The movies make it seem like people on heroin are young ne’er do wells. These flicks show a seedy subculture that has little to do with the lives of the audiences that watch them. Are you surprised to learn that this depiction isn’t accurate? In fact, you probably know some people abusing heroin right now.
Although illegal, heroin is easy to buy on the street. It’s an opioid drug with a high addiction risk. Overdoses frequently result in deaths due to slowed breathing that eventually stops. People struggling with a heroin addiction most commonly inject the product, but they may also smoke or snort it. And it’s right in your midst.
Myth: People on Heroin are Poor
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that the largest increase in heroin use occurs among those with an annual household income of $20,000 to $49.999. Demographers commonly associate this demographic with young professionals or recent college graduates. This understanding would support the notion that the 18 to 25 age group is the most at risk of falling victim to addiction. Clearly, these figures contradict the movie-fueled understanding of America’s drug culture.
Myth: People on Heroin are Irresponsible Drug Addicts
Did you know that 45 percent of heroin users struggled with an opioid painkiller dependence before abusing heroin? While some in this demographic may have received these medications illicitly from third parties, others sustained serious injuries that required medical intervention. They were prescribed opiate pain medication. For them, addiction was not something they sought out. Instead, their physical response to the medication led to a habit, which led to heroin use.
Myth: People on Heroin can Quit Using the Drug if They Really Want To
The chemicals in heroin connect with the brain’s opioid receptors to create almost euphoric highs. The body adjusts to the introduction of the manipulative chemicals and those suffering from an addiction must use more. In the process, the brain and the body develop a dependence on the substance. The brain no longer releases certain chemicals associated with wellbeing unless artificial triggers, like heroin, are in place.
The body follows suit. Unless someone uses the drug regularly, the body responds with withdrawal symptoms that range from uncomfortable to downright painful. In severe cases, these symptoms can present serious health challenges, most likely slowed breathing, sometimes to the point of death. Someone suffering from addiction should, therefore, not try to quit at home but do so in a medically supervised setting.
A good option is a detox facility with medical professionals ready to intervene as needed. Someone who’s never suffered from a substance abuse problem cannot understand the addiction mechanism. Suggesting that a heroin user should just quit is much like calling out to a drowning person to simply start swimming. It doesn’t work that way.
Why it Matters That You Know the Truth
Heroin is a drug that affects urban, suburban, and rural communities. It’s not just something that happens to “other people,” but could easily happen to you or your extended family. Consider also that one of the people on heroin may be someone you know personally. That said, it might even be you.
Unless you know the truth about heroin, it’s impossible to help someone. Conversely, you won’t know how to find help for yourself. Several must-know heroin addiction facts can make the