Heroin and Opiates
Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug. It is both the most abused and the most rapidly acting of the opiates.
How do I know if I have heroin problem?
Heroin Anonymous developed the questions below as a self-test to help determine whether you may have a heroin problem.
- Do you isolate yourself when using heroin?
- Have you ever used more heroin than you planned?
- Has your heroin usage interfere with your job or school?
- Do you find yourself concealing your heroin usage from others?
- Are you experiencing financial difficulties due to your heroin usage?
- Has your heroin usage caused problems with your partner/spouse or family?
- Do you wish you could stop using heroin and find that you are unable to quit?
- Have you experienced legal difficulties from your heroin usage and yet you continue to use?
- Do you consume the entire amount of heroin you have and then immediately desire to get more?
- Have you failed to cut down or quit heroin entirely?
- Do you wish you had never taken that first hit, line, or injection of heroin?
- Have you continued to use heroin even after you experienced an overdose?
- Do you fear other people will find out about your heroin usage?
- Are you preoccupied with getting heroin when you do not have it?
- Do you have to use larger amounts of heroin to get the same high you once experienced?
- Has anyone ever told you that you may have a problem?
- Have you ever lied or misled those around you about how much or how often you use heroin?
- Do you use heroin at work or in the bathroom in public facilities?
- Have you ever pawned something in order to buy heroin?
- Are you afraid that if you stop using heroin that you will not be able to function?
- Do you find yourself doing things that you are ashamed of in order to purchase heroin?
- Have you ever stolen drugs or money from family or friends in order to buy heroin?
If you answered “YES” to one or more of these questions, you may have a problem with heroin.
What is heroin and how is it used?
Heroin is an illegal, semi-synthetic drug processed from morphine, a substance extracted from the opium poppy. It is used as a recreational drug for the intense feelings of relaxation and euphoria it induces. Heroin is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as a black, sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.”
Most street heroin is “cut” with other drugs or with substances such as sugar or starch. Heroin can also be cut with poisons like strychnine.
Heroin is usually dissolved and injected, or the powder is snorted or smoked. All forms of heroin are psychologically and physically addictive, and a tolerance to the drug builds quickly. IV or intramuscular heroin use poses special problems because of the potential for transmitting infectious diseases.
Heroin is a significant drug of abuse in the United States—hundreds of thousands of people in our country are addicted. Over the past decade, researchers have observed a shift in heroin use patterns, from injection to snorting and smoking. With this shift comes an even more diverse group of users.
A recent study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed the number of individuals struggling with heroin addiction has increased by 90%—from 213,000 to 399,000—since 2007.
Heroin use statistics: “Monitoring the Future,” an annual survey published by the University of Michigan, found that:
- 14% of admissions to public-funded drug abuse programs in 2006 were for heroin.
- Heroin was involved in 189,780 emergency department visits in the U.S. in 2006.
- 70% to 80% of all new cases of Hepatitis C come from intravenous drug use.
Effects of Heroin Use
Short-term effects: Soon after administration, heroin crosses the blood-brain barrier. Users report feeling a surge of intense pleasure (a “rush”). This is usually accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities. Nausea, vomiting, and severe itching may also occur.
After the initial effects, the heroin user will typically be drowsy for several hours. Mental function is clouded by heroin’s effect on the central nervous system. Cardiac function slows. Breathing also slows—sometimes to the point of death.
List of short-term heroin effects
- Depressed respiration
- Flushed skin
- Clouded mental functioning/sedation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Suppression of pain
- Infectious diseases
Long-term effects: One of the most detrimental long-term effects of heroin abuse is addiction itself. Addiction is a chronic disease, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite negative consequences, and by changes in the brain. Heroin also produces profound degrees of tolerance and physical dependence, which contributes heavily to abuse. Painful withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced abruptly.
List of long-term heroin effects
- Overdose risk
- Infection of heart lining and valves
- Infectious diseases, for example, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis
- Depressed lung function
- Collapsed veins
- Abscesses (at injection sites)
- Problems with the heart, liver and kidneys
- Arthritis and other rheumatological problems
Treatment for Heroin and Opiate Addiction
Support Systems Homes provides a variety of effective treatments for addiction to heroin and other opiates (opioids). Some of these several may be used in conjunction, to best help you with recovery.
Detoxification/”Detox“: The primary objective of detoxification is to relieve withdrawal symptoms, stabilize participants and prepare them for longer-term treatment. Symptoms of withdrawal (most of which peak between 24-48 hours after the last use) include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps and uncontrollable leg movements.
Medications like Subutex may be used to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals supervise all medications given at Support Systems Homes treatment centers.
Residential drug rehab: Residential treatment participants come to live in a safe, supervised setting for 30 days or more. In our heroin treatment center, they can focus completely on recovering from their addiction. Participants receive drug education, individual counseling, group counseling, family counseling, introduction to community-based self-help groups and referrals to community resources.
Therapeutic communities: Research published by The National Institute On Drug Abuse states that one of the most effective drug-free treatments are the therapeutic community (TC) programs lasting 3 to 6 months. Therapeutic communities programs are residential, with participants and therapists living together.
At Support Systems Homes, our rehab clients receive therapy, education and practical activities. The program length gives participants the time they need to stabilize from their drug use to develop new, healthy behaviors and support networks.
Outpatient treatment: More intensive treatments may be followed by outpatient treatment—regular structured therapeutic groups and individual counseling several days a week, usually for several months. Outpatient participants have stabilized in terms of their drug use, and are appropriate for a level of care that isn’t monitored or structured 24/7.
Community-based self-help groups: Groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, along with non-12-step-based programs, are designed to help addicts attain long-term abstinence. Group members gain new tools and support networks to deal with their addictions.
Maintenance programs: Some heroin addicts do not find complete abstinence feasible. In these cases, a maintenance approach—providing a small dose of medication so individuals can function without going into withdrawal—is employed.
Support Systems Homes uses methadone, buprenorphine (Subutex) and levomethadyl in our maintenance programs.
Methadone: About 20% of heroin addicts in the U.S. receive methadone maintenance treatment. Methadone has been used to mitigate opiate addiction for over 45 years. Properly prescribed, methadone relieves heroin cravings; this is crucial, as craving is a major reason for relapse.
Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is used either for long-term maintenance or for medically supervised withdrawal (detoxification) from opioids. It has a higher degree of safety than with methadone and a less-symptomatic withdrawal syndrome. A doctor must prescribe and monitor the medication.
Levomethadyl (LAAM): Similar to methadone, though longer-acting LAAM is a synthetic opioid that can suppress symptoms of withdrawal. In 1993, the FDA approved the use of LAAM for treating clients addicted to heroin. Its long duration permits dosing just 3 times per week.
Need Help with Addiction?
Support Systems Homes
1202 Meridian Avenue
San Jose, CA 95125
Support Systems Homes was founded in 1990. Our intention has always been to provide high-quality rehab treatment solutions at an affordable rate. Our staff members have been actively involved in outreach and education programs throughout California for years.
For more information, please give us a call. We are available to assist you 24 hours a day.
Call Support Systems Homes at 408-370-9688 or 800-811-180.
Our Service Area
Support Systems Homes serves the Greater Bay Area of Northern California; as well as Santa Clara County, Alameda County, San Mateo County and San Francisco.
Some of the cities we serve include: Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Milpitas, San Jose, Santa Clara, San Leandro, and San Francisco.
Questions? We Have Answers – 24/7.
Call Support Systems Homes at 408-370-9688 or 800-811-1800.