No matter where you live, heroin addiction is a serious problem. If you or any of your loved ones are addicted, you know that this addiction can destroy relationships and cause damage to your health. If you are struggling with addiction in your family, what resources are available in Ohio? How can you tell whether you or loved ones are addicted to heroin, and what steps should you take to get help?
What Is Heroin?
If you are not familiar with heroin but you are worried that a friend or family member might be addicted, it is time to become well-versed in your understanding of what the drug does so that you can understand the challenges that your family member or friend faces.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin “is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants.” The drug comes in a white powder, but it also comes in a brown powder and in a black, tar-like substance called black tar heroin. People can take heroin in a number of different ways, including injections, sniffing it, snorting it, and smoking it. Most of the time, people inject heroin.
In some ways, heroin is similar to opioid painkillers. However, it is both illegal and very addictive, and withdrawal can be quite difficult. Heroin creates a feeling of euphoria and a sense of relaxation, which makes it a very attractive drug to the brain. It enters the body very quickly, changing the body’s heart rate and systems that involve sleeping and breathing.
The Effects of Heroin Use
What happens when you use heroin?
In the short term, there are a number of side effects that heroin users can experience. These include nausea, itching, a heaviness of the limbs, cloudy thinking, and a loss of consciousness. It is entirely possible to overdose on heroin as well.
In the long term, there are more serious side effects. It can damage the nose, heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs, lead to mental disorders, and cause sexual dysfunction. Since people often inject heroin, it comes with all of the risks of injected drugs, such as dirty needles that can spread disease. People who frequently inject heroin can also have abcesses at the injection site.
Over time, heroin use changes the brain’s reward pathways. People become addicted to this drug and continue to use it even though their relationships face challenges and they are struggling with health problems. Heroin users can move quickly from trying out the drug to a state of physical dependence on it, and it takes more and more heroin to make that person feel the effects that he or she once felt with a much smaller amount.
What Are the Risk Factors for Heroin Addiction?
What makes an individual more likely to become addicted to heroin? There are several risk factors for drug and alcohol addiction. These include:
Mental health issues play a role. If a person has mental health challenges, then he or she is more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol. These addictive substances can seem to ease anxiety, soften depression, and otherwise act as self-medication. Unfortunately, they also come with many problems such as relationship, health, and mental health issues. Drug use might seem to alleviate problems for a while, but it causes more problems in the long term.
Stress is also a risk factor for addiction. Those who turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with stress are more likely to continue to use them as coping strategies when times are difficult.
The environment in which you grow up and what you experience during childhood and adulthood can influence your likelihood of becoming addicted as an adult. For instance, if you experienced domestic abuse during childhood or you witnessed a relative using drugs and alcohol, you are more likely to use them when you get older.
If people are addicted to prescription painkillers that are opiate-based, this can be a risk factor for further use of more powerful drugs such as heroin. Heroin produces a high for less money, and it can be easier to get than prescription painkillers.
Genes also play a role in substance abuse. Problems with drugs and alcohol can run in families and, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, “certain brain characteristics…can make someone more vulnerable to addictive substances than the average person.” According to the National Centre for Addiction, genes actually make up 50 to 75 percent of the likelihood of substance abuse. For instance, those who are very impulsive may be more likely to experiment with addictive drugs.
Heroin Addiction in Ohio
According to CNN, while opioid use is a serious problem across the United States, “Ohio has been one of the states hit hardest by the crisis. Last year, 86 percent of overdose deaths in the state involved an opioid.” Many Ohioans each year become addicted to opioid pain medications. Some of those addicts will eventually turn to heroin for their high. It is anticipated that there will be 800 annual opioid deaths in Montgomery County alone. Staff at the morgue call the opioid crisis a mass fatality crisis. The problem has strained not only emergency services and the morgue, but it has also challenged other systems such as the foster care system. The problem is unprecedented, and the solution is to both prevent and treat it.
Spotting the Signs of Heroin Use
How can you tell whether a loved one is using heroin? Many people try to hide their drug habit, so it is not always easy to determine whether someone is addicted. However, there are some signs that you can look for if you are wondering what is behind an individual’s behavior changes.
