Heroin is an addictive drug that is processed from morphine and usually appears as a white or brown powder. It is a member of the opiates family which are also known as narcotics. They are used medically as analgesics for patients in a great deal of pain. One of the side effects of using heroin (and opiates in general)is that they are physically addictive and a person may become dependent on them. Admission to a detox clinic and subsequent drug rehab may be required to help an addicted person stop using successfully.
The short-term effect of using heroin is a surge of euphoria followed by a time of slipping in and out of a drowsy state. Heroin users are at high risk of accidental overdose and those who inject the drug with shared needles place themselves at risk of contracting bloodborne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Patients can request to have blood screening when they are admitted to a drug rehabilitation center to check if they have contracted these diseases.
Pregnant mothers who abuse heroin are at risk of adversely affecting their unborn baby. Heroin abusers lead a lifestyle marked by an obsession to obtain and use the drug. They are also, therefore, less likely to spend time, energy, or money on prenatal care which places additional risk on the baby.
Tolerance is a condition where the abuser must use more of the chemical in order to achieve the same intensity of the effect. Heroin users develop tolerance and start using ever higher doses. The body becomes accustomed to the presence of heroin and so a physical dependence and addiction develop. Once this happens the user will experience negative symptoms if he/she stops using heroin. Admission to a detoxification (detox) center can help to make the withdrawal more manageable for the addict.
Withdrawal symptoms include intense craving, insomnia, aches and pains, cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, restlessness, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), and other physical symptoms. They are normally at their worst in day 2 and 3 after stopping using and subside by the end of a week. Heroin withdrawal is rarely fatal for healthy individuals, but medical oversight is still a good idea. Detox is just the first step in addiction recovery and admission to a drug treatment clinic is highly recommended so that a behavioral therapeutic intervention can be applied.
There are medications that reduce the effect of heroin and have been shown to be effective in reducing the relapse rate for addicts. Some doctors prescribe these medications to clients who have completed treatment in a drug rehab clinic.