The Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

The Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Those coping with substance use disorder (SUD) often begin using a little bit of a substance. Over time, they develop a greater tolerance for it. When people’s tolerance for a substance grows, they often increase either the dosage or frequency. From there, it is easy to develop an addiction. Substance abuse can greatly alter people’s mental and physical selves, especially after using substances for an extended period. Heroin use, for instance, has long-term effects, so it is important to seek treatment when an addiction is present.

First Steps Recovery provides a safe environment to promote healing for all clients. Detoxes, clinical treatments, and holistic therapies are offered for everyone, and each client is given a personalized treatment plan. It is important to understand all of the elements of SUD, from its root causes to its long-term effects, in order to heal from it fully. 

About Heroin Use

Heroin is an opioid made from morphine, and it is produced semi-synthetically. It is a highly addictive substance that often causes users to fall into dependency and addiction quickly. Heroin reaches the brain rapidly and attaches to opioid receptors in cells. These receptors often control pain, pleasure, heart rate, sleeping, and breathing. 

Heroin addiction can be difficult to overcome without professional help. Reaching out to competent, experienced professionals is important. Trying to stop heroin use alone is often unsuccessful. What’s more, it can be dangerous. When heroin use is stopped abruptly, people experience withdrawal symptoms that can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Severe muscle and bone pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold flashes and goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Severe cravings

How to Identify Heroin Addiction

Seeking recovery from heroin use is necessary if a person is experiencing the following signs of dependency:

  • Using heroin more often or longer than planned
  • Experiencing cravings for the drug
  • Being unable to cut down on use despite intentions to stop
  • Self-isolation
  • Facing negative social, educational, or criminal consequences 
  • Feeling unwell when stopping heroin use
  • Requiring a greater or more frequent dosage to achieve the desired effects of the drug

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

Another reason it is important to seek recovery is the long-term effects of heroin use can be substantial. Heroin changes a person’s brain structure, leading to neuronal and hormonal imbalances. Brain deterioration is also possible. These effects can impact a person’s decision-making ability, regulate behavior, and respond to stressful situations. 

Other long-term effects of heroin use can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Collapsed veins for those who inject the drug
  • Damaged nose tissue for those who snort the drug
  • Infections of the heart lining and valves
  • Abscesses
  • Constipation and stomach cramping
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Lung complications
  • Mental health disorders such as depression
  • Sexual dysfunction in men
  • Irregular menstrual cycles in women
  • Clogged blood vessels in the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain
  • HIV or hepatitis from sharing needles

These outcomes sound dire. However, recovery and healing are possible. It is important to know that there are many treatment plans, therapies, and services available for those seeking treatment. One’s life does not need to be defined by heroin use, and a sober life is possible with the right assistance.

Treatment for Heroin Use at First Steps Recovery

Many treatments are available for clients looking to heal from heroin use. At first, often during the detoxification phase of recovery, clients are offered medication under supervision. Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are the three medications that act as antagonists in some way to the opioid receptors on one’s cells. These either help ease withdrawal symptoms or block the effects of heroin entirely.

After detoxification, continuing treatment is important. In this stage, clients engage in different clinical and holistic treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management are two therapies that are beneficial for those recovering from heroin use. 

Contingency Management

Contingency management provides motivational incentives or rewards. This helps enforce positive behaviors that promote sobriety. Learning how to break free from the demands of heroin use is important, and having this reward system in place helps clients realize that they can create happy, fulfilling lives without drug use.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a treatment that is frequently offered at First Steps Recovery. This therapy is based on the theory that psychological problems are affected by unhelpful thinking and learned unhelpful behaviors. The underlying principle of CBT is that clients who are struggling with psychological problems can relieve themselves of their symptoms by learning proper coping mechanisms. 

The overarching goal of CBT is to help clients unlearn their unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviors. Clients recognize their unhelpful thinking and work with a therapist to restructure these thoughts to create a more positive mentality. From there, this shift in thinking correlates to a shift in behavior. This shift allows people to leave heroin use behind and create a healthy, happy life.

At First Steps Recovery, we understand that heroin use is complex and affects the structures of the brain. Through our programs, we help clients break free of heroin addiction so they can create sober, fulfilling lives. We help clients understand that their heroin use does not define them, and that the long-term effects of heroin use can be avoided with the proper recovery tools. Seeking treatment is important. We provide clients with a safe environment in which they can grow and heal. From detoxification to post-treatment, clients coping with heroin use are supported every step of the way. To learn more about heroin use, effects of heroin use, and treatment options, please call us at (844) 489-0836.

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