There are some straightforward signs that someone is high on heroin. These include:
- A sleepy and relaxed demeanor
- Small pupils
- Flushed skin
- A runny nose
- Watery eyes and itchy skin
If someone has taken too much of the drug and is overdosing, the signs of an overdose include:
- Delirium, disorientation, and sleepiness
- Difficulty breathing
- A weak pulse
- Blueish lips and nails
- Very small pupils
Just because you are high does not mean that you are physically dependent on heroin or addicted to it. Unfortunately, since heroin is very addictive, it is quite easy to move from using heroin once or twice to becoming more seriously addicted to it.
Spotting the Signs of Heroin Addiction
In addition to the signs of heroin use, there are other signs that show that an individual could be addicted to heroin. The signs of addiction show up in peoples’ behavior, not just in physical symptoms such as the ones above. These signs include:
- Track marks from the ongoing use of needles
- Legal problems
- Secrecy and lying
- Missing valuables, cash, or a dwindling bank account
- Missing social events or changing behavior at social events
- New friends who show the signs of heroin use
If someone is injecting heroin, you will potentially find some of the paraphernalia required to inject, including:
- Cotton balls, used to strain the heroin
- Spoons or bottle caps used to turn powdered, solid, or tar heroin into liquid
- String, a shoelace, or a hose used to tie off an arm and make it easier to find the veins
- A lighter or candle used to melt heroin
What to Do If a Loved One is Addicted
You have seen the signs of heroin addiction, and you are worried. What can you do if you either suspect or know that someone you love is addicted to heroin?
See if your loved one can get an evaluation from a doctor. This will help that person determine whether he or she is addicted to drugs. Look for a doctor who has expertise in the area of addiction.
Avoid enabling your friend and family member by loaning money or failing to lock up items such as prescription painkillers. Do not cover up or lie for your friend or family member. That person needs to recognize the damage he or she is causing, and this is only visible if other people say no. You can still reassure someone that you love him or her and care for their wellbeing while setting boundaries around your behavior and theirs.
Put a support system in place. Make sure that you have friends and family who know about the addiction and can support you and the addicted person emotionally. They may also be able to provide positive financial support for something like a treatment program.
You can also get help yourself. If you are helping someone through addiction, that person may not be grateful and graceful about the process. You might feel like you are trying to help someone who does not want help or get frustrated with the fact that the person you love turns to heroin again and again in spite of all of your efforts. Accessing counseling for yourself or your family can be a powerful way to feel like you are more in control of your response to the situation.
Setting strong boundaries and creating a support system are essential when your loved one is addicted to heroin.
What to Do If You Are Addicted
If you are the one who is addicted to heroin, it can be difficult to reach out and get help. You could feel helpless to stop turning to the drug. Reaching out for help is a courageous first step; it can be difficult and embarrassing, but it is worth it to maintain your friends, your job, your family, and your health.
Even if you think that you are just using drugs socially, heroin is very addictive, so it is easy to move from occasional use to chronic use.
If you are using heroin and do not feel like you can stop, reach out to friends and family who can help you get assessed, develop a support network, and find options for rehabilitation.
Is an Ohio Drug Rehab Program For You?
If you are living in Ohio, you have options when it comes to drug rehab. You or your loved one can enter a full-time residential treatment program that involves support for physical withdrawal. Medical detox should take place with the support of healthcare professionals.
This support should be followed up with therapy and other resources such as yoga or art that help you ground yourself, rediscover what you enjoy, and improve your physical health. These inpatient, residential programs will help you learn more about yourself and about your addiction and start to develop the supports you need to remain free of addiction.
After you have completed an inpatient program, you can switch to a partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient program in which you visit the program during the day and go home at night. This helps you reintegrate into your family life while maintaining a constant, supportive program to help you stay off heroin. You will need a good support system at home to ensure that you are successful in this program.
Finally, outpatient rehab appointments can keep you on track with therapies and other appointments such as medical appointments.
The Keys to Success in an Ohio Drug Rehab Program
The rehab program that you choose should address not only the physical aspect of withdrawal but also the emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of addiction. To succeed in rehab, you need to address the reasons why you became addicted in the first place. Look for a program that works to identify and treat past trauma and mental health disorders in addition to working on your drug addiction.
You will also want to make sure that your program has a continuum of care. One key to successful rehab is to ensure that you have support throughout the medical detox process and far beyond that. This support will help you reintegrate into your life and develop a supportive team of friends and family.
Are you looking at options for Ohio drug rehab? If you are looking for rehabilitation centers, turn to the Recovery Village in Columbus. Contact us for a tour of the facility, where you will find amenities to complement your rehabilitation, such as yoga therapy, an art studio, gyms, and a rec room. Call today!