What Is Heroin Addiction?
Someone can suffer from heroin addiction even if they don’t have physical dependence. Nevertheless, physical dependence is a very common part of heroin addiction. In the short term, heroin makes users feel good and relieves pain and stress. However, the body gets used to the drug really fast and builds a tolerance. That means the next time you take it, you need a higher dose to get the same effects. Eventually, your body gets to the point it needs heroin just to function normally, so quitting causes painful side effects called withdrawals.
Effects of Heroin Addiction
Heroin addiction has many unpleasant physical, mental and behavioral symptoms. The most notable are the withdrawals caused by physical dependence. If someone with a physical dependence quits taking heroin, they may experience:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sleep problems
- Severe pain in muscles and bones
- Twitching and trembling
- Anxiety and depression
- Severe heroin cravings
Additionally, long-term heroin use due to heroin addiction damages the body in a number of ways. It can cause liver and kidney disease, lung problems like pneumonia, sexual dysfunction in men and irregular menstruation in women, infection of the heart, and insomnia. The method of use may cause problems too. Injections can cause veins to collapse and repeated snorting can damage nasal tissue.
Studies have also shown that long-term heroin use also hurts the brain. In fact, it decreases white matter and affects decision making, impulse control and how you cope with stress. This can cause behavioral problems at school and work, lead to financial issues and start conflicts in relationships. More importantly, it can make it more difficult to quit taking heroin, reinforcing the addiction.
Causes of Heroin Addiction
Heroin releases chemicals in the brain that cause pleasurable feelings called euphoria. This relieves physical pain as well as stress and anxiety. As a result, people suffering from high amounts of pain, stress or anxiety are at risk for heroin addiction. For example, this could mean a past physical injury. Someone may become addicted to prescription painkillers but eventually turn to heroin. Similarly, conditions like poverty and abuse that cause anxiety and depression are risk factors for heroin addiction.
Genetics also play a role. Someone’s genes may determine how they react to heroin and how quickly they build a tolerance. Plus, genetic factors help determine how impulsive a person is and how they cope with stress. Even though these genes are just a small part of the picture, they can put someone at risk for heroin addiction in combination with other circumstances. Due to the genetic factors, a family history of addiction, whether to heroin or other drugs, puts someone at risk.
Finally, peer pressure is a major cause of heroin addiction. Spending time or having close relationships with others who suffer from heroin addiction can put you at risk.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Heroin is one of the most powerful drugs, and breaking its addictive cycle is difficult without professional treatment. Part of this is due to physical dependence. Those who suffer from heroin addiction may need medical detox or a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program to work through withdrawals.
In medical detox, a treatment professional supervises you 24/7 to make sure you are safe and comfortable while you get the heroin out of your system. In an MAT program, you take a medication like methadone that replaces heroin in your system. This eases withdrawals, and then you can slowly wean off the methadone too.
Researchers have also discovered a number of methods to treat the behavioral aspects of heroin addiction. These usually involve proven counseling techniques like the 12-Steps and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). These teach you healthier coping skills and impulse control so you can more easily say no to heroin.
Getting these treatments means attending a rehab program where well-trained professionals can help you on your path to recovery. Luckily, this can be done on an outpatient basis with a customized program built around your needs and your schedule. Counselors and other treatment professionals can address your personal situation and the specific stressors and risk factors in your life. Call Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today to start designing your personalized outpatient treatment program.
Northeast Addition Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.