The British Medical Journal has rated heroin as being the most addictive and harmful of illegal and legal drugs that are abused.
It can be difficult to get exact statistics on heroin use and its effects because many addicts will not willingly admit to being addicted to heroin. This is because of the criminal charges they could face as a result of disclosing this information. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported than an estimated amount of 3.7 million Americans have tried heroin at least one time in their life. Drug programs that are publically funded are allowed to release statistics on drug addiction and in 2006, 14 percent of admissions to these programs were for the treatment of heroin.
- The Drug Abuse Warning Network estimates that more than 190,000 visits to the emergency room during 2006 were for cases involving the use and abuse of heroin.
- Heroin addicts will spend an average of $150 per day on their addiction.
- In 2008, the Office of Applied Studies estimated that nationwide heroin use was 0.2 percent out of 700,000 people.
There are so many negative heroin addiction risks that go along with the addiction. One of the most common ways to abuse the drug is by injection, leading to an increased chance of contracting AIDS and hepatitis. The short-term effects of the drug appear within minutes after the drug is used. They will disappear in a few hours.
When the drug is injected, the effects are felt more quickly and include:
- An initial surge of euphoria
- Flushing of the skin
- Dry mouth
- Feeling as though limbs are heavy
- Drowsiness after the euphoria wears off
- Cloudy mental function
- Breathing and heart rates drop as the central nervous system becomes depressed
The long-term heroin addiction health effects that will begin to appear after the addict uses the drug for an extended period of time. There are a number of serious health conditions that can arise when a heroin addiction is formed.
These effects include:
- Liver disease
- Collapsed veins
- Pulmonary complications
- Infections in the lining of the heart
As the addict continues to use the drug on a regular basis, they will develop a tolerance. More than 70 percent of heroin addicts have developed a tolerance quickly and require a large amount of the drug to achieve desired effects. Not only will the addict begin to use the drug more, but he will use higher doses. This signifies that the person has developed a physical dependence and an addiction.
- Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs available and it does not take a long time to develop a tolerance.
- After tolerance and addiction are formed, addicts will suffer withdrawal symptoms if they do not use the drug.
- Those with severe addictions can begin to experience withdrawal within hours after the last administration of the drug.
When a person is addicted to heroin and they suddenly stop using the drug, they will experience withdrawal symptoms which is why many enter a heroin addiction detox. This is true in 100 percent of all heroin addicts. The withdrawal symptoms will peak between 48 and 72 hours. However, mild withdrawal symptoms will be noticed within three hours of the last time the addict used the drug. Withdrawal symptoms for this type of addiction can be severe and even life-threatening. Addicts who are in poor health could die from withdrawal symptoms. This is a rare occurrence, only happening in two percent of the heroin-addicted population.
Withdrawal symptoms of heroin addiction
can be extremely painful and include:
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Severe pain in muscles and bones
- Inability to sleep
- Vomiting and diarrhea, cold flashes
- Involuntary kicking movements
The average heroin addict will use between 150 mg and 250 mg per day. This applies to 65 percent of heroin addicts. The rest of the addicts use much more on a daily basis, almost doubling the average amount. In the past few years, studies have indicated that heroin overdoses have been the cause of more deaths than traffic accidents in the United States alone. It is estimated that there are over 1.2 million heroin users in the US. Of these users, 800,000 individuals are considered addicts. Many of these addicts are not receiving treatment for their addiction.
Only 60 percent of known heroin addicts are in a drug treatment facility for their addiction.