Heroin is a highly addictive, illegal drug that has many adverse health risks. Some of the side effects are only temporary and occur the first time the drug is used. Many other side effects are attributed to pervasive use of the drug and have long term or even chronic effects.
Using heroin even one time carries a risk for lethal overdose, spontaneous abortion of pregnancy, and contracting infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS (particularly when the drug is injected). The altered state of consciousness created by heroin use alters one’s ability to think clearly and make rational decisions. This could lead to physical and emotional harm such as malnutrition. Since heroin is illegal and must be obtained on the street, it can be tainted with harmful substances that can build up in the veins and block blood vessels, causing permanent damage to vital organs.
The long-term effects of heroin use are even more devastating. Since this drug is commonly injected, it can result in collapsed veins and can introduce infection to the lining of the heart. It can also cause abscesses and lead to liver or kidney disease. Because heroin has a depressing effect on respiratory function, it can cause pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. The most serious effect of heroin is its addictive nature. This dependence requires users to have more and more of the drug over time, which depletes their health and well being on every level. Once a person has formed a dependence on heroin, there are the additional health risks associated with withdrawal if one tries to stop using it.
The only way to avoid the negative health associated with heroin use is to seek treatment and stop using the drug. Treatment for heroin can be accomplished through prescribed medications and psychological counseling at a rehabilitation center. Using both methods leads to higher success rates. Prescription medications like suboxone and buprenorphine replace heroin in the body to satisfy cravings for the drug without doing further damage to the body. A patient must then be slowly weaned off these drugs and their dependence broken. Counseling is provided to help with this process.
Withdrawal from heroin addiction usually begins within a few hours of the last dose of the drug and lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. Common withdrawal symptoms are restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and kicking movements. Cravings for heroin can reoccur for an extended period of time and in many cases last a lifetime, especially when emotional or physical triggers are present. Extended counseling through a rehabilitation center can help recovering addicts manage these cravings and have long-term success.