The Effects of Heroin - abuse & addiction
Besides the initial high felt by a user the effects of heroin are many and range from being thoroughly unpleasant to potentially fatal. The euphoria produced by that first hit rarely leads to a happy smiling person. The drug creates a profound degree of tolerance and physical dependence to the point at which addicts have only one purpose in life - to satisfy their heroin craving.
In small doses the drug can give the user a sense of warmth and wellbeing. In larger doses it "brings on the nod" - feelings of drowsiness, relaxation and a sense of being separate from the real world.
These feelings are a result of the drug's opiate effect which detaches the user from pain, anxiety, and desires for food and sex. However, this numbing effect doesn't last long and after just a couple of hours the high is followed by a crash and a craving for more.
The effect of heroin is essentially the same regardless of how you take it. When injected, it reaches the brain in seven to eight seconds. The peak experience through snorting or smoking can take up to 15 minutes. Obviously the most serious effect is overdose which can result in death. Overdosing is common after the first-time user returns to heroin or the heroin is far purer than their normal score.
Heroin: Long and Short Term Effects
In the short term, the opiate effect leads to an inability to concentrate, apathy and drowsiness. One of the most noticeable effects is on the pupils of the eye which become pinpoints as the drug causes them to contract.
Long term effects rear their ugly head after repeated use. Users develop a physical and psychological dependence and as they learn to tolerate heroin their body craves more to achieve the original intensity and effect.
Chronic users may develop collapsed veins because they have injected too often, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulites and liver disease. In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives that do not dissolve in the blood stream which can result in the blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys and brain becoming clogged up. This in turn can lead to life-threatening infections.
Withdrawal symptoms can occur within hours. Symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, vomiting and cold spells with goose pimples (cold turkey). Major symptoms occur between 24 and 48 hours after the last dose and usually subside after about ten days. But some people have shown persistent withdrawal signs for many months.
Heroin abuse can cause serious complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage and premature delivery. Children born to addicted mothers are at greater risk of cot death and there is also the risk of the baby being born dependent on the drug.
Potentially the most serious risk to users is that of catching HIV and hepatitis C through sharing infected needles and other drug paraphernalia. Reported HIV incidence among heroin users is now a worldwide problem. The UN office for Drug Control and Crime prevention report Global Illicit Drug trends 2000 blamed injecting drug use as the major mode of transmission for HIV in North Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, major parts of Europe and South America. In the USA, it's thought that injecting illegal drugs accounts for one third of all HIV cases and more than half of hepatitis C cases.
Many former heroin addicts have proven that those who are hooked on this extremely addictive drug can still beat this deadly habit if they want to.