Heroin is a powerful opioid made from morphine. People use it by injecting, smoking, or snorting it. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.”
Due to this, people who use heroin tend to feel a pleasurable “rush” and feelings of happiness or calm. After the initial effects, people may feel drowsy. Their mental functioning tends to become cloudy and heart rate and breathing slows. This respiratory depression can become life-threatening.
According to NIDA, “Heroin often contains additives, such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk, that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage.” These days, almost all heroin sold includes fentanyl, which is a dangerous synthetic opioid. In 2017, nearly 60% of all overdose deaths involved fentanyl.
People may first use prescription opioids and then start using heroin, or they may go straight to heroin. Research from 2011 showed that 80% of people who used heroin had first misused an opioid prescription. However, in a 2017 study of people in treatment for opioid use disorder, one-third reported that heroin was the first opioid they’d used.
Whichever way people came to heroin, recovery is always possible. Many people with opioid use disorder receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT); this is the use of medications like Suboxone or Vivitrol—often in combination with behavioral therapies—to help curb cravings and lessen withdrawal symptoms.
If you are struggling with an opioid use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. We offer MAT (Suboxone and Vivitrol) to help you gradually feel free from substances and find peace in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.