Heroin addiction

Whether you are a celebrity at the height of their stardom or a carpenter reaching retirement, no one is immune to the powerful grip of heroin addiction. Heroin addiction is a devastating reality that has plagued individuals and communities for decades. While some may be quick to judge and stereotype those struggling with addiction, it’s important to understand the complex nature of the condition and the far-reaching impact it has on individuals and society as a whole.

Heroin addiction - heroin and syringe

What is heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive, illegal drug that belongs to the opiate family. It is derived from morphine, which is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Heroin is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as a black, sticky substance known as “black tar” heroin.

Heroin is usually injected, snorted or smoked and it produces a rapid and intense high that can last for several hours. The drug works by binding to opiate receptors in the brain, causing a release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that produce feelings of pleasure and euphoria.

Because of its high potential for addiction and overdose, heroin is considered a Schedule I drug in the United Kingdom, meaning it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

What is heroin addiction?

Heroin addiction is a chronic and often relapsing disorder characterised by compulsive drug-seeking and drug-taking behaviours involving heroin. Heroin addiction typically develops after repeated use of the drug, which leads to changes in the brain’s reward and motivation pathways. These changes cause intense cravings for the drug and can make it difficult for individuals to stop using heroin even when they experience negative consequences.

How does heroin addiction develop?

Over time, a person who uses heroin will build up a tolerance to the drug, meaning they will need higher doses to achieve the same effects. If they stop using the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and intense cravings. This is known as physical dependence and when coupled with underlying psychological factors like a history of substance abuse, trauma or mental health issues, heroin addiction is a major risk.

Statistics and facts regarding heroin use and addiction in the UK

Here are some statistics and facts about heroin use in the UK with their respective sources:

  • According to the Home Office’s drug misuse statistics for England and Wales, there were an estimated 2,219 heroin-related deaths in England and Wales in 2021. This represents an increase of 6.4% from the previous year.
  • According to the UK government’s latest study on drug misuse, there were 261,000 heroin users in the UK in 2020.
  • According to the National Crime Agency’s National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime 2020, the availability of heroin in the UK remains high and there are concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic may have increased the risk of overdose due to supply chain disruptions and reduced access to treatment services.

As you can see from these numbers, heroin remains a major problem in the UK that must be taken seriously. Banbury Lodge is committed to offering support and direction to empower heroin addiction sufferers to reclaim their lives.

What are the health effects of heroin abuse and addiction?

Heroin abuse and addiction can lead to a wide range of negative mental effects, including:

Mental effects

  • Depression: Heroin use can cause a decrease in the brain’s natural production of dopamine and serotonin which can lead to symptoms of depression.
  • Anxiety: Chronic heroin use can lead to increased feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and restlessness.
  • Psychosis: Long-term heroin use can cause symptoms of psychosis, including hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking.
  • Cognitive impairment: Heroin use can cause cognitive impairment, including difficulty with attention, concentration, memory and decision-making.
  • Mood swings: Heroin use can lead to frequent mood swings, ranging from extreme euphoria to deep depression.
  • Insomnia: Heroin use can cause insomnia and other sleep disturbances, which can further worsen mental health.
  • Suicidal thoughts: Heroin addiction can cause feelings of hopelessness, leading to suicidal ideation and behaviour.
  • Personality changes: Chronic heroin use can cause changes in personality and behaviour, including impulsivity, aggression and diminished empathy.
  • Social isolation: Heroin addiction can cause individuals to withdraw from social interactions and isolate themselves from friends and family.

It is important to note that the negative mental effects of heroin use and addiction can vary from person to person and depend on factors such as the dose, frequency and duration of use as well as the individual’s overall mental health.

Heroin addiction - woman with insomnia

Physical effects

Heroin abuse can also lead to negative physical effects on the body, including:

  • Respiratory depression: This can lead to decreased oxygen supply to the body and brain
  • Weakened immune system: Heroin use can make users more vulnerable to infections and illnesses
  • Cardiac problems: Heroin addiction can cause cardiac problems such as collapsed veins, infections of the heart lining and increased risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Overdose and death: There is an increased risk of overdose and death, especially when combined with other drugs or alcohol.
  • Increased risk of contracting infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Needle marks, bruises or abscesses at the injection site
  • Skin infections and inflammation
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Menstrual irregularities in women
  • Hormonal imbalances in both men and women

How can I recognise the signs of heroin addiction in myself or a loved one?

Heroin addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, so it’s important to be able to recognise the signs of addiction in yourself or a loved one. Here are questions which can help you spot the common signs and symptoms of heroin addiction:

  • Have I noticed any changes to the body like decreased appetite, constricted pupils, or needle marks and bruises?
  • Have I withdrawn from social groups or given up hobbies I used to enjoy to do heroin instead?
  • Am I neglecting my personal hygiene as a result of my heroin abuse?
  • Am I exhibiting behavioural changes such as engaging in risky behaviour?
  • Am I having financial problems due to spending large sums of money on heroin while neglecting other financial responsibilities?
  • Do I feel any psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, mood swings or insomnia?

If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms of heroin addiction, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Interesting facts about heroin in the UK

According to a study conducted by the UK government titled Review of Drugs, here are some facts relating to heroin supply, trends and risks:

  • 488 kg of heroin was seized in 2018/19, which is equivalent to a 217% increase from 2017/18
  • While there are 3 main routes heroin is trafficked into the UK, the Balkan route is thought to be the most often used
  • Most heroin that ends up on the UK market is believed to originate from Afghanistan, which has seen a 44% rise in production since 2015
  • Heroin is one of the most closely linked substances to violence due to the significant financial rewards offered.

As you can see from the sheer amount of heroin coming into the UK, the risk of drug addiction is ever-present and must not be taken lightly.

How is heroin addiction treated?

Overcoming heroin addiction requires a comprehensive approach incorporating heroin detox followed by heroin rehab as well as support from family and community resources. The specific treatment approach may vary depending on the individual’s needs, the severity of their addiction and other factors. Banbury Lodge offers both of these stages in our world-class inpatient recovery clinic so do not hesitate to contact us for more information.

If you or your loved one need help with heroin addiction, get in touch with Banbury Lodge today. We are dedicated to helping you achieve long-lasting recovery and start a brand new life free from the grips of heroin addiction.

How to help a loved one with heroin addiction

Helping a loved one who is battling heroin addiction can be a complicated and emotional process. The best thing you can do to support your loved one is to educate yourself about heroin and the treatment options available, providing your support by letting your loved one know that you care about their well-being and making sure that you don’t enable their heroin abuse or addiction.

Frequently asked questions

Can you die from heroin addiction?
Yes, it is possible to die from heroin addiction. Heroin is a highly addictive drug that can cause serious health problems, including overdose and death. Heroin overdose occurs when a person takes a large enough amount of the drug to suppress the respiratory system, which can lead to respiratory failure and death.
What are the benefits of quitting heroin?
Quitting heroin offers numerous benefits for physical, mental, and social well-being. Physically, quitting reduces the risk of overdose, infectious diseases (such as HIV and hepatitis), and other health complications associated with intravenous drug use. Mentally and emotionally, quitting heroin can lead to improved mood stability, clarity of thought, and better overall mental health. Socially, it allows individuals to rebuild relationships, regain trust, and pursue personal goals and aspirations without the constraints of addiction.
What is heroin made from?
Heroin is derived from morphine, which is a natural substance extracted from the seed pods of certain varieties of poppy plants. The process of making heroin involves chemically modifying morphine through acetylation, which increases its potency and makes it more soluble in lipid (fat) tissues, enhancing its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier quickly. Heroin is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.”
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