Health Effects of Heroin
Heroin (Diacetylmorphine) is a semi-synthetic opiate drug, made by chemically altering morphine. As with all man-made or chemically altered drugs, it is impossible to know for certain which substances have been added; which means there might be unforeseen side effects due to especially harmful additives. It also makes it difficult to determine the strength of any given batch of heroin, which can increase the risk of overdose.
What are the physical health effects of heroin?
Heroin is essentially a strong sedative, meaning that it initially gives the user a feeling of deep relaxation and peace as the drug acts as a suppressant on the central nervous system. After injecting heroin, many users experience extreme drowsiness and will often drift in and out of consciousness until the immediate effects of the drug wear off. One of the biggest risks of using heroin, even as a casual user, is that too strong a dose can suppress the body’s reflex to breathe to the point of respiratory failure.
New heroin users often experience nausea and vomiting, which brings with it the risk of choking on their vomit while they are incapacitated. This risk is not limited to new users; habitual heroin users are always in danger of misjudging the potency of their dose, which may leave them vomiting while unconscious.
As heroin is most commonly used intravenously, many long-term health risks for heroin users are tied to a lack of sterile equipment and unsanitary conditions when injecting heroin. Common side effects of injecting heroin when not using sterile techniques include:
- Skin infections and abscesses surrounding the injection site
- Collapsed veins
- Pulmonary complications
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease (i.e. Hepatitis C)
Intravenous heroin users in the habit of sharing needles are also at a greater risk to contract blood-bound diseases, such as HIV/Aids.
Other – comparatively lesser – side effects of habitual heroin use are stomach cramps, chronic constipation and greater susceptibility to respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia.
What are the Mental Health Effects of Heroin?
Heroin is highly addictive, largely due to the extreme discomfort of the ‘come-down’ which leads to intense cravings and creates the illusion that the body and mind require another dose of the drug in order to function properly. Habitual heroin users no longer inject heroin to achieve the effects of relaxation and euphoria; they have to keep using in order to feel ‘normal’.
Heroin users often experience feelings of depression, anxiety and hopelessness; especially since heroin addiction has the potential to permeate every aspect of a person’s life. Maintaining a heroin addiction can lead to financial hardship, relationship breakdowns and homelessness. Heroin addicts are prone to suicidal ideation and can become hostile when challenged by loved ones regarding their behaviour.
If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction, please don’t hesitate to reach out. The team at The Hader Clinic Queensland are here to answer your questions, give advice and help you on your journey to reclaim your life through heroin addiction treatment.
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