Our view of what a heroin addict or what someone suffering from addiction looks like has changed quite a bit over the years, and heroin is much more involved in today's society than it once was.
What I mean by that is that heroin used to be a very taboo topic, drug -- maybe not alot of people knew somebody who was suffering from heroin addiction. But now, we are starting to realize it can be a family member, a friend -- due to the opioid epidemic we are seeing a lot more heroin.
So what is heroin?
Heroin is an opioid drug that's been extracted from the opium poppy plant.
It also is classified as a schedule 1 narcotic. What that means is that there’s absolutely
no recognized medical value, and it’s highly abusable.
So why is heroin so addictive?
When somebody ingests heroin there is a surplus
of dopamine, and dopamine will of course create a euphoric state. But dopamine is also used as a learning neurotransmitter.
So when somebody ingests heroin, what happens
is the brain stores that in its memory bank, and dopamine is released, and the individual
learns to continue to participate in the behavior.
You might be asking yourself what does heroin
Now the first time somebody uses heroin that individual will feel a rush from the first hit. They can feel a warm, fuzzy, cozy state. Also psychologically, they are going to experience escape from physical, mental, and emotional pain. And this state can last up to 4 or 5 hours.
After continued use, the brain will begin
to organize around having a constant flow of the chemical being introduced into the
So the brain is going to adapt.
And what’s gonna happen is, with the chemicals
changing in the brain to tolerate the substance, when you remove the substance there’s gonna be a message sent to the Central Nervous System which is gonna create withdrawal symptoms.
Now withdrawal symptoms -- this can be a range
of many different things: Nausea, muscle cramps, anxiety, fever, diarrhea, a lot of flu like
symptoms, and then plus the emotional effects of being withheld from the chemicals.
Now that you kind of know what heroin feels
like, how does somebody get addicted?
We are starting to hear a lot of the same
narrative over and over again. And this is why they are such a problem now. Usually what we’ll hear is somebodys first exposure to opioids, opiates, heroin is gonna be pills.
So how does this normally start?
Maybe somebody gets introduced in the school
yard, a friend has it, maybe a tennager or adolescent finds some pills in the medicine
Oftentimes we’ll hear about people just getting injured, and they end up in the hospital. And they end with a prescription.
And if somebody has the need to escape -- they’re
predisposed for that escapism, once they start to ingest this they become dependent on it. Physically dependent on it but also mentally
and emotionally dependent on the substance.
So, this is how we can see somebody who starts
off with like “Yeah I just ended up in the Emergency room” to “Well now the doctor is cutting me off” to “Well, maybe I'll buy some black market pills'' to “What do
you mean you’re all out of pills?... Okay let's try heroin.”
And this is the progression that we are hearing
time and time again.
Oftentimes now we are hearing that it'll progress
And because of fentanyl, the US is seeing
a much greater explosion of overdoses.
Fentanyl being much stronger than heroin, and oftentimes the user not even realizing that what they’re getting has fentanyl in it.
Regardless of whether somebody is smoking,
snorting, injecting heroin, what eventually happens is the substance -- the heroin -- becomes
the individual's sole priority.
Over time in that person's brain hierarchy, when it comes to survival, heroin will become the number one top priority -- above everything
And what that means is that all of a sudden where Im gonna sleep tonight -- Shelter -- is no longer a priority.
Food -- what I'm gonna eat, who I associate with; when the brain's perception is “the drug is what i need to survive” then everything
else will be a far far second.
And this is the all encompassing disease of addiction.
And because of that we can look for indicators and cues. We can see red flags if somebody is using heroin.
So how can I really tell if somebody’s using heroin?
Changes in behavior. For example, a loss of energy, a loss of appetite,
memory problems, nodding out while you’re talking to somebody.
Which will consist of somebody pretty much falling asleep while they’re standing there or you’re having a conversation with them.
Tiny small pupils are usually a pretty good indicator.
We can also look at how withdrawal symptoms will affect somebody and also be those indicators that somebody is using heroin.
Nervousness, nausea, shakiness, anxiousness are all withdrawal symptoms.
We can also look for certain indicators to see how somebody is ingesting heroin. An obvious one is needle marks, track marks if somebody is an IV user. A real common one is a very dry voice or cough associated with smoking heroin.
So what does heroin look like?
It can be a brown powder or a white powder, it can also be a brown sticky substance that's referred to as black tar heroin.
Some heroin street names are boy, horse, white horse, black tar, brown, smack, dog food, and H. All of these things can let you know
that maybe something's up.
The life of active addiction comes with a great deal of suffering. Nobody chooses to suffer. That’s not the way we were designed.
What happens is heroin or any other substance like heroin creates a false sense of safety and security.
And over time the brain is gonna organize around this message to the point where to be away from heroin or the drugs is terrifying. It tells my brain a message. That I'm now compromised -- my life is threatened.
And because of that, somebody who is in active addiction, it’s gonna make it really difficult for them to ask for help or treatment. Because that’s the brain trying to survive.
But there's hope!
People do recover from heroin addiction, and
put their lives back together, and put their disease into remission.
However, it is a process. And it starts with a medical detox. The withdrawals from heroin can be painful. And it can last up to 10 days. Supervision and support is critical during a heroin detox.
Next, is a recovery process addressing biological,
social, psychological, spiritual needs that the individual now has the opportunity to
With the detox, the treatment, the growth what will happen is where somebody will come from a state of suffering and survival, they
will now have the best possible outcome at life and joy in their life and true happiness
We can help you with that. If you or anyone you know suffers from heroin addiction or any kind of substance use disorder, we are here to help you.
This is Rob Mo with Tree House recovery. Please like, check out some other videos, and again if you know anybody, or you’re suffering let me help you out. Give us a call.