Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that heroin use has been steadily on the rise over the past ten years. As one of the most commonly abused opioid drugs, heroin has been in the news quite a bit in recent years as it continues to take more lives, impact more towns, and cause more harm to our communities.
Heroin is the common name for the semisynthetic opioid diamorphine. First synthesized in 1874 by C. R. Alder Wright, diamorphine came to prominence in the late 1890’s when a chemist with Bayer pharmaceutical discovered heroin independently. Diamorphine was marketed under the name “heroin” as a safer alternative to morphine, often used as a cough suppressant and to treat pain. In the 1920’s heroin sales became illegal, and it today is a Schedule I Substance.
Heroin is synthesized from morphine, an opiate present in the opium poppy. Often injected, smoked, or snorted, heroin is one of the most addictive drugs abused. It is sold on the street often cut with various substances such as flour, chalk, caffeine, or other cheap substances. In addition, suppliers are mixing fentanyl into their heroin, causing many users to overdose as they are not as tolerant to the drug.[
Heroin and Opioid Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over eighty percent of heroin addicts abused prescription opioids before trying heroin. This is often how it starts for heroin addicts. Prescription painkillers are more readily available than their illicit cousins. As the person builds tolerance and dependence, they often reach for cheaper and more effective street drugs like heroin.
Heroin and opioid addiction has been on the rise in recent decades, with many states and counties declaring states of emergency due to the opioid epidemic. Addiction to heroin occurs rapidly as it is a highly addictive substance. When addiction takes hold of an individual, it can be extremely difficult to quit on one’s own. Without proper medical professionals to help you through the withdrawal process, relapse is unfortunately common.
Heroin withdrawal is one of the reasons that it is important to seek professional help. The withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly uncomfortable and even dangerous. The intense discomfort may lead people to use opioids to ease the pain, and is responsible for the high relapse rates among heroin addicts. Symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Fevering and sweating
- Tremors and involuntary shaking
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Anger or agitation
Generally, the major withdrawal symptoms subside within a week or two. However, individuals may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms for weeks or months after. Because of dopamine depletion in the brain, individuals coming off heroin and other opioids may have difficulty feeling pleasure, joy, or excitement. This often leaves individuals feeling anxious, depressed, and/or irritable.