Opioid addiction has become a public health crisis in the United States and abroad. Immense consumption has made it into a multi-billion dollar industry.

According to statistics, an estimated 13.5 million people abuses opioids, of which 9.2 million use heroin. Apart from being a nuisance on a country scale, it is often used to funnel funds into terrorist activities. So, in extension, heroin treatment solves a collective international problem, apart from the apparent health issues.

1. What is heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug prepared from morphine – a natural substance in the poppy seed pod of the various opium plants grown in Mexico, Colombia, and South Asia. Heroin looks like white or brown powder. It is also available as black tar heroin.

People consume heroin through injection, snorting, and smoking. There are several derivatives to the methods – such as mixing it with crack cocaine – also called speedballing.

2. Why is heroin so addictive?

Heroin is highly addictive. It binds to the brain’s opioid receptors and releases dopamine – a chemical associated with happiness and pleasure. However, the drug causes only a temporary reaction – some people want to enjoy this “happy feeling” for a longer time. If someone keeps taking opioids repeatedly, the brain stops producing dopamine naturally. As a result, the person has to increase the doses or the concentration to achieve the same level of good feeling or “high.” Ultimately they cannot function without the drug and become addicted.

Sometimes opioid use disorder starts with legal drugs like painkillers prescribed after an operation or injury. These drugs work in similar ways to heroin. If the addicted person cannot obtain them legally, they may shift to illegal drugs like heroin to achieve the same pleasurable feeling.

However, not all painkiller-takers become addicted and resort to illegal drugs like heroin.

3. Symptoms of opioid or heroin addiction

An addiction to a substance will lead to its abuse – that is, the uncontrolled use of that substance. It generally produces changes in behavior and social interaction. At first, it may not be evident because of the users’ conscious efforts to hide it. However, it becomes more apparent as the dose or frequency of use of the heroine increases. The different signs of heroin use include:

• Nervousness or tiredness

• Needle marks on the arm

• Collapsed veins

• Runny nose or nose sores (in persons inhaling the drug)

• Constipation

• Lessened sense of pain

• Infection of the heart lining and valves

• Garbled speech

• Constricted (smaller) pupils

• Depression

• Memory difficulties

The other less confirmatory indications include:

• Modifications in appearance or deterioration in personal cleanliness

• Complications at school or work

• Deviations in conduct, like abrupt concealment or violence

• Money problems – mostly missing money or requiring increasing amounts of money without any rational reason

• Unsafe or hazardous conduct

4. Risk of contracting STDs

Partaking in drug injection apparatus and having lessened decision-making capability can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

5. At-risk individuals

Addiction is not person-specific; anyone can get addicted to any substance. There are no particular parameters that depict a person to be at risk of becoming a substance abuser. However, a continuing opioid user is at risk of becoming an addict. Some of the factors that risk developing an addiction can be listed as follows:

• The domestic or individual history of dependence on other substances

• Substantial tobacco use

• Past severe depression or anxiety

• Being without a job

• Contact with high-risk persons or surroundings

• History of thrill-seeking conduct

It’s important to remember that a person can develop substance use disorder whether or not they show symptoms. Addiction is many-sided and can include emotional, hereditary, and environmental factors.

6. Medication-assisted treatment for heroin addiction

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) utilizes medicines, counseling, and behavioral therapies to offer a “whole-patient” method for managing substance use disorders. Medications used in MAT are permitted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These programs are clinically-driven and personalized to satisfy each patient’s requirements.

Some of the MAT medications used are as follows:

• Buprenorphine

• Naloxone

• Dolophine

• Methadose

• Naltrexone

Research shows that a mixture of medicine and therapy can effectively treat these disorders, and MAT can help sustain recovery for people with addiction problems. MAT is also used to avoid or decrease opioid overdose.

The final goal of MAT is the patient’s complete recovery so they may live a self-directed life. This treatment tactic has been shown to:

• Increase patient independence

• Prolong effectiveness of medication and counseling

• Lessen illegal opiate use and other unlawful activity

However, providing MAT isn’t possible by just any person or at home. It is best to contact a therapy clinic like Cooperative Recovery, offering customized and effective heroin treatment.