Heroin is one of the most commonly abused drugs in Kentucky, but what do you really know about it? What does it look like? How does it affect the body? What are the signs of heroin addiction or withdrawal? For a drug that impacts so many people, let’s take a deeper look at what it really is and does and how to get treatment if you suspect that you or a loved one are addicted.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin, an opioid made from morphine, is typically a white or brown powdery substance or a black sticky substance. Heroin has many street names; “big H,” “horse,” smack,” “brown sugar,” and “junk.” It can be sniffed, snorted, smoked, or injected. It causes a pain-free rushed high that is extremely addictive.
Why Is Heroin Addictive?
Heroin is addictive because of the way that it impacts the brain. Heroin enters the brain quickly and attaches to opioid receptors that impact pain and pleasure. Initially the high lasts for a few hours, but once the cells in the brain become accustomed to the reaction, more and more heroin is needed to cause the same high. This is called developing a tolerance and is why individuals who misuse opioid pain relievers often transition to heroin.
The brain’s ability to build a tolerance to opioids is why people make that transition to a new more potent drug to cause a more extreme high. Recent studies have shown that because of the addictive nature of heroin, one third of people entering treatment indicate that the first drug they misused was heroin.
Because of the “chase the high” mentality that heroin can cause, heroin overdoses are common. Kentucky alone has seen 1,100 heroin overdose fatalities between 2015 and 2019. A heroin overdose can be stopped or “reversed” with a drug called Narcan/Naloxone, but it can also send a person into immediate withdrawal symptoms.
Heroin is at its most dangerous when combined with other drugs. Heroin mixed with cocaine is called a “speedball” and gives the pain-free pleasure rush of heroin without the sluggish feeling or nodding off. This is dangerous because of the impact it has on the nervous system with the drugs each doing separate things. Heroin is also dangerous when mixed with alcohol or benzos (commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia). Because alcohol and benzos are both sedatives, the likelihood of a person stopping breathing while using both is dramatically increased. Benzos also decrease the effectiveness of Narcan/Naloxone when administered in an overdose situation.
Signs of a Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal
Because of the way that heroin impacts the brain and body, there are several ways you may be able to tell if someone is using it. Look for slow movement or sluggish reactions and small pupils.
Additionally, if someone is injecting heroin, you might see track marks on their fingers, arms, legs and feet. These look like needle injection sites and may scab or be raw from itching.
As heroin withdrawal occurs, a person might be in pain, itchy, unable to sleep, have chills and/or vomiting. Most people will also have a craving for another high, even if it’s to make the pain stop, which is exactly why heroin is so addictive.
Why You Should Go to Heroin Rehab In Kentucky
A 5-star, premier heroin rehab in Kentucky is available at the Robert Alexander Center in Mt. Washington, south of Louisville.
Our leading heroin rehab center in Louisville, KY can support you or a loved one with medication-assisted detox, inpatient care, outpatient therapy, and aftercare.
We here at the Robert Alexander Center (RAC) understand that treating the root causes of addiction are the best way to decrease the likelihood of relapse. Our experienced clinicians and staff are ready to support you through addiction treatment and the recovery process.
At RAC we have a state-of-the-art heroin treatment center with focused programs to support you from intake through aftercare. Our individualized client treatment programs combine evidence-based therapies with creative arts therapies and a spa-like environment to provide an overall calming experience while tackling one of the biggest challenges in your life.
Call RAC now to experience the 24-hour support available to all our clients and choose a sober lifestyle.