With so many voices and opinions out there, it’s important to understand the facts.
Fact is that while you’re a teen (and even into your early 20’s!), you’re still growing and developing, and drug abuse during these years in particular can have a lasting impact. Another fact to consider: the brain is much more vulnerable to addiction as it continues to develop as well. 90% of Americans with a substance abuse problem starting smoking, drinking or using other drugs before age 18.
When it comes to drug use, individual reactions and experiences vary, so it’s important to understand the usual risks and effects, both short- and long-term. Knowledge can be the key to making your own best decisions.
Keep reading to the get the facts on the most frequently abused substances.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug. And overdose is a real, and deadly risk.
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What is it?
Heroin is an opiate, a class of drugs that are either naturally derived from the flowers of the poppy plant, or synthetic substitutes. In the case of heroin, it’s produced from morphine, a naturally occurring substance that comes from the seedpod of poppy plants. All opiate abuse, including heroin and many prescriptions painkillers, carries a strong risk of addiction and physical dependence. Heroin is abused by injecting, snorting or smoking it, and all three can cause the same level of addiction, as well as serious health problems.1
Heroin enters the brain very quickly, making it particularly addictive. It’s estimated that almost one-fourth of the people who try heroin become addicted.1 And over time, heroin users develop a tolerance, meaning that more and more of the drug is needed to achieve the same results.
It is extremely easy to not only become addicted, but to become physically dependent on heroin as well.2 Physical dependence occurs when your body adapts to the drug’s presence, causing withdrawal – symptoms include muscle and bone pain, diarrhea and vomiting – when use stops. Chronic heroin users can begin experiencing withdrawal in as little as a few hours.
Heroin suppresses breathing, which is why using heroin always carries the risk of overdose and death.1 Also, heroin often has additives that will not dissolve in the bloodstream. This can easily cause a blood clot to form and travel to the lungs, liver, heart or brain, which is instantly fatal.
In a short amount of time, regular heroin use destroys the body. Common conditions that plague heroin users include infection of the heart lining and valves, liver disease, lung disease, and hepatitis and HIV/AIDS from needle use.
The Bottom Line
It’s a fast high, but just as quickly, it can take over your life, and become fatal. Heroin and other opiate addictions are treatable, but the path to recovery requires a commitment that can often last years or even decades.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. DrugFacts: Heroin. Revised April 2013. Retrieved May 2013. View Source
Drug Enforcement Agency. Drug Fact Sheet: Heroin. Retrieved July 2011. View Source