Heroin Addiction Treatment in New Hampshire
Widespread opioid addiction is an issue that’s impossible to ignore. Over the last few decades, rampant opioid use has torn both families and communities apart.
In New Hampshire, the 2010s marked a significant rise in overdose deaths due to opioid use. These death counts peaked in 2015 when more than 400 people lost their lives as a result of an opioid-related drug overdose. While overdose death numbers in New Hampshire have declined since then, opioid use remains a top issue. When it comes to preventable overdose, the death of even one member of the New Hampshire community is too many.
Heroin use is still a major issue in New Hampshire and all along the East Coast. Unlike many prescription opioid drugs that have legitimate medical uses for pain management, heroin has no medical uses and is only created and used for its effects as an intoxicant.
To better understand what makes heroin so dangerous, it’s important to understand what the drug is, how it’s created, and how it affects the people who use it.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an extremely potent and addictive opioid drug that is derived from morphine. Morphine is created by extracting the drug from the seemingly harmless seeds of the opium poppy flower. These seedpods are processed into morphine and eventually heroin, which typically ends up in the form of a fine brown powder.
Because the manufacture and export of heroin is a massive business, vast fields of opium poppies are found in any part of the world where the weather allows them to grow. These giant fields are typically found in Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, as well as Central and South America. Most of the heroin that ends up on the streets of the United States originated from these regions.
Once morphine has been processed into heroin, it is referred to by many street names. Some of these names include:
Most commonly, heroin is sold as a fine white, tan, or brown powder. This pure powdered heroin is then mixed with non-drug powders in an effort to stretch the volume of the drug and increase the profit margin. This process is commonly known as “cutting” the drug.
Some of the non-drug powders that are commonly used in cutting include baby powder, corn starch, and powdered vitamins. As is the case with any unregulated street drug, the person buying the heroin has no way of knowing what potentially dangerous powder the heroin was mixed with.
Some heroin is processed into a dark, sticky substance known as “black tar” heroin. This type of heroin is generally believed to be even lower in purity than any other form. When it comes to heroin, purity is desirable because the more pure the drug is, the more intoxicating the effects.
Heroin can be taken in a number of different ways, including snorting, smoking, or injecting a solution of the drug intravenously (IV) or directly into the veins. While all of these methods carry their own risks, IV drug use carries the greatest risk of overdose because the drug is injected directly into the bloodstream. When a person consumes a drug orally, the body is able to process and attempt to discard the potentially harmful chemical through the intestines, liver, and kidneys. When a drug is injected directly into the bloodstream, the body is unable to metabolize it, leading to a potentially fatal overdose.
Short-Term Effects of Heroin Use
When a person uses heroin, they typically feel the effects almost instantly. The time it takes for the drug to take effect mainly depends on the method of use.
Because heroin is such a potent drug, there are many short-term signs to look out for that suggest a person is under the influence of the drug. The following is a list of signs that may suggest a person has recently used heroin:
- Flushed or reddening of the skin
- Increased body temperature and sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- A rush of euphoria or a “high” that may include elevated mood or energy
- Shivering or cold flashes
- Reduced mental awareness or general sluggishness
- A noticeable decrease in motor skills
- Dry mouth due to lack of saliva production
- Slowed breathing
- Severe itching due to heroin’s effect on nerve endings
How quickly a person starts to experience these effects, and for how long, depends on the amount and purity of heroin that has been taken. Many of these effects, such as vomiting, nausea, and itching, often start to go away as a person falls deeper into addiction.
Some of these effects are seen as pleasant or desirable and can be what leads to heroin addiction in the first place. Many people who use heroin continue to do so in an effort to capture the strong, euphoric feeling they felt the first time they used heroin. This is a situation known as “chasing the dragon.”
The person will continue to take the drug, more often and in higher amounts, to chase that initial high. Many people figure out that reaching that first high is impossible, but by the time they realize that, they have formed an incredibly strong physical and psychological dependence on the drug.
Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use
Along with the short-term effects mentioned above, heroin use has effects that only become apparent after a person has been using heroin for an extended period of time. Addiction affects everyone differently, but there are some common effects that a person can expect to experience after long-term heroin use. Some of these effects include:
- Increased tolerance to heroin, meaning the person will require more of the drug to achieve the same desired effects
- Physical and psychological dependence on heroin, leading to withdrawal symptoms when a person stops heroin use or if they aren’t taking enough
- Various emotional issues, such as anxiety and depression, can affect how a person reacts and behaves during stressful situations
- An increased risk of overdose due to more frequent use of the drug
- Impaired reasoning and decision-making skills
People who use heroin on a long-term basis are also at an increased risk for various health conditions such as:
- Kidney disease or a decrease in kidney function
- Heart problems such as irregular heartbeat and heart disease
- Issues with cognitive function (thinking skills) and damage to brain tissue
- Pneumonia and other lung issues
- Miscarriage and other pregnancy complications
- Infectious diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C in people who use the drug intravenously
Physical and Behavioral Signs of Heroin Addiction
It’s not always easy to identify heroin addiction. If you suspect you or a loved one may have developed a heroin addiction, there are certain behavioral and physical signs to look out for.
