Monday, October 29, 2012

Heroin Addiction & The Brain

Heroin is an extremely addictive and illegal opiate from the same family tree as opium and morphine. Derived from poppies and sold in either a sticky tar-like form or powder, heroin is consumed by smoking, sniffing, or injecting direction into the bloodstream. Heroin users commonly describe the high as an intense surge of euphoria followed by a heavy, warm sensation – similar to slipping into a pool of warm water.

The Brain

The brain is the control center for the entire body with a seemingly endless assortment of chemicals named neurotransmitters. When these chemicals are released, they attach to specific areas call neuroreceptors. These special areas are found within the brain, the nerves existing it. Neurotransmitters have an array of shapes, which correspond to unique neuroreceptors.

The Brain & Heroin

Oddly enough, heroin possesses the exact same makeup of the endorphin neurotransmitter. These endorphins serve as the body’s “joy” chemical, and is released by the brain as a response to stress and pain. The body and brain possess natural endorphin receptors, and due to heroin’s endorphin makeup, the drug fits perfectly into the receptors. Because the brain has no control over the exact amount of heroin that meets the receptors, the effect of the drug is often much more intense than a typical endorphin rush.


The human brain is not able to distinguish between external chemicals and those it creates to serve the same function. When high amounts of these external chemicals are introduced to the brain, the brain will adjust to ensure proper balance. As such, a smaller amount of the natural chemicals are produced, and receptors are gradually shut down. This results in users requiring more of the external chemical to achieve the same effect. If an addict decides to quit using heroin, the body will go into withdrawal due to the lack of endorphin production. In these cases, addicts must continue their addiction to avoid becoming sick. However, with long enough abstinence periods, the brain will slowly begin to recover, and endorphin levels will return to normal. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Heroin Addiction & Pregnancy

Heroin is an extremely addictive opiod, used illegally by many due to the intense feelings of relaxation and euphoria it produces. Once a tolerance is achieved, users will require more of the substance to ensure the same experience.

When pregnant women use heroin, the drug is absorbed by the child via the placenta. As such, it’s not uncommon for babies born to heroin users to become addicted to the drug before birth.

 An unborn child of a mother struggling with a heroin addiction holds a heightened risk to experience complications, premature birth, or even stillbirth. However, even considering the severity of these risks, addicted mothers are encouraged never to attempt detox without first consulting a certified physician.

Babies who are exposed to heroin are placed at high risk for an array of afflictions following birth, including intracranial hemorrhage, hypoglycemia, premature birth, low birth weight, and breathing issues. During the withdrawal process, babies will commonly experience a variety of symptoms ranging from moodiness and aches to seizures, vomiting, and fever.

Methadone Treatment

Methadone works to alleviate or even completely eliminate an addict’s heroin cravings while blocking the effects. This allows users to make the transition from heroin addiction to sobriety without the severity typically experienced during withdrawal. This is extremely important in the case of pregnancy due to the fact that withdrawal symptoms may potentially lead to uterus contractions, premature birth, or miscarriage.

Long Term Effects

Little is known regarding the long-term effects that methadone and heroin have on children. Many babies born to addicted mothers must attend special education classes at school, and others may be forced to repeat a grade or two. Whether these results are due to drug exposure or other factors is unfortunately unclear. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Skin Health & Heroin Abuse

Heroin – a derivative of morphine - is an extremely addictive and dangerous substance. Because heroin is a depressant, the drug works to inhibit the body’s functionality while providing a lowered sense of anxiety and heightened relaxation. In addition to organ damage, heroin has a detrimental effect on the human body, including an array of skin issues.


As a result of a decreased appetite, heroin addict often suffer a loss of essential vitamins, including Vitamins C and A – both of which are used to promote healthy skin. This lack of proper nutrition can also result in a heightened risk of bruising. Addicts who inject the drug will often be seen with bruises surrounding the injection site. This is typically caused by aggressive pressing of the needle to the skin, or simply dull needles. 


Many addicts often experience a short-term crawling or itching sensation on the skin’s surface. Heroin and other opiates work to release histamines, causing itchiness and skin inflammation. Scabs and cuts on the skin’s surface are quite common for heroin addicts due to excessive picking and scratching. Lack of proper nutrition will also cause dehydration, resulting in itchy, dry skin.


When heroin is injected, scars can appear. These particular scars are often referred to as “tracks”. Chronic heroin addiction will ultimately result in increased dose frequency in an effort to achieve the same effect as before. After enough time has passed, toxins can build up underneath the skin. In addition, the excessive skin puncturing will inevitably result in collapsed veins, causing dark, permanent scars.


Heroin addiction can often result in skin issues, such as cellulitis – a bacterial skin infection. Repeated injections will ultimately cause inflammation and skin pain. Injections, especially where dirty needles are concerned, can result in abscesses or boils, seen as deep, pimple-esq lumps. These types of boils will fill with puss, swell, and cause intense pain to the user. If left untreated, these types of injections can result in death. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Heroin Addiction – A Mental Disease?

