The Root of America’s Opioid Epidemic

The Root of America’s Opioid Epidemic

Millions of Americans suffer from drug addiction every single year. Out of these individuals, many suffer from a dependency on heroin, a powerful opiate that can alter your brain chemistry and cause the development of a severe addiction.

After only a few uses of this drug, you can quickly come to rely on it in order to feel the same high. Heroin leads to thousands of overdose deaths per year – making it one of the root causes of America’s rampant opioid epidemic. While heroin is a dangerous drug to develop an addiction to, treatment is available.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an opiate made out of morphine, which comes from the seeds of an opium poppy plant native to Asia, Mexico, and Columbia. Heroin can come in the form of a brown or white powder. It can also appear as a black, sticky substance. People use heroin by injecting it with intravenous needles, smoking it, snorting it, or sniffing it.

Heroin produces a rapid and significant high when someone takes it. As a result, it is a highly addictive and dangerous substance. Heroin enters the brain quickly and binds to opioid receptors, changing how a person experiences pain and pleasure. In addition, heroin affects a person’s heart rate, breathing rate, and their sleep. It is very easy to overdose on heroin, and thousands of people die from this drug every year.

Street Names for Heroin

Many people have heard of heroin, but many more know heroin by its various street names. The opioid epidemic and the dealers pushing this dangerous drug can disguise this drug under these names so users and their loved ones do not truly know what they are taking. Some popular street names for heroin include:

  • Smack
  • Snow or Snowball
  • H or He
  • Tar or Black Tar
  • Skunk
  • Black Pearl
  • Dope
  • Junk
  • Chiba or Chiva
  • China White
  • Mud
  • Mexican Brown or Mexican Mud
  • Brown Crystal or Brown Sugar
  • White, White Nurse, White Lady, White Horse, White Girl, White Boy, and White Stuff

Many people use euphemisms for heroin use as well. Chasing the dragon, jolly pop, channel swimmer, paper boy, and give wings are all common terms for the use of heroin or people who use heroin.

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

If you have a loved one suffering from heroin addiction, it can be difficult to identify the signs and symptoms of heroin abuse. Heroin produces a sense of euphoria and relaxation, as well as a reduced level of pain. Immediately after heroin consumption, a user will experience the following symptoms:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Disorientation
  • Droopy, heavy appearance of the arms and legs
  • Shortness of breath
  • A sudden change in behavior and actions
  • Cycles of hyperactivity followed by sudden drowsiness

You may notice the following objects around people who suffer from heroin abuse, which they use to consume the drug:

  • Burned spoons, straws, gum wrappers, or aluminum foil
  • Missing shoelaces to tie injection sites
  • Small plastic bags with a white powder residue
  • Discarded needles or syringes

In addition to the physical symptoms of heroin abuse, psychological and behavioral changes may occur as well. If you notice any of the following symptoms, someone you love may be suffering from heroin addiction:

  • Excessive time spent sleeping
  • A lack of interest in hobbies and favorite activities
  • Eye contact avoidance
  • Worsening of performance at school or work
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Slurred, garbled, or incoherent speech
  • Hostile comments towards loved ones
  • Wearing long pants and sleeves to hide track marks
  • Stealing and borrowing money from loved ones

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

Many people believe that they can quit heroin without seeking professional treatment. However, these attempts are not usually successful because of painful withdrawal symptoms resulting in a heightened risk of relapse.

Heroin withdrawal can involve the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Crying
  • Intense cramping in limbs
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Intense craving for heroin
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Cold sweats and chills
  • Severe bone aches
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of heaviness
  • Severe sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhea

If you are struggling with heroin addiction, do not attempt to quit the drug without seeking professional treatment. A professional heroin treatment center can help you alleviate these symptoms under medically supervised detox.

In addition, treatment programs can help you develop the strategies you need to avoid relapse and the underlying emotional issues that may be contributing to your heroin dependency. For long-term sobriety, choose a recovery program.

Side Effects of Heroin Dependence

Heroin dependence can also lead to severe side effects and the development of physical symptoms. A loved one may suddenly lose a lot of weight or develop needle track marks on their arms, as well as infections or abscesses at these sites. They may have a consistent runny nose and cuts, bruises, and scabs.

Heroin addiction symptoms can begin even during the first few uses of the drug. Short-term physical side effects of heroin use can include the following symptoms:

  • A cloudy mental state and reduced brain function
  • Shallow breathing
  • Uncontrollable itching feelings that lead to scratching and skin picking
  • Decreased emotional and physical pain

In addition, long-term dependence on heroin can lead to serious medical issues. These issues can lead to death and overdose. These symptoms can include:

  • Seizures
  • Liver disease
  • Heart issues, such as heart lining and valve infections
  • Blood clots
  • Tissue death
  • Bacterial infections
  • Arthritis and other joint problems
  • Chronic pneumonia
  • The development of pulmonary diseases
  • Infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, spread by dirty, shared needles

Causes of Heroin Addiction and Dependency

Heroin addiction begins in the brain. By compulsively using and seeking out heroin, you can experience molecular and neurochemical changes to brain chemistry that push you to seek and use more. When you use heroin, you experience a euphoria that increases with the amount of the drug and how quickly it enters the brain – and heroin can enter the brain very quickly, leading to addiction.

Users chase this euphoria and slowly build up a dependency and tolerance to the drug, leading to the use of higher and higher amounts of the substance. Since withdrawal symptoms develop with heroin use, you can quickly enter a cycle of abuse, withdrawal, and so on.

Heroin Addiction Detox and Treatment in Scottsdale

Are you struggling with heroin addiction in the Scottsdale, Arizona area? You’re not alone and help is available. Attempting to enter into sobriety without participating in a heroin addiction recovery program could lead to painful withdrawal symptoms and a risk of relapse. For best results, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today.

Our heroin addiction treatment program takes a holistic and individualized approach to helping you safely recover from your addiction. We offer a variety of therapies combined with medication assisted detox to not only help you alleviate painful withdrawal symptoms, but develop the coping mechanisms necessary to avoid relapse. Our residential programs include:

  • Continuing care planning
  • Psycho educational groups
  • Music and art expression therapies
  • Community integration
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Primary group therapy
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Relapse prevention
  • Process groups
  • Trauma therapy
  • Therapeutic activity groups

Are you ready to seek treatment for your heroin addiction and begin your journey to sobriety? Acceptance Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to learn more about our Scottsdale treatment programs and how to enroll at our facility.

About Dr. Greg Gale, MD

Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County. Read more about Dr. Greg Gale, MD