Heroin is an opiate pain reliever that is in the same class as morphine. As a matter of fact, heroin is a derivative of morphine. Historically, heroin has been used to treat severe pain however all forms of heroin have been banned in the United States due to its highly addictive properties.

The main draw of heroin is its ability to produce intense relaxation and euphoria. These properties are what have earned heroin its nickname as the “perfect whatever drug”. Tolerance to heroin develops quickly, requiring addicts to use more and more in order to achieve the same feelings. Most addicts begin as recreational users, though it doesn’t take long for physical dependency to develop, thus requiring the addict to continue to use the drug to prevent extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use, approximately 3.7 million Americans have tried heroin at some point in their lives with another 150,000 people trying heroin for the first time each year. Many of these people become addicts within a few months. While heroin can be snorted, smoked or injected, most addicts end up injecting the drug in order to enhance its effects and intensify the rush as well as decrease the time it takes to experience the effects.

Long term effects of heroin use include:
• Risk of contracting an infectious disease including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis b and c.
• Collapsed veins
• Bacterial infections
• Abscesses
• Endocarditis
• Arthritis
• Death

This list doesn’t include the addiction itself. Scientists have discovered that long term use of heroin produces chemical changes in the brain that create a physical dependence on the drug itself. Stopping heroin use after these changes have occurred results in extremely painful withdrawal symptoms as soon as a few hours after the last use. Symptoms of withdrawal include:

• Bone pain
• Restlessness
• Insomnia
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Cold flashes
• Involuntary leg movements

Heroin addiction is a treatable condition whereby the addict can recover from the disease. There are many effective treatment methods that can be used to combat heroin addiction, however these are most effective when implemented early in the disease process. Both methadone and suboxone have been used to treat heroin addiction successfully and reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms while detoxing. These medications, when combined with behavioral modification therapies, can increase the chances of recovery.