Heroin addicts fight a debilitating disease that negatively affects their mental and physical well-being. It is important to understand that this addiction is not a mental disease, but rather a physical issue. In this entry, we will outline some of the effects and symptoms associated with this deadly addiction.


Surfacing in the 19th century, Heroin was initially introduced as an opium-based pain reliever. Today, the drug is illegal due to the fact that it is extremely addictive when taken in pill form, smoked, or injected into the blood stream.


The direct effect of heroin is the shutting down of the nervous system. With continued use, the drug will eventually lead to respiratory issues and blood diseases. Many addicts also experience severe malnutrition, depression, and flu-like symptoms.


An addict attempting to kick their heroin addiction must go through the withdrawal process. Due to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, physicians suggest addicts seek out medically monitored detox to help ensure a safe, healthy and comfortable transition into sobriety. Without proper detox, addicts place themselves at risk for extreme depression, anxiety, body aches, nausea, paranoia, and insomnia. 


While many often label heroin addiction a mental disease, it is only able to coexist with other disorders. Studies find it widely uncommon for addicts to show signs of anxiety of depression following or prior to recovery…unless of coarse the conditions existed prior.

Need Help?

If you or someone you know are looking to combat an addiction to heroin, our Above It All treatment specialists are available to help. Give us a call today, and let us help you get on track towards the happy, healthy and productive lifestyle you deserve. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Teens & The Heroin Epidemic

To most people, heroin addiction brings to mind an image of sickly addicts in a dark downtown alleyway, sharing dirty needles to get their high. Unfortunately, this generalization only caters to a small portion of the heroin epidemic, as the drug continues to infiltrate America’s youth.

Shock & Awe

For many loving parents, raising children in a quiet suburban community seems the perfect way to counter the lure of inner-city drug addiction. But behind the picket fences, cul-de-sacs, and ice cream trucks, families throughout the U.S. are finding that these issues may not be so easily avoidable after all.   

Why Heroin?

Heroin comes from the same family as oxycodone, codeine and morphine. With prescription drug abuse a common suburban trend, many teens find the transition to heroin a natural progression. While prescription pain killers may be easier to locate, the expense associated with an addiction is often more than most teens are able to accommodate. Heroin is able to offer the same type of rush at a price much lower than its prescription brethren, with a heightened ease of availability.  

What To Watch For

While most parents would like to believe that their vigilance and determination in keeping a drug-free household is enough, heroin addiction is often an issue that can remain undetected for long periods of time.

Parents are encouraged to trust their instincts. Has their performance or attendance at school recently changed? Are they suddenly associating with a new group of friends? Are their old friends avoiding contact? Have their eating habits recently changed?

Though many of these signs can be viewed as “typical teenage behavior”, it’s important to take note and pay extra attention when something appears “a little off”. Open up a dialogue with your teen in regard to their behaviors, while making point to communicate your love and concern in a calm and collected manner. Threats and accusations will get you nowhere. Listen, breathe, and digest.

The Bottom Line

No family is safe from the ills of heroin abuse. Whether you reside in the slums or a luxury penthouse, drug addiction is an issue that must be confronted head-on in order to protect your loved ones from its grasp.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Physical Signs Of Heroin Addiction

Though most illegal drugs carry their share of health risks, the addictive nature and unhygienic administration associated with heroin make it particularly dangerous. Withdrawal is both debilitating and painful, posing a heightened risk for relapse. Various effects on the user’s health generally appear quickly and escalate as use continues. However, the physical deterioration associated with heroin addiction generally rears its head long before other signs of disease or complication make an appearance.


Severe heroin users will typically utilize intramuscular and intravenous injection methods to ensure a faster high. At its peak, heroin addiction requires users to administer these injections multiple times per day to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Addicts who administer injections in an aggressive manner may incur dark splotches and bruising around the injection sites.

Respiratory Issues

Heroin addicts will commonly experience intense bouts of shallow breathing following use. Regardless of whether it is injected or inhaled, heroin works to irritate the internal organ and muscle tissues. Due to their irritated lung lining and suppressed immune system, many addicts become more susceptible respiratory infection.


Glassy eyes and dilated pupils are a common sign of opiate addiction. The pupils in a healthy person’s eyes shrink in light settings and dilate in dark. The pupils of a heroin addict are often found constricted even in low-light settings; dilating only once the heroin has begun to where off. Long-time heroin addicts will commonly exhibit erratic pupil behaviors as injections become more and more frequent.

Hot and Cold

With each injection, the user’s heart rate accelerates. This causes a noticeable pink hue around the face and extremities. Though some users may exhibit signs of hyperactivity following a rush, others will often become more isolated, removed and subdued. Chills, shivering, and clammy skin often follow the initial warmth caused by the rush. Convulsing and chills are just a few of the initial signs associated with the withdrawal process, which can begin after only a few hours post use.