The Heroin Effect Of The Mind & Body

Heroin Use Today

Heroin is an opioid, first synthesized and sold in the late 1800’s. Like other opioids, heroin has a calming affect on the body, used as an antidepressant and a painkiller. Opioids have been used for centuries to provide relief from pain beginning in Egypt before making their way to Europe and India.

Derived from opium poppy sap, opioids can be found in the form of powder, tablets, pills, syrups and capsules. Heroin is typically sold in a powder that is most commonly injected, but can also be snorted smoked or sniffed. It is one of the most addictive substances on the market, which is why it is the most deadly. It has become one of the most widely used drugs amongst users worldwide with statistics rising everyday.

In the United States, heroin addiction has become an epidemic. In our country alone there are currently over one million heroin users across the nation. This startling number is five times what it was in 2000, increasing at a dramatic, unprecedented rate. Over 10,000 individuals die of a heroin overdose every year, which accounts for roughly 60% of all drug related deaths. In the past, most of the country’s heroin use was confined to urban areas. This is no longer the case as heroin addiction has spiked in suburban and rural communities, as well.

It is important for all of use to be educated about heroin addiction and how to deal with the issues that have risen because of our country’s epidemic. We must be armed with the facts about heroin abuse to start combating the problem and making headway towards a solution for the future. This article is intended to inform others on exactly how heroin addiction affects the mind and body of a drug addict. We will be discuss, explain and explore dopamine, opiate receptors, and the symptoms and side effects of heroin addiction.

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Key Concepts in Opioid Addiction

Opioids are a group of drugs that have been and are still used for medical purposes across the globe. Morpheme and codeine are common opiates that are prescribed to alleviate pain after surgery and to combat the side effects of certain illnesses. These are the key concepts that allow heroin alter our physical and mental states:

Dopamine – A neurotransmitter that controls emotions, motivation, movement and pleasure and plays a major role in reward based systems. Certain drugs, like heroin, produce excess amounts of dopamine in the brain. This dramatic increase in a feeling of euphoria is what keeps addicts coming back for more. The brain is rewarded with a spike in dopamine when a an addict is using heroin, causing it to crave the drug to produce another high.

Opioid receptors – A group of receptors in the brain with opioids as ligands, a molecule that binds to another. When opiates attach to the group of receptors, the brain sends signals to block pain and other senses related to emotion. The result is slower breathing and a calming feeling.

Opiates and Opioids – Alkaloid compounds naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Psychoactive compounds are found in opiates that trigger different sensations in the brain and body.

GABA – A Neurotransmitter that plays an important role in anxiety and more. Typically, GABA inhibits the amount of dopamine that is released in the brain. However, the use of opioids prevents GABA from working properly, allowing excess amounts of dopamine to be produced when heroin is in the system.

What Happens To Our Bodies When We Use Heroin?

When heroin is introduced into the bloodstream it travels to our brain and attaches itself to the opiate receptors in the cortex. What happens next? Our bodies produce dopamine in excess and our brain becomes flooded with the neurotransmitter. We experience an intense feeling of euphoria and pleasure, rewarding our brain for using the heroin. Opioid abuse also decreases our level of GABA. Low levels of this neurotransmitter are linked to irregular sleep patterns, depression, excessive stress, and anxiety. Because GABA is involved in the slowing of dopamine release, without this key component dopamine is produced in higher levels.

During my heroin addiction, the drugs made me not have a care in the world. I felt euphoria every time I was using and I couldn’t be brought down from the high that I felt. The grass looked greener and the sky looked bluer. Prolonged heroin use leads us to this state of being.

What are the Signs of a Heroin Addiction?

Sometimes people are unaware of the signs to look for in other people who may be struggling with a heroin addiction. There are many physical and psychological changes that you may notice a person abusing heroin. These include:

  • Flushed skin
  • Nasea
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times and places
  • Lack of interest in activities, like school and work
  • Increased lying and secretiveness
  • Poor hygiene
  • Trying to hide body parts
  • Refusing to eat at all
  • Injection marks on the skin

What Are Some Side Effects Of Heroin?

The are many side effects of heroin use that keep heroin addicts using. When the body is not under the influence of the drug, the side effects worsen on an even greater scale. The body begins to go into withdrawal just hours after last use, keeping addicts coming back for more and more.

