Logo of The Bridges of San Diego Intensive Outpatient Program for Drug and Alcohol Addictions

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center

5480 Baltimore Dr. suite 211

La Mesa, CA 91942

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What you need to know about Heroin

Heroin is another opiate based drug that has seen increasingly steady rates of addiction over the last twenty years.  In 2017 alone, over 15,000 people died from heroin related overdoses in the United States, a rate of 5 deaths for every 100 Americans.  In 1874, heroin was first synthesized from morphine by an English chemist and was eventually produced commercially by Bayer Pharmaceuticals in 1898.  The idea was that heroin could possibly replace morphine as a pain killer, due to problems of widespread morphine abuse at the time.  Doctors soon realized that heroin was just as addictive as morphine and opium.  Heroin can be a brown or white powder, or a sticky, black substance known as black tar heroin. Heroin is often referred to as "smack" or "dope" and is either smoked, snorted, or injected.  Like prescription opioids such as oxycodone, fentanyl, or morphine, heroin enters the brain quickly, binding to opioid receptors throughout the body, especially those related to feelings of pain and pleasure, as well as regions of the brain that are responsible for regulating heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.  People that suffer from heroin addiction report feeling a rush of euphoria and pleasure after the drug has been administered, with many going "on the nod" - essentially going back and forth from consciousness, to a state of semi or partial consciousness.  Negative, short-term effects of the drug are dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, severe itching, and clouded mental functioning.  Long-term exposure to heroin can create for permanent, lifelong health problems such as liver and kidney disease, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, lung complications, depression and antisocial behavior, as well as sexual dysfunction for men and irregular menstrual cycles for women.  Heroin use also carries with it the increased potential for contracting HIV, considering that needles used for injection are often shared between users.  A heroin overdose occurs when a person administers too much of the drug, resulting in heart attack or an arrest in breathing, often leading to death.  Heroin addiction can take hold very quickly, with some becoming addicted after trying the drug just a couple of times.  As with all opiate based addictions, inpatient detox and rehab is critical for those that struggle with this crushing addiction.  Many who successfully complete an inpatient rehab program, transition into an intensive outpatient program for six weeks while at the same time, live in a recovery residence, also known as "sober living" - this rehabilitative "recipe" ensures the best possible outcome when facing the challenges related of overcoming heroin addiction.