The feeling of heroin use is impossible to describe.
While heroin users can attempt to explain the feeling of heroin and why they became addicted to that feeling, the actual feeling is beyond description. This is because it is outside of the range of normal human experience. When you take heroin, your brain is temporarily chemically altered. There is no way to fully reproduce that feeling without taking more heroin. That is the foundation of heroin addiction. The heroin user remembers the feeling of the first time they used heroin as being the best feeling in the world. While you may never recapture the feeling of the first time, you will feel compelled to keep trying. This is similar to other drug addictions, including cocaine addiction. Yet, heroin has the additional burden of physical dependence, meaning that quitting involves going through severe physical discomfort.
How bad is heroin dependence and addiction?
There was a time when heroin use was less prevalent. You could go through life and never meet anyone who had ever used heroin. It was easy to think of people who used heroin as “those heroin addicts” and have an image of an emaciated, destitute person living under a bridge amongst garbage in a crime-ridden area. These days, heroin use seems to be common. Chances are that you do know people who use heroin or have used it in the past. You may not know that they have had a heroin abuse issue. In fact, a person struggling with heroin addiction can give the appearance of living a normal life. They go to work, go home, raise their children, pay their bills. There is no need to go to the bad part of town to meet the dealer. The dealer will meet you at your door or even at Starbucks. They may even send an Uber with your delivery that you have paid for with Venmo or some other easy pay app. Heroin, unfortunately, has become mainstream. Yet, it is no less bad than it used to be. Heroin is, in fact, far worse than ever. Instead of potent black tar heroin derived from the poppy, today’s heroin is blended, or even replaced, with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that, when injected or snorted, can easily induce a deadly overdose.
Is heroin addiction and bad teeth – why does heroin destroy your teeth?
If you are using heroin, bad teeth are the least of your worries. The risk of accidental deadly overdose is very high. If you accidentally take a very high dose because your tolerance level dips or the dealer gave you the strong stuff, you can stop breathing. If no one nearby has Narcan to give you, you will likely die of a heroin overdose. This is so prevalent these days that one county in Maryland has put up a billboard on the side of the road that posts the local overdose death count. The number keeps going up. However, it is important to be aware of heroin facts and myths as well as myths about related opioids and treatment drugs. Heroin does not damage your teeth. Poor dental hygiene while in the grips of active heroin addiction may a more likely cause of cavities and other dental problems. Methadone, a potent heroin addiction treatment drug, does not damage teeth either. Unfortunately, methadone has a bad reputation and is blamed for damaging teeth and getting into your bones. Neither is true. While methadone does have risks, it does not hurt your teeth. It is, in fact, one of several excellent treatment options for heroin addiction.
What are some signs of heroin use? Heroin track marks?
If you suspect that someone you know is using heroin, there are some signs to look for. With any drug use disorder, there may be mood swings and a general loss of control in the person’s personal life. Many heroin users are able to survive and hold their work life together until things get really bad, but home life is more likely to deteriorate sooner. Specifically, look for pinpoint pupils. This can be a sign of opioid use. If the person goes through frequent periods of flu-like sickness, this could indicate heroin use and intermittent withdrawal symptoms when they can’t get heroin. The lack of these periods of sickness do not mean the person is not using heroin. Heroin withdrawal will not occur if they are able to get more heroin on a regular basis. For users who inject the drug, look for signs of bruising, swelling and scarring around areas where there are veins, such as the front of the elbow region or the hands. The lack of skin changes does not mean that a person is not using heroin. Snorting the drug is becoming more common.
Is trying heroin really bad? Is heroin really addictive?
Yes, heroin is bad. While it is chemically similar to morphine, which is used in hospitals to treat pain, it is not the same. Street heroin can change your life significantly and in a very bad way. Even if it does not kill you, it can, in a very short time, give you a serious chronic disease. A single use of heroin can leave you with a condition known as opioid use disorder, which you will have to deal with for the rest of your life. Patients who come in to the doctor for opioid addiction treatment are often relieved to find that they are otherwise physically healthy. Even if they have not caused themselves to contract HIV or hepatitis C, or caused irreversible damage to their heart valves, they are in no way out of the woods. Heroin addiction, a form of opioid use disorder, is a chronic disease. It does not go away, even when it is being treated successfully. Left untreated, it can be as deadly as any other serious treatable, but deadly illness. Heroin addiction has been compared to HIV in this way. Both conditions are often death sentences if not treated. And, there is medical treatment for both that works and can allow the patient to live a long, productive, happy and fulfilling life.
How does medication-assisted treatment work?
In addition to behavioral therapies that can be provided by a psychotherapist, there are several excellent medications that are used in long-term treatment of heroin and opioid addiction. Medications such as methadone and Suboxone can allow a person to live a normal life, without the sickness and obsessions that go with active addiction. Naltrexone is another medication that is used to treat opioid addiction. To varying degrees, these treatment drugs block opioid receptors and, with the exception of naltrexone, activate the receptors as well. These medications can be used safely long-term.
What is the first step to treating addiction to heroin and other drugs?
The first step is to see a doctor with experience in treating opioid dependence and addiction in general. In the short-term, if you start medical treatment for heroin dependence, you will quickly feel better and start to function normally with respect to your daily life activities. The improvements are dramatic and happen fast. When you start to feel better, it is important to commit to continuing treatment. Addiction is not cured by medication-assisted treatment. Continuing therapy and doctor visits on a regular basis is the key to ongoing success in your recovery.