In 2016 approximately 948,000 Americans reported using heroin sometime during the past year. This number has been steadily increasing since 2007.
While these statistics alone are shocking, what is even more shocking to some is the long-term effects this drug can have on a person.
If you are worried that someone you love may be suffering from a heroin addiction, then it may be time to learn about the long-term effects it can have. When you are informed, you will be better equipped to help your loved one.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a powerful and illegal substance in the opiate family of drugs. It’s produced through a chemical modification of the common painkiller morphine.
Opiates work by decreasing the intensity of pain signals sent from your central nervous system. As a result, this is a highly addictive classification of drugs.
Due to the addictive nature of heroin, it has been classified by a Schedule I substance by the DEA, which means it has a high likelihood of abuse and the potential for severe physical or psychological dependence.
To this date, there is no accepted medical use for heroin.
Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal
When you, or someone you love, use heroin for an extended period of time, you may become immune to its effects. This means you have to seek higher and higher doses to achieve the same psychoactive effects.
Over time, this increasing need occurs due to a tolerance, which is one of the main characteristics of a substance abuse disorder.
The Effect of Long-Term Heroin Use on the Brain
Extended use of heroin is usually associated with constantly increasing the doses. The possibility of damage to the brain with this increased usage is high, and over time, heroin may actually change a person’s day to day functioning.
When you use heroin repeatedly, then the brain accumulates several detrimental changes. The primary function areas that are associated with decision-making, complex thought, and social behavior are altered.
Because of these changes, several behavioral changes may occur, including:
- Reduced executive functioning (i.e. poor planning, problem-solving, reasoning and tax flexibility)
- Impaired memory
- Impaired ability to imaging future interactions or events
- Impaired behavior regulation
- Impaired emotional processing
- Reduced ability to make decisions
Long-Term Heroin Use Effects on Your Body
Not only will the long-term use of heroin affect your brain, but it will also impact your body. Chronic users of this drug may experience some or all of the following:
- Kidney diseases
- Spontaneous abortion or irregular menstrual cycles
- Sexual dysfunction
There are several ways that heroin can be used, including snorting, smoking and injecting. Injection is, by far, the most dangerous.
In addition to the above mentioned long-term effects of heroin use, if it is injected it may also lead to dangerous diseases including HIV, hepatitis C or hepatitis B.
Handling a Heroin Addiction
If you or someone you love is suffering from a heroin addiction, then you should not ignore it. As you can see, the long-term effects can impact a person in multiple ways.
If you need more information about heroin addiction or seeking help for any addiction you can contact us, or find more information on our blog.
We offer a wide array of treatment programs for those suffering from an addiction.