Some behavioral signs of heroin addiction may include:
- Intense anxiety, depression, or paranoia (fear others want to harm you)
- Lethargy or lack of motivation or energy
- Constant lying and generally secretive or suspicious behavior
- An increase in risky behaviors in the pursuit or use of heroin, often leading to troubles with the law
Some physical signs of heroin use may include:
- Red or bloodshot eyes as well as constricted or tiny pupils
- Sudden, rapid weight loss
- Other noticeable changes in appearance
- Extreme drowsiness and falling asleep at random times (also known as “nodding off” or the “nod”)
Heroin addiction can damage the parts of the brain that are responsible for decision making and lead to a reduced ability for the person to foresee the consequences of their actions. The need to use heroin can take priority over all other needs in such a way that leads to the person engaging in risky behaviors they would have never engaged in otherwise.
After an extended period of heroin use, the body adjusts to the constant presence of the drug. This is what’s known as physical dependence. When that person stops heroin use abruptly, there are negative physical and psychological symptoms known as withdrawal.
How long someone has used heroin, how it was used, and the amount that was used each time are all factors that play into the severity of withdrawal symptoms when the person stops heroin use.
Heroin is an opioid drug that can suppress some of the functions of the central nervous system such as breathing rate, heart rate, and body temperature regulation. Heroin works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, causing an increase in the chemicals responsible for pleasure. After extended opioid use, the brain begins to adjust to this newfound source of pleasure chemicals and stops producing them on its own. When heroin is removed from the equation, the brain and body are left to readjust, leading to the negative symptoms of withdrawal.
How long and how severe withdrawal will be will vary from person to person, but there are some symptoms that everyone will experience. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, and while they can be extremely uncomfortable, they are not generally seen as life-threatening.
Some of these symptoms may include:
- Abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Restlessness, agitation, and irritability
- Tremors and goosebumps
- Hypertension and rapid heart rate
- Muscle spasms and impaired breathing
- Anxiety, depression, and difficulty feeling positive feelings or pleasure
- Extreme drug cravings
Medication-Assisted Treatment Is a Powerful Tool to Treat Heroin Addiction
Here at Addiction Recovery Services of New Hampshire, we’re proud to offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as part of our wide range of services. MAT is the use of certain medications, in combination with behavioral therapies and counseling, to treat substance use disorders with an intensive approach that treats the whole person, not just their addiction.
MAT can be a very powerful tool in helping someone suffering from alcohol or opioid use disorder achieve long-term, lasting recovery. Medications used in MAT have all been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this purpose. These FDA-approved medications include buprenorphine for treating opioid addiction, Acamprosate for treating alcohol use disorder, and naltrexone, which is effective in treating addiction to either substance.
The goal in prescribing these medications is to relieve physiological cravings and normalize bodily functions while also preventing withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction Recovery Services Is Here to Help By Providing Compassionate Heroin Addiction Treatment
We know how difficult the decision to seek help can be. At Addiction Recovery Services of New Hampshire, we respect you before, during, and after your treatment. This includes respecting the path you choose to take toward long-term recovery.
Our mission is to never make you feel like a failure and to help you overcome any roadblocks you may have in your recovery journey. It’s hard to begin, and it can be hard to maintain long-term recovery, but we’ll be with you through every step in the process. The road to recovery is not always smooth, and it’s not always as short as we’d like. We’re here to help you no matter what that road looks like.
Get Started With Heroin Rehab at ARS
If you or someone you know is ready to begin recovery, let us know. ARS has multiple pathways to recovery, each defined by, and chosen based on, what the person in recovery needs.
Give us a call at 978-228-5853 and let’s see about starting you on the way to recovery.
Which medicine is best for heroin addiction treatment?
While there are no medicines that completely cure heroin addiction, there are some that have been shown to help people beat their addiction. When used in combination with behavioral therapies and counseling, buprenorphine has been shown to be effective in the treatment of heroin addiction.
Why would a doctor prescribe buprenorphine?
Buprenorphine is a drug that helps to curb opioid drug cravings and the effects of withdrawal. This allows for a person to focus on the underlying causes of addiction through a combination of behavioral therapy and counseling.
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