Heroin addiction is one of the most destructive and painful addictions in the world and rehab can be a lifelong process. Produced from the poppy, heroin is a semi-synthetic form of morphine. It has been estimated to be one of the most addictive substances created.
This is ironic, because when heroin was first marketed, it was thought to be safer than morphine and was used to treat morphine addiction. We now know heroin may be even more addictive than morphine; heroin addiction treatment is very difficult and cravings very persistent.
Route of administration
The way heroin is used is related to its addiction potential. The rule of thumb is that the quicker the onset, and the ‘higher the high’, the more addictive a drug becomes. This means that while heroin can be taken orally, smoked, or injected, the quick rush from an IV injection gives users the most powerful (and most addictive) experience.
Injecting heroin, either into a muscle or directly into a vein, also makes heroin much more dangerous than many other addictive drugs. There is increased risk of infection, direct damage to veins, and overdose. A mistake of a few milligrams in an oral dose doesn’t mean much, while the same mistake in an IV dose could be fatal. There is also some protection when taken orally because the drug undergoes an initial pass through the liver (and the liver’s metabolism) before it reaches the whole body. This doesn’t happen when heroin is smoked or injected.
Effects of Heroin Addiction
Administration of heroin gives the user euphoric feelings, which differ depending on the area that the heroin is injected. If the heroin is injected intravenously effects are felt within 7 to 8 seconds. Muscular injections are slower with full effects being felt at 5 to 8 minutes. Other routes of administration do not give the sudden rush and users gravitate toward injection as a matter of course.
After the rush, users feel a pleasant drowsiness. Users describe it as an incredible feeling of peace, joy, and contentment. For novice users, the euphoria can last 4 to 6 hours and gradually fades. Once tolerance develops the high only lasts 2 to 4 hours and then another injection is needed.
Progression to physical and psychological heroin addiction is swift for some and more gradual for others. This may depend on the available opportunities to use. As little as three days of injectable use is enough for physical addiction symptoms to occur. Many users only gradually spiral into daily use, either because they are afraid of needles or of becoming hooked. Sometimes another addict will administer the drug to novice users who then learn the procedure for themselves.
Heroin addiction has been regarded as rapidly increasing in the North America, giving rise to alarm amongst the authorities and health professionals. The largest producers of heroin are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Mexico, and Columbia.
photo by Rodrigo Valladares