addiction creep back into the picture.

Knowing that someone you love is dealing with addiction is tough, but getting them to go to treatment for detox is even harder. Some families stage an intervention, while others wait until their loved ones are ready to put an end to their addictions. Since it’s hard to force people to want to end their bad habits, the best thing you can do is to talk to your loved ones, express your concern, and open doors that allow them to get the treatment they need.

Addiction Doesn’t Have to Control Your Life

There are dozens of South Florida detox centers, but, if you’re looking for a facility that will help you or a loved one regain control and get on the road to recovery, look no further than South Florida Detox Center.

We offer an outpatient detox program as well as Suboxone treatment that minimizes the withdrawal symptoms that your loved one will experience. We work with each of our clients and their doctors to ensure the best detox program is used.

Don’t go another day under the influence of heroin addiction. With the right detox treatment and support system, you, too, can be on the road to recovery. Call us today at (561) 337-6842 to schedule a low-cost visit.

Sources

1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

2. http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=7759

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