Many people do not understand the typical heroin user. Heroin use does not only happen under bridges and in back alleys, it is a street drug but that does not mean that users are people who live on the streets.
Heroin is a potent opioid drug, is considered to be highly addictive. Morphine and heroin are chemically related opioid drugs. Morphine is legal and it is used frequently in the medical field. Heroin is illegal and only sold on the streets. While heroin, along with other opioids, is considered to be highly addictive, the fact is that not everyone who tries heroin becomes addicted. Heroin itself cannot turn just anyone into a heroin addict. There are people who have a predisposition to becoming addicted to heroin. There is a genetic component as well as environmental factors, such as childhood emotional or physical abuse.
Heroin is an analgesic, meaning it covers up pain. The pain covered up by heroin can be physical or emotional. Some people who are in pain and try heroin enjoy the feeling of euphoria and temporary freedom from pain. This can lead to a malignant habit that is called addiction.
When a person becomes addicted to heroin, their brain changes. The brain is adaptable and can adjust to learn at a deep level what is vitally important for survival. It hijacks the reward system of the brain that is intended to help us learn to survive in our environment. When a person is addicted to heroin, the entire focus of all of their thoughts is on how to get more. It becomes an all encompassing, consuming obsession. Scoring more feels like coming up for a breath after diving to the bottom of a deep pool. As you can imagine, heroin addiction is not a pleasant experience.
While heroin itself provides a euphoric experience, the life of a person addicted to it quickly becomes a nightmare. Leaving the house to go to work without any more supply can feel like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. You have to figure out how to get a parachute from someone else on the way down before you hit the ground.
After using heroin the first time, you will still be able to get high from using it. Yet, most users describe the experience going forward as always chasing after that first high. After a while, most users say that the high goes away. The only reason they continue to use heroin is to not get sick and to feel ‘normal.’
One of the features of opioid dependence is the issue of physical dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms. When a person stops taking them, not only do they have to deal with the psychological addiction, they also face severe physical symptoms as well. The symptoms of physical opioid withdrawal start out with acute withdrawal symptoms, such as runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. As it progresses over the withdrawal timeline, there are chills, aches, cold sweats. Further in, there are severe muscle cramps and muscle twitching, including restless leg syndrome. Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea are also common.
Many opioid users describe the restless leg syndrome symptoms, such as uncontrollable leg movements and kicking at night while they try to sleep as being the worst of their symptoms. As the opioid withdrawal symptoms reach their peak by about the third day, intense cravings will set in. There is the overwhelming obsession with getting more heroin or another opioid to relieve the withdrawal syndrome. Just one more time will make it all go away for a while longer. This is what makes heroin abuse so difficult to quit.
These physical withdrawal symptoms occur over a backdrop of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other psychological symptoms. Imagine how difficult it must be to quit heroin cold turkey. If heroin or other opioids are available, most people would give in at some point and take more opioids to stop the suffering of withdrawal. Quitting opioids cold-turkey has a high risk of relapse and it is a long and difficult process with a low success rate.
With medication-assisted treatment, the success rates are far better and the withdrawal period is very short. For example, in most cases, a patient can start Suboxone, Subutex, or a similar buprenorphine-based medication within about 24-hours after quitting heroin. While there is a period of some hours of withdrawal discomfort, it is far easier than days or weeks of opioid withdrawal. With methadone, treatment can be started right away. On the same day that the patient quits heroin, they can start taking methadone. Of course, the downside of methadone is that you have to go to the clinic every morning to get your dose. With Suboxone, on the other hand, you can go monthly after your doctor stabilises your treatment.
While it may depend on availability of treatment in your area, you may be able to get started right away. Most importantly, you should not postpone getting started with medication-assisted treatment if you are misusing opioids, such as heroin. Now is the time to get started with a medical detox program, so you can feel better, get back to normal functioning with improved mental health and work towards overcoming your opioid dependence.
At UK Detox we work with a wide range of rehabilitation facilities and detox centres around the country to suit your needs and circumstances and provide home detox’s. We are a premier service with an extremely high success rate, offering addicts the opportunity to get clean and sober and live a successful life. We are living proof that it is achievable and now we are here to help you on your journey into recovery.
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