The growing prevalence of heroin addiction is one more consequence of the opioid epidemic that has received much media attention in the past few years. Many people who began taking pharmaceutical opioids found themselves looking for a cheaper, quicker solution when the pills became too expensive or difficult to get. Heroin addiction treatment has made significant advancements in recent years. Therefore, even people who have tried treatment before without success might benefit from trying again. There are many long-term effects of heroin addiction; while some might seem obvious, others are less.
Basic Facts About Heroin and Its Side Effects
Heroin is an opioid produced from the opium poppy. It was developed initially in hopes of creating a drug similar to morphine but without the addictive side effects. However, heroin turned out to be stronger and even more addictive than other opioids. Heroin is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it is illegal in the United States and has no recognized legitimate medical uses.
There are a few methods of ingestion commonly used with heroin:
- Insufflation (snorting or sniffing)
All of these methods of ingestion are dangerous and can lead to side effects, including addiction. Some of the other common side effects of heroin use are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Reduced heart function
- Respiratory depression (slowed breathing)
Heroin addiction can significantly impact your health, well-being, and relationships. If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, please seek professional help.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use?
Over time, heroin can cause changes to brain function, which can be extremely difficult, even impossible, to reverse. These changes lead to a constellation of symptoms that clinicians sometimes call “heroin use disorder.” Various other effects can also occur in the body or as a result of the method of ingestion used.
Changes in Brain Function
The brain is the control center of the body and uses neurotransmitters and hormones to communicate to itself and the rest of the body. After a long period of time of using heroin, the brain’s communication systems can be drastically altered. Many brain and body functions can be compromised when these communication systems are not working correctly. Evidence suggests that long-term heroin use can damage a person’s white matter, leading to personality changes, difficulty with decision-making, and other significant cognitive issues.
Long-term effects of heroin use on your brain can also alter the brain’s reward system, making it difficult for a person to experience pleasure from anything other than the drug, leading to further drug cravings and addictive behavior. Additionally, chronic heroin use increases the risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use on the Body
Long-term use of heroin can impact many of the organs and systems of the body. The method of ingestion can also cause issues in its own right. For example, injecting heroin can put users at risk of the following:
- Infection by blood-borne pathogens such as HIV or hepatitis
- Increased risk of serious bacterial or fungal infections such as endocarditis
- Injection site-related infections that lead to abscesses
- Kidney disease
- Exposure to toxic contaminants from substances used to adulterate (cut) the heroin
What Is Heroin Use Disorder?
Heroin use disorder is a term that clinicians use to describe a deep state of addiction to heroin. Some of the symptoms of heroin use disorder are:
- Strong desire to use heroin regardless of consequences
- Preoccupation with the use of heroin to the detriment of other life circumstances
- The onset of withdrawal when heroin use stops
- Tolerance of the effects of heroin
- Unsuccessful attempts to quit using heroin
Heroin use disorder is a severe medical condition that requires treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of a heroin use disorder, reach out to our Spokane Falls Recovery Center team.
Spokane Falls Recovery Center Can Help with Long-Term Heroin Addiction
Spokane Falls Recovery Center offers holistic and individualized treatment for addiction. Our patients will receive a treatment plan specifically designed to work for them. We believe in working with each patient to find the right solution to help them achieve lasting recovery. If you or someone you care about has been struggling with heroin addiction, reach out to our caring and professional staff today at 844.962.2775.