Heroin use has risen greatly over the past decade, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that heroin abuse increased by 63 percent between 2002 and 2013. The number of overdoses has increased as well, further raising the death toll of this drug. This also marks the rising need for heroin addiction treatment.
Heroin is an opioid that is listed as a Scheduled I substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration, due to its highly addictive and lethal nature. Heroin itself can cause respiratory depression, pinpoint pupils, constipation, pruritis and a very strong dependence and addiction. Heroin is often injected intravenously increasing the risk for bloodborne communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.
The Effects of Heroin Use
Perhaps the most noticeable effects of heroin abuse are the consequences it has on one’s attitude and interpersonal relationships. Because of heroin’s effects on neurotransmitters and opioid receptors in the brain, the user’s reward system is considerably affected, often leading to a loss of motivation as well as apathy toward once enjoyable activities and relationships. This and other factors can make intervention and recovery difficult for heroin users.
After prolonged use, a larger amount of heroin is needed each time to attain a high. When the body is depleted of heroin, physical withdrawal symptoms can occur and, although not life threatening, these symptoms are extremely uncomfortable. This discomfort compels individuals to use the drug just to relieve the withdrawal symptoms, resulting in a vicious addiction cycle. Withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea, bone pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Quitting heroin use is extremely difficult because of the withdrawal effects caused by this addictive substance.
Medication For Heroin Addiction Treatment
Many pharmacological agents that work on the same opioid receptors as heroin are used to aid in heroin addiction treatment. Agonists are agents that are similar in structure and function to the actual drug, whereas antagonists act on the same receptor as the drug but block the drug from binding to its receptor, thereby inhibiting its effects. Methadone, naltrexone and Suboxone can be used to treat opioid dependence by reducing the side effects of withdrawal and curbing cravings which can lead to relapse.