Heroin is a powerfully addictive drug derived from the seed pod of the opium poppy, which primarily grows on small, remote farms. Because this flower thrives in warm, arid climates, heroin has become a cash crop for subsistence farmers in countries such as Turkey, Laos and Pakistan. It is also a major export of countries in Central and South America, including Mexico and Colombia.
The Dangers of Heroin
Like all natural and synthetic opioid drugs, heroin works by binding to opioid receptors found throughout the brain. It takes effect rapidly, causing a rush of euphoric feelings and dulling pain. Because opioids can also affect heart rate and respiratory function, an overdose can cause someone to stop breathing – after that, they can quickly slip into a coma or die.
While pure, uncut heroin can cause permanent organ damage, some people who sell heroin add ingredients that can clog blood vessels leading to the brain, lungs, kidney or liver. In addition, many heroin users elevate their risk of contracting illnesses like hepatitis and HIV by sharing or reusing needles.
Why Do People Use Heroin?
For many years, doctors frequently prescribed opioid medications such as Vicodin and OxyContin to their patients after surgeries or to help them manage chronic pain. At the time, health professionals believed these drugs carried minimal risk of addiction because pharmaceutical companies marketed them as harmless. Unfortunately, this false advertising sparked a nationwide opioid epidemic.
Though states rushed to pass legislation restricting opioid drug prescriptions, millions of people from all walks of life had already become addicted to their pain pills, needing increasingly higher doses as their tolerance grew. Habitual opioid users who try to quit using drugs can experience severely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms like body aches, insomnia, chills, weakness and cravings. To avoid going through withdrawal, people may seek out illicit heroin when they can no longer get a legitimate doctor’s prescription.
How to Safely Quit Using Heroin
Withdrawal happens because your body and brain become accustomed to having drugs in your system, and when you stop using, it causes an imbalance. That’s why it can be so dangerous to quit cold turkey if you’ve been using heroin or other opioids for a long time.
At Cumberland Heights, we’ve developed our Safe Start program in response to the opioid health crisis in Tennessee and across our country. Medication-assisted treatment is an evidence-based tool to help people break free of opioid use disorders and live healthier, more rewarding sober lifestyles.
Let Us Help You Get Your Life Back
Safe Start at Cumberland Heights provides the foundation for the future stages of the opioid recovery process. Our health professionals will carefully monitor your symptoms around the clock and keep you as comfortable as possible by administrating the FDA-approved medications naltrexone and buprenorphine to ease withdrawal. Once you are stable enough to do so, you can transition to the next step in your continuum of care.
We have the knowledge and tools necessary to overcome our national opioid epidemic, one person at a time. To learn more about how Safe Start can help you start your recovery journey, reach out to us today.