Here are some short-term effects of heroin abuse:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Itchy skin
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cold sweats
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting

What are the Long-Term Effects of Heroin Addiction?

Over time, continuous heroin abuse results in a decreased number of opioid receptors in the brain, which can lead to more serious issues and even death. After repeated use, our brain becomes custom to being under the influence of heroin and our tolerance decreases. Soon it takes more heroin to feel the same amount of pleasure as before. We feel as though must increase our dosage to experience any form of a high. This is what people often call “chasing the dragon.” It is trying to experience the high that we once had and being unable to achieve it. Your brain’s chemistry quite literally changes and you are unable to achieve the same effects with the same dose. Dr. Steven Dewey, a prominent addictions specialist, calls heroin addiction an organic brain disease. Dr. Dewey explains, “I’ve never seen a drug explode on the scene as much as opiates have.”

Here are some long-term effects of heroin abuse:

  • Hepatitis and HIV caused by use of unhygienic injections (i.e. dirty needles)
  • Pulmonary Edema (fluid in the lungs)
  • Decreased bowel motility
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired immune system
  • Poor dental health
  • Decreased sexual function
  • Open wounds, scabs and scars
  • Coma
  • Dealth

At the end of my heroin addiction in 2010, I could not get high and had to use to not feel extremely sick. This is a very dark place to arrive at, but it is darkest before the dawn!

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What Keeps Heroin Addicts Using?

A while into abusing opiates, us addicts experience withdrawal when our body is not flooded with dopamine and the chemicals are leaving our bodies. These withdrawal symptoms can be painful and unpleasant which is why so many addicts continue to use. They want to avoid what they know will come when the heroin runs out. As difficult as it may be, a safe, effective, medical detox is necessary to move forward with a healthy, happy and sober life.

Some symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Extreme cravings
  • Depression
  • Body aches
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Sweats
  • Racing heart
  • Hypertension
  • Fevers
  • & More…

I’ve been there and I needed help to get sober. I would not have made it if it wasn’t for the group of people and support system that guided me through my early recovery.

There is a way out. At Pathfinders Recovery Center, you will meet the owners including myself on the first day of arrival, and throughout your stay you will receive the individual time and attention you deserve. Please call or message us if you or a loved one is struggling. Addiction is literally a matter of life and death. We are here 24 hours a day to help.

10 Defeating Attitudes in Early Sobriety and How To Combat Them

Getting sober is one of, if not the hardest thing that us addicts will ever have to do. The journey to long term recovery is a hard one, often bumpy and filled with difficult personal and emotional challenges. Here are some thoughts and belief systems that commonly come up for us amongst early sobriety to be aware of, watch out for, and discard when they creep in!

1. The Non Sober People Are More Fun

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Addicts in general, myself included spend our time trying to do WHATEVER we can to “feel good” in the moment.  Sometimes life is not going to feel good and that is when we do not know how to handle it. That being said, the guys and gals that are goofing off, not working on themselves and acting out in negative self-defeating behaviors may appear to be having more fun…but talk to them when they relapse, get arrested, or end up back in treatment or at a 12-step meeting getting another new comer chip and ask yourself if that looks like fun? No judgement here, the thing is nothing changes until something changes and you must do things you have never done to get where you have never been period – simple as that.

2. I Am Not Ready To Be Sober Yet

You have hit your bottom once you have quit digging. Some people lose everything, die, get locked up ect…some other people end up realizing it much quicker and don’t lose much but can see where their life is heading and make the effort to change it quicker. So please don’t let your mind give you this excuse, it’s not true!

3. This Won’t Work For Me

Here is the thing…how can we know something that we don’t know…we can’t. Just because my mind is telling me that I know something does not mean it’s true. Find a mentor that has been where you’ve been and be open minded to having a new experience. Do what they say and great things will follow.

4. I’m Unique and Worse Than Everyone

This one always gives me a laugh because I can relate so strongly. Almost every addict I’ve had the pleasure of working with at one point or another experiences this thought. I have found out that I am not special or different and when I look for similarities instead of differences I can relate to some people I would never have expected to be able to.

5. I can do this on my own

In my experience this was not true. However, I will say if you truly believe that you can give it a try. If it doesn’t work, then try a treatment center and entering into a 12-step program.

