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Heroin is hardly a new drug on the substance abuse scene. Around since the late 1800s, this potent opiate has garnered fans from around the world for many years. In 2012, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported some 467,000 people were dependent on the drug. It’s not a terribly forgiving substance – no opiate is. Once addiction has formed, it’s hard to turn things around, but recovery is always possible. With long-term abuse, some individuals will suffer lasting health effects as a result of using the drug.
There are several routes of administration when it comes to heroin abuse, including snorting it, injecting it under the skin, injecting it into muscle or a vein, smoking it, and eating it.
Most who abuse this substance do so for the almost instantaneous high in delivers that produces an initial state of euphoria followed by deep relaxation. Upon snorting heroin, it takes around 10 minutes for effects of the drug to set in, per the Harm Reduction Coalition.
Snorting heroin causes a nearly immediate high that can render people unconscious within moments, causing them to stop breathing and may even cause death. In addition, since heroin isn’t a pharmaceutical drug, but rather one people must buy from street dealers, there is never any guarantee that the substance someone is snorting is just heroin. Often, these substances are cut with other fillers and even other drugs that can further increase the risk of adverse effects.
The concentrated amount of the drug that makes its way into a person’s bloodstream through snorting is much higher than what would enter the body if heroin was taken orally. Over time, this method of administration can cause erosion of the nasal septum, which results in holes forming inside the nose.
Many who snort heroin do so because they think it is safer than injecting it, but those who snort the drug may be at risk of transitioning to injection methods eventually anyway.
NIDA reported on one study in which 331 people who snorted heroin were studied, and 15 percent of them switched to injecting after a year of use.
Aside from overdose, the biggest risk involved in injecting heroin – or any drug for that matter – is contracting an infectious disease, like HIV or hepatitis C. NIDA reports every person infected with hepatitis C who injects a drug is likely to pass the virus on to around 20 other people.
There are many routes of administration people use when abusing drugs. Snorting drugs through the nasal passage comes with its own set of risks, such as:
If there is a concern that a loved one may be snorting heroin, there are signs to look for before approaching the person about the issue. Snorting involves using a straw or rolled piece of paper to inhale powdered heroin through the nose. This often results in nosebleeds and irritation of the nasal passage. A chronically runny nose is frequently a warning sign that snorting is occurring on a regular basis. Bacterial infections sometimes result as a consequence of exposing the mucous membranes in the nasal passage to the toxins in heroin.
Heroin is a dangerous, deadly substance that claimed the lives of 8,257 people in 2013, per the Drug Enforcement Administration. Sadly, many of those lives could have been saved. While 681,000 people admitted to using heroin in 2013, 526,000 people checked into American treatment facilities that year citing heroin as their substance of abuse, per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Around 23 percent of all people who ever try heroin will end up hooked on the substance, NIDA reports.
The treatment process is sometimes intimidating to individuals who are apprehensive about going through withdrawal. They might have heard horror stories from others. While they might contemplate getting help, the second their latest dose starts wearing off and they start feeling sick or jittery as they crave another dose, they might not be able to fathom the idea of making it through withdrawal. Addiction treatment professionals can help.
Medical detox protects individuals as they withdraw from heroin, keeping them safe and comfortable throughout the process.
Rehab includes comprehensive treatment tools like intensive therapy and support groups. These therapies work to heal the wounds that have led individuals down the road of drug abuse and carry them into their futures with new coping tools. The physical health damage that snorting heroin causes can be addressed through medical treatment in rehab as well.