Heroin use and abuse is associated with a number of very serious issues, including engaging in criminal activity, contracting STDs, and experiencing financial loss among many other dangers.
Understanding the Dangers of Heroin Abuse
Heroin is a refined product of morphine which is directly extracted from opium. It has no acceptable medical purpose in United States and is one of the most deadly drugs that ever existed. Although heroin abuse is nothing new to society, the dangers of heroin abuse, today, are significantly far greater than ever before.
Why is Heroin Abuse So Dangerous?
Heroin has a long history of blight on society and was the first drug that gained enough attention, after alcohol, to enlist the help of the common society for specialized treatments through the establishment of methadone clinics in the 1970’s.
From the growers, plants, processing, distribution, dealers, and finally, to the user, absolutely nothing about heroin is consistent. Beyond the variant chemicals and other additives that may be contained in a dose of heroin by the time it reaches the abuser, is the unknown potency level, which by some studies may be estimated at 15 times greater than it was in the 70’s.
Heroin abuse is well known for its associated behaviors of IV use, crime, prostitution, and the spread of diseases. It’s not a drug that is consumed orally and even those who are naïve to heroin abuse will usually begin by snorting it, but, the high dependence liabilities of heroin almost always has users experiencing or converting to intravenous use, somewhere down the line.
Dangerous Potentials for Heroin Abuse
Because heroin abuse often involves a quicker route of administration, for example snorting and IV use, there is a rapid rate of onset of its effects. Heroin has a very short half- life, being quickly converted to morphine, and the faster the rates of euphoria, the greater the abuse potential of the drug.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,” With all classes of drugs of abuse, it has been shown that the likelihood of abuse is related to the ease of administration, the cost of the drug, and how fast the user experiences the desired results after the drug’s administration.” Heroin tops the list when it comes to these characteristics.
The Backlash of Pharmaceutical Opioids
Most recently, heroin has become a primary substance for those who are opioid dependent and have increased difficulties obtaining prescription opioid drugs. Currently, there is a vast amount of heroin coming from many different sources and with the epidemic rise in prescription opiate addictions, addicts are turning to heroin as a readily available, cheaper, and more potent alternative.
The crackdown on “pill mills” and rogue or negligent practitioners, prescription monitoring programs, and law enforcement strategies have reduced the number of excessive and repeat opioid prescriptions available for diversions to the street. With decreased sources through “doctor shopping” and forgery efforts, comes higher prices for the pharmaceutical opioids that are available, increasing heroin’s appeal to would be abusers.
Dangers of Becoming Addicted
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,”Drug addiction is a complex illness characterized by intense and, at times, uncontrollable drug craving, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that persist even in the face of devastating consequences.” The longer a person abuses heroin and the higher the dosages and potency, the more dependence they will develop. When they cease use or the opioid levels in their system decreases, such as overnight, withdrawal symptoms are inevitable.
Dangers of Withdrawals
According to the World Health Organization,” The severity of withdrawal is related to the degree and rate of reversal of neuroadaptive changes related to opioid use.” Although heroin withdrawals are not considered life-threatening for the most part, they can still be highly dangerous.
Individuals have been known to lose consciousness and aspirate on their spittle or vomit choking to death. More severe withdrawals can occur in a person suffering co-existing physical or mental health problems leading to other, possibly fatal, consequences.
Dangers of Overdose
Heroin potency levels are unpredictable dose to dose and even the most experience heroin abuser is at the risk of overdose. Hypoxia and subsequently, brain damage, is another major concern as oxygen levels drop from depressed or failed respiration and heart rate.
Heroin abusers who try to detox from heroin and relapse after reducing their tolerance are at high risk of overdose when they resume using their regular dosage amounts.
Deteriorated Health Dangers
Heroin abuse takes a dramatic toll on the person’s system from the repeat intoxications and withdrawals to the unhealthy behavior patterns a heroin abuser, typically, engages in. Heroin abuse has been linked to several medical conditions that are more prevalent and severe than the general population.
The most significant dangers of heroin abuse to physical health are IV use and unsafe sex practices. Abusers risk infections at injection sites that can become life-threatening and because heroin abusers often disregard hygiene, sleep, healthy eating habits, and use contaminated needles or share needles, they are at a higher risk of spreading viruses and communicable diseases with a lower immunity to protect themselves.
Dangerous Medical Conditions Associated With Heroin Abuse
The dangerous medical conditions associated with heroin abuse include:
- Endocarditis which is a bacterial infection of the inner lining of the heart and heart valves.
- Soft-tissue infections such as cellulitis and abscesses are a result of contamination at injection sites and can go into the muscles recognized by inflammation, tenderness, and swelling that often requires antibiotics with incision and drainage.
- Wound botulism and necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as a flesh-eating infection, is usually caused by bacteria introduced by contaminated needles. Severe cases have been known to require amputation of the infected limb.
- Communicable diseases and viruses such as AIDs, HIV, Hepatitis A,B, and C, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent among those who abuse heroin and it only takes one mistaken abuse to contract them.