Heroin is the most notoriously corrupt drug in this world we live in. There are a myriad of movie scenes glorifying a heroin-addicted protagonist in them. There are endless novels and memoirs written on heroin and its effects. The mysteriously powerful drug has been made even more popular by current pop culture. It is perceived as the most enigmatic drug to have ever existed in history.

Heroin Deaths

Deaths linked to heroin overdoses are becoming so prevalent that they have simply lost the shock factor they once had in the 1990’s. In fact, the term “heroin chic” was invented in the ’90’s in an attempt at advertising the unhealthy, bone-thin look to models and girls who aspired to look like models. However, this popular street drug has made its come back since the ’90’s and has become a slow, insidious killer that has destroyed countless lives. We see the personal horror stories of so many addicts exploited all over the internet due to this drug; even cherished celebrities are included in the mix. We see these futile attempts at deterring today’s youth from heroin sometimes backfiring. How did heroin come into existence and what is contributing to the increase of its use? Looking into the history of heroin can provide some information.

Heroin History

Morphine was first manufactured in the 1850’s as a mistaken solution to opium addicts, supposedly as a “non-addictive” substitute for opium. Of course, this strategy backfired and soon enough the gravity of morphine addiction followed as an even bigger issue than opium. This failure was even further complicated by another “solution” under the guise of yet another drug. This other drug was the infamous heroin. The result? Heroin confirmed to be even more addictive than morphine, causing it to now be known as one of the most dangerously addictive substances on the planet.

It has turned into the most accessible and cheapest way for the people who end up becoming addicted to their opiate prescription painkillers to get their fix once their prescription runs out. Not only that, but it is now one of the major street drugs ranking as the second most harmful drug in the world. Harmful is a strong word, but heroin is an even stronger substance with a high reported to induce the most intense euphoria there is.

Heroin: Routes of Administration

There are a few ways to administer heroin. One of these ways is smoking it; another is snorting or sniffing it. However, the most common way to do heroin remains by injecting it, which creates the strongest and most potent effect of all. Not only is sticking a needle into your arm the most common form of administration, but it is also the most dangerous. The risk involved in this unhygienic activity can be collapsed veins, which can lead to infections of the blood vessels and heart valves.

Sharing needles can lead the user to contracting AIDS or other contagious infections as well. Additionally, it is reported that about 70% of the 35,000 people who get Hepatitis C2, a liver disease, each year in the U.S. are from sharing heroin needles.

Heroin Withdrawal: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Like all things in life, success can be hard work. This truism is extended to the success of recovering from an addiction to heroin. It is a tough state of affairs when one is withdrawing from heroin, but the person need not go through it again should they decide to remain clean and sober once and for all. Heroin withdrawal is an intensely painful process, normally peaking anywhere between 48 to 72 hours into the process. It starts within 8 hours after giving up the drug. The withdrawal symptoms can last up to a week. The longer someone is hooked to heroin, the worse the withdrawal will be, as it is with any detox situation from any drug.

Though super painful, it is not unbearable and many people have even gone through heroin withdrawal cold turkey. The trick is to keep the addict distracted from the pain. The good news is that once the addict has gone through the detox process, the worst part of becoming clean from heroin is over with. After that, it is all about being able to cope with everyday life as your new sober self.

Heroin Use Signs & Symptoms

There are some signs to look out for if you suspect someone you know is addicted to heroin. These are depression, euphoria, mood swings, anxiety, avoiding people they were once close with, weight loss, scabs and/or bruises, prolonged sleeping sessions, lack of motivation, extreme itching, wearing either long sleeved shirts or long pants despite hot weather, track marks and nodding off during conversation. Obviously, there are factors, which could be unique to the individual; these symptoms could vary in combination or intensity depending. Because heroin addiction is probably the sneakiest type of addiction, it can go undetected for years that a person has a heroin habit. It is even difficult for people who live with them or are even married to them to detect that there is an addiction issue. That being said, if you suspect someone you know is a heroin addict, sometimes you have got to really dig deep to find what you’re looking for. It is definitely far from a typically overt kind of drug habit.

There are a lot of negative effects that come along with a long-term habit of using heroin. Some of these are skin diseases, liver diseases and kidney diseases, to name just a few. The health of a heroin addict is obviously at a very decreased level. Heroin addict can also cause tuberculosis. In addition, Arthritis has been linked to long-term heroin abuse.

The Scope of Heroin Addiction

The rate of addiction is unnervingly high. It is estimated that 1.5 million Americans are chronic users. Taking into consideration this does not even include the people who still use in a non-chronic fashion; this paints a picture that, somewhat like a car crash, is hard to look away from. It is the metaphorical car crash of this country’s heroin epidemic. This is compounded by the fact that more people are becoming addicted to prescription pills and, in turn, resort to using heroin. The urge to chase the dragon is a perpetual battle that heroin addicts deal with, even years into their sobriety. We hear stories of people giving up their dreams, their jobs, stealing money and possessions from their loved ones, all for the purpose of even a taste of heroin.

Even the notion of one last fix will drive an addict to these despicable actions. Yet it is this very notion that keeps the addict addicted. Heroin is a curse, which will always be there, but the addict can leave the trap anytime they want. Discipline seems to be the most powerful factor to keeping addicts clean. It is this discipline that draws the line between the addict who eventually becomes homeless or may simply die due to the abuse, and the once-addicted recovering addict who just has to cope with life in a more refined manner than they once did.

By Erica D'Arcangelo