6. Thinking The Answer is on the Outside, Not on the Inside

I need to quit smoking, get a job, enroll in college…TODAY !”. Relax, Rome wasn’t built in a day and we have to crawl before we can walk. You do not have to conquer all of your problems today. Keep it simple and make small realistic goals for yourself and overtime the upheaval and redemption of your life will be astonishing! Give yourself some time to really work on you in the beginning the rest will follow.

7. I Don’t Deserve A Better Life

This is not true for anyone – ever. Period. There is a little bit of good in the worst of us and a little bit of bad in the best of us. Take it easy on yourself, learn to forgive and love yourself. This is a process that is difficult and takes time but I promise you can do it and we will love you until you love yourself!

8. Nobody Cares About Me Anyway

I felt this way coming into recovery and what I found was the exact opposite. It was amazing how many people put their hand out to help me when all I did was simply become willing and ask for the help.

9. I’ve Tried Everything And Nothing Has Worked

No one has tried everything. There are variables to consider here. For instance, something I may have “tried” could work if I changed my perspective, applied myself and engaged in it with an open mind if I was closed off the first time. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective.

10. I will control my use… it will be different this time!

If you are really an addict or alcoholic your own experience is the best test here.  Did you ever “just do one”?  Were you able to easily stop all substances at once at any time without any difficulty?  If you’re truly an addict or alcoholic all you have to do is be honest with yourself and reflect on your experience to see that this not true.  You’re not alone here we have all fallen victim to this way of thinking and it keeps us in addiction much longer than necessary.

How to Travel Safely in Early Recovery

HOW TO TRAVEL SAFELY IN EARLY RECOVERY

traveling-in-recovery

How to Avoid a Relapse for You or a Loved One

Traveling during recovery is scary for many addicts making the changes necessary for a healthier lifestyle. You aren’t used to leaving the safe, comfortable environment you’ve build for yourself during this time. Your routine will have to be temporarily changed and there will likely be new challenges you face that wouldn’t happen at home,

We’ve created a guide for those looking to still enjoy life and all that it has to offer while staying sober. Here are our tips on traveling safely in early recovery:

Use a Sober Companion if Possible

A close friend of mines grandfather just passed away. He is early in recovery and known to relapse every time he visited his hometown on the east coast. I had the honor and privilege to go with him back east and be there for him and his family in a time of grief. We went to various restaurants and AA meetings. It turned out to be a safe, and good (as far as circumstances would allow) time and we both stayed sober. Not everyone will be able to afford this luxury but if at all possible I highly recommend bringing someone healthy with you!

Schedule Accountability Calls

Set up a time each day that you’re going to call a healthy sober individual that you trust. Talk to them openly and honestly about anything going on in your head while on your trip. They will be glad to help you and this will make a HUGE difference for your chances of staying sober!

Attend Meetings Along The Way

Prior to leaving for a trip I highly recommend calling the local inter-groups and 12 step resources for the area you plan to travel to. Get a realistic meeting schedule that you can commit to and stick to it. They will be more than happy to help you (It’s what they do to ensure their own sobriety!)

Keep A List Of Phone Numbers In Your Wallet Or Purse

You never know what could happen while traveling, you could lose your phone, break it, forget it somewhere, it could get stolen or it could be as simple as your battery died and you forgot your charger. Print or handwrite a list of all your sober networks phone numbers, the intergroup for the area you’re in and make sure you keep it somewhere safe like your purse or wallet. I love technology but batteries can be a real issue!

Avoid places where people will be using drugs and drinking if possible

This is so important and gets over looked a lot of the time. There is going to be times where it’s unavoidable, say you’re going to a close friend’s wedding and everyone there loves to get loaded. Well that doesn’t mean you need to be around while anyone’s doing drugs in a hotel room or going the a bar after the big moment. Be mindful and keep yourself out of questionable situations at all cost the best you can! Really check your motives before deciding where and how to spend your time, and once you are there I would highly recommend making the time spent about other people not yourself!

Quick Travel Tips

  • Continue your normal routine as much as possible (journaling, meetings, etc.)
  • Exercise
  • Have a plan for what activities you’ll do throughout the day
  • Be aware of trigger symptoms
  • Prepare to say NO to uncomfortable situations
  • Connect to loved ones back home

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If you get into a tough spot, don’t be afraid to walk out of anywhere you’re at and pick up your phone and start calling EVERYONE that you can in your sober network.

