heroin

The Effects and Dangers of Heroin Abuse

Heroin is a widely-used, fast-acting and highly addictive illegal substance. Heroin is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I drug, meaning this drug possesses extremely addictive qualities and is highly dangerous when used regularly. Heroin is derived from opium, a natural juice extracted from the seed of the poppy plant.

Pure heroin is a white powder that can be smoked, snorted or injected intravenously. Heroin purchased on the street may vary in color from white to dark brown, depending on the purity. The drug has a sedative effect and is sometimes used following the use of other drugs, such as Ecstasy or speed, in order to relieve the comedown from an invigorating high. Heroin in classified in the same drug family as codeine and morphine and has the same “chill-out” effects.

The Side Effects of Heroin Abuse

The human body is filled with receptors for endorphins, the natural pain-killing substance produced by the body to alleviate shock or physical pain. Heroin is a natural painkiller that can attach to endorphin receptors and provide a pleasurable sensation and sense of well-being. Heroin amplifies the receptors’ painkilling effects, so the sense of pleasure is much stronger than the body is typically accustomed to.

Intravenous injection is the best method for providing a quick onset of pleasure. The peak of euphoria can be reached in seven or eight seconds. Smoking or snorting heroin will produce a peak in approximately ten minutes. Users may experience the following symptoms at peak onset:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • dry mouth
  • warm, flushed skin
  • heavy feeling in the extremities
  • drowsiness
  • clouded or impaired mental functioning
  • severe itching
  • difficulty breathing

Once the peak has subsided, the user will feel very relaxed and comfortable, since the central nervous system has been sedated. The individual will also be left feeling drowsy for several hours and may have an appearance of being asleep while actually awake.

The Dangers of Heroin Abuse

Frequent use of heroin can lead to dependence on the drug. Research estimates that 23 percent of regular heroin users become dependent. A regular user can experience withdrawal symptoms in as little as two or three days after a use. As an individual becomes dependent, tolerance is established, and each use requires an increased amount of the substance to reach an acceptable peak. Tolerance increases the risk of overdose. Most users buy heroin that is mixed with other substances. At times, heroin is sold on the street in a pure form. If a dependent user with a high tolerance uses a pure form, overdose will occur and will most likely be fatal. Chronic users can also develop the following complications:

  • collapsed veins
  • infection of the heart lining
  • abcesses
  • liver, kidney or pulmonary failure
  • clogged blood vessels causing permanent organ damage

Since heroin is most commonly injected intravenously, the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis B or C is extremely high. Many individuals share the needles used to inject the drug, so contagious diseases are often spread on the needles. Substances that heroin is often mixed with, such as talcum powder, starch or chalk, may contain bacteria. The bacteria will then spread throughout the user’s body and cause infections.

Treatment for Heroin Abuse

Heroin addicts who seek treatment will begin with detoxification. The user may be treated with medications like methadone or buprenorphine to ease withdrawal symptoms and allow the addict to feel the same sense of pleasure produced by heroin without the dangerous side effects. Typically, users are treated with a combination of drugs and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Therapy helps modify an addict’s behavior and build coping skills. Treatment can help reduce cravings, eliminate the focus on the drug and improve the addict’s overall physical health. Heroin is one of the most dangerous and addictive drugs distributed in the United States. With proper assistance, addicts can overcome dependence and help remove the “chill-out drug” from the streets of America.

cocaine abuse

The Effects and Dangers of Cocaine Abuse: Cocaine is Harmful, Dangerous and Comes with Serious Side Effects

Cocaine is a well known stimulant drug that comes with intense euphoric and addictive potential. It is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as schedule two, meaning it has high potential for abuse but may be distributed by a doctor for legitimate medical uses.

Cocaine is not a new drug. Pure cocaine is one of the world’s oldest known drugs and was first extracted from the leaves of the coca bush in the mid-19th century in areas of Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. In the early 1900s, cocaine was widely used to treat a variety of illnesses. Cocaine is a white powder that is typically snorted through the nose. However, the “high” can be achieved more quickly if the powder is dissolved in water and injected intravenously. Crack, a well known form of cocaine, is created by heating a mixture of cocaine and baking soda. Crack vapors are smoked, and euphoria can be reached within five minutes.

Side Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine is a nervous system stimulant which causes users to feel alert and energized. Effects of snorted cocaine can be felt immediately and fully wear off within 20 to 30 minutes. A cocaine user feels excited, sociable, talkative and possibly sexually aroused. Physically, the blood pressure and body temperature rise as the cocaine causes an excess of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, to be released in the brain. The comedown from cocaine is unpleasant, leaving the user feeling restless with dulled senses. Common after effects of cocaine use include:

  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • depression
  • lethargy

The after-effects are typically minimal at first and worsen with continued cocaine use. Regular users may eventually experience tremors, vertigo, paranoia, seizures or cardiac arrest, which can lead to sudden death. As an individual uses cocaine regularly, he or she will build a tolerance. This will cause the user to need a greater amount of the substance with each use to reach a typical high. Developing a tolerance to the drug creates dependence, which provides more opportunities for cocaine-related deaths.

Dangers of Cocaine

The most common physical danger of regular cocaine use is septum damage due to snorting. The nasal septum is the partition of bone and cartilage that separates the nasal cavities at the top of the nose. At first, regular users suffer constant nosebleeds, bloodied mucus and chronic nasal congestion. After continuous, long-term use, cocaine will begin to have a corrosive effect and may dissolve the septum completely.

The greatest danger of regular cocaine use is the potential for overdose. Most deaths associated with cocaine use are caused by accidental overdosing, usually when cocaine powder has been dissolved in drinks. Mixing the powder in liquid can cause the user to lose a sense of the amount of cocaine being consumed. An overdose is painful and traumatic. The victim suffers convulsions, heart failure or respiratory failure due to the depression of centers in the brain that control vital bodily functions such as breathing. Failure of these functions most often leads to death.

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine use does not result in addiction for every individual. Personalities and lifestyles often determine the responses to the drug among different people. However, cocaine is an extremely addictive drug. Cocaine causes a sense of pleasure and self-confidence that users often cannot find through other resources. When the euphoria wears off, the user craves that feeling again, and the compulsion to use the drug continuously is reinforced. For some individuals, occasional use may be completely harmless. For others, occasional use can turn into regular, long-term abuse as the cravings intensify. Regular abuse may then result in cocaine psychosis. The psychosis is a perpetual state of cocaine cravings, insomnia, paranoia, and mood swings. A drug treatment program may help an individual relieve the effects of psychosis and end long-term cocaine abuse.

Coke: Good Feeling, Bad Result

Approximately 2.4% of the American population uses cocaine on a regular basis. Users span a wide range of ages and are found among all ethnicities and levels of socioeconomic status. Every year, hundreds of those users are arrested on drug-related charges. Some users are not so lucky, experiencing physical damage from continued use or suffering painful deaths from overdosing. Individuals become addicted to cocaine due to the euphoria and feelings of pleasure the drug induces. When not high on cocaine, individuals exist in a world of misery with fatigue, headaches and depression. Cocaine is a trap. The drug lures users in with the promise of happiness, and then always leaves them wanting more.