When it comes to drug addiction, there are some that are more serious and more damaging to a person's health than others. One of the most dangerous drug addictions, and also the most serious, is heroin addiction. Understanding what heroin is, as well as the effects the drug has on the body, will help you to better understand just how important heroin treatment is and how heroin addiction treatment works.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a drug that falls within the family of opiate or opioid drugs. It is essentially a version of morphine or oxycodone which are also in the opiate family. Opiate drugs share one specific thing in common; they are all derived from opium. In nature, opium is found inside of the seedpods of poppy plants. However, since it was originally discovered, it has been synthesized and processed to create the opiate drugs including heroin.
Heroin can come in a few different forms. The most common is a dark tarry and sticky substance which is commonly referred to as "black tar" heroin. This type of heroin is so prevalent because of the way that it is processed and the level of purity of the heroin. Black tar heroin is not as pure as other forms of heroin, making it cheaper for illegal drug manufacturers to create and therefore, cheaper on the streets as well. It is most commonly used via injection directly into the bloodstream.
Purer heroin is bright white in color. The whiter the heroin is, the purer. This type of heroin is much pricier and is often used by snorting or smoking. All types of heroin, of course, are highly addictive and dangerous.
How Heroin Interacts with the Brain
While most people know that heroin is highly addictive and that it can be dangerous, they do not necessarily know why that is. There are many ways in which the drug heroin interacts with the mind and body. However, it is from the brain that all of these effects come from.
When a person uses heroin, it will enter their bloodstream either directly through injection or by permeating through the blood vessel walls to get into the blood. The blood will carry the drug directly to the brain. Once heroin reaches the brain, the chemical reactions and processes begin.
Heroin works by attaching itself to receptors in the brain. These receptors are specifically responsible for pain signals, among other things. By attaching itself to these receptors, heroin effectively blocks signals of pain that might be sent from various areas of the body. This is true of all opiate drugs, in fact, and it is why prescription opiates are used as painkillers.
Dopamine and Heroin
Heroin also has other effects on the brain, specifically when it comes to the hormone known as dopamine. If someone has heard of dopamine, it is often because it is known as a pleasure chemical. It is responsible, in part, for feelings of contentment, joy, and euphoria. This hormone also has numerous additional, functional responsibilities in the body.
Digestion is one of the processes in the body that is influenced by dopamine. High levels of dopamine released by the brain can slow the digestive process or even bring it to a standstill. This is why people who are addicted to heroin or other opiate drugs, or even those who use prescription opiates as prescribed, can experience chronic constipation issues.
Another bodily process impacted by dopamine levels in the body is respiration. A person's respiration rate can slow dramatically when the brain releases dopamine. The more dopamine, the slower the breathing. If a person overdoses on heroin, therefore, they may just suddenly stop breathing entirely.
The cardiovascular system is also affected by dopamine. Dopamine impacts the strength of the contractions of the heart. What this means is that the heart contracts harder when dopamine levels increase, which also means that the blood pressure goes up. When too much dopamine is introduced into the system, this can be dangerous. High levels of dopamine can lead to potentially deadly heart arrhythmias which are disruptions in the heart rhythm, as well as dangerously high blood pressure which could cause a heart attack, stroke, or sudden cardiac arrest.
Knowing these facts about dopamine, you can begin to see just how important this chemical is in the body. The problem is that heroin causes a sudden and significant surge of dopamine to be released in the brain. This surge of dopamine is what gives heroin some of its most desirable effects like euphoria and a deep relaxation. However, it is also what makes it so dangerous and addictive.
Heroin causes such a large surge of dopamine to be released that even just a little bit too much heroin can cause sudden death. This large dopamine surge also makes it so the brain does not release dopamine as it normally would. Instead, it starves the body of dopamine until it receives the signals from heroin to release a large quantity again. This causes significant malaise as well as physical health issues.
While the effects of heroin are extremely dangerous, heroin treatment is available and effective. Treating a heroin addiction is not necessarily easy. However, it is possible, and a full recovery is also very possible.
When it comes to heroin treatment for a person with an addiction, there are numerous different options. The type of treatment facility or environment that a person receives treatment is one of the decisions that each individual with an addiction will need to make.
There are essentially three options available in terms of treatment environments. The first is simple outpatient treatment. Outpatient heroin treatment is a minimally disruptive form of addiction treatment, meaning it requires the least amount of time on a daily or weekly basis out of the three options.
Most people only spend three to five hours a week in outpatient treatment; sometimes more or less if they prefer. They will remain at home and in their regular daily life when not in treatment. This type of heroin treatment can be quite beneficial when someone has children to take care of or a job to keep up with. However, because of all of the time outside of treatment, relapse is much more likely with outpatient treatment as opposed to other options.
Intensive outpatient treatment is another one of the available options. This is basically a day program and occupies about six or eight hours of the day several days a week. Most of the time, weekends are personal days in intensive outpatient treatment as are evenings. This allows for some flexibility for people who have children and who prefer to sleep at home. However, because more time is spent in treatment, there is a smaller chance of relapse and a greater chance of successful recovery.
The third and final option for heroin treatment environments is inpatient or residential treatment. This is commonly known as rehab and is the type of addiction treatment that is full-time. The person in treatment will stay days and nights in the addiction treatment center. They will spend their days and even part of the evenings sometimes in various therapies and treatments.
This type of treatment environment is well-structured and helps to keep a person on track in their recovery. It also eliminates the possibility of relapse while going through the treatment program.
Heroin Addiction Therapies
There are numerous therapies that can be put to use in any of the heroin treatment environments. These different options address heroin addiction and its effects on a person from different angles. For example, prescription drug therapy addresses the physical side of addiction. It can be used in the detox process to help make it easier to go through and can be used as a long-term maintenance program to prevent relapse.
Lessons in nutrition and diet from certified nutritionists may also be offered in heroin treatment centers. This deals with the fact that heroin wreaks havoc on the body and can lead a person to become severely malnourished. Learning proper eating habits and learning how to provide the body with the best possible nutrition can help a person to regain a healthy relationship with their body and build their strength and health.
Alternative Therapies for Heroin Addiction
Other therapies deal with the heroin addiction head on. This can include cognitive-behavioral therapy to deal with the thought patterns a person with an addiction has and the behaviors that correlate with them. The idea is that by changing the thoughts, you can change the behaviors as well. This can be done in group or individual sessions.
Art therapy and other types of recreational therapy are also available. These therapeutic techniques teach healthy coping strategies, help recovering addicts to get in tune with themselves and their thoughts and emotions, and help them improve their communication skills, among other things.
Yoga, acupuncture and acupressure, spiritual therapy, and more are also options that can address the spiritual side of an addiction and help to tap into a person's beliefs to help in the addiction recovery process.
The vast variety of therapies means that there is something for everyone when it comes to addiction treatment and the recovery process.
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