What To Look For In A Substance Abuse Treatment Center

I have been in the treatment industry for 5 years now and one thing I have learned is that like most things, when looking into treatment options you are going to find both good and bad. I am writing this post so that you know what to look out for when deciding on treatment and how to find the program that is right for you or your loved one. The following are a list of things to look for and to ask yourself.

What Life Skills do you teach the individual?

This is number one on my list for a reason. Any inpatient treatment center can lock someone in their facility for 30 days and force an addict to abstain for a month. That can help in the beginning, but what about when the doors are unlocked and they have to go out into the real world? There has to be a focus on practical application and how to live a sober life outside of the safe space that inpatient treatment creates. It’s important to look for a program that addresses the following issues – how to get a job, how to be accountable/responsible, how to budget your finances, how to communicate effectively, how to keep yourself and your personal areas clean etc… Things that may seem basic to some, can be a challenge and feel strange to an addict who has neglected these areas of their life. Any treatment program worth considering will understand how crucial this is, and not only teach these life skills, but create opportunities for them to be practiced often.

Avoid unrealistic promises and statistics

pathfinders recovery center, pathfinders arizona, pathfinders recovery, substance abuse treatment, drug abuse treatment, opiate treatment center, drug addiction treatment, alcohol addiction treatment, best rehab, top rehab in the us, best addiction center, get help today, heroin addiction help, meth detox arizona, heroin detox arizona, heroin addiction arizona, heroin addiction new jerseyThe truth is that there is no “one size fits all cure for addiction.” In fact, there is no cure at all. Statistics on success have little to no real value in this industry as far as I can tell. Each individual has the sole responsibility to gain and maintain knowledge about themselves and take the actions required to change their own life. Every person is responsible for their own recovery and happiness. A treatment program is responsible for equipping clients with life skills, providing guidance as a recovering addict carves a new path for themselves, and to hold clients to a higher standard than they have held themselves to in the past. If a program claims, “We have a 90% success rate!” they are selling you, not guiding you. Do your homework and remember that while there are no guarantees, there are endless possibilities for someone who commits to their recovery.

Make sure you understand features and benefits of the program.

  • What do they really offer? (Request a full program overview)
  • Do they teach about nutrition? (Do they talk about more than just mental health? A healthy diet and lifestyle makes a huge difference!)
  • What are their therapy modalities? (What approaches do they use? What is the background and skill set of the Therapists and Staff?)
  • Who are the owners and to what extent do they play a role in this facility? (If you can’t get the owner on the phone, or if you’re told you or your loved one will likely not meet them, I strongly recommend you look for another facility. You want access to the people in charge of treatment.)
  • How long is the program? (It varies, but in my experience it takes a minimum of 90 days to really impact someone’s chances of lasting recovery!)
  • How much does it cost? (Every program is different. You want to choose a State licensed treatment center, but they are not the most low-cost option. However, Health insurance can greatly reduce or eliminate this financial obligation!)
  • What are the refund policies if your loved one leaves early? (Do not put any money on the line without having a clear understanding of a program’s refund policies!)
  • To what extent is the family dynamic addressed? (This is a major component of long-term success after treatment.)
  • To what extent and how is the family involved? (How specifically does the program plan to help heal damage that addiction creates to the family system?)
  • What if my loved one relapses? (If a program tells you they will kick them out right away, or there is no consequence here…do yourself a favor and find another facility. This should be handled on a case-by-case basis as each addict and each situation is unique.)
  • What is your aftercare strategy? (This is crucial to lasting sobriety! What exactly happens after treatment? How long does the program stay involved? Do they help facilitate short and long term goal planning for once treatment is over? What after care options do they offer and how do they go about implementing these?)

Get all this down and look at it. Make sure you’re going into this armed with the facts and with both eyes open.

Contact Us

Pathfinders Recovery Center
Scottsdale, AZ
pathfindersaz.com
info@pathfindersrec.wpengine.com
(855) 728-4363

*This blog post was authored by Lawrence Briggs, Director of Operations at Pathfinders Recovery Center. Ph: 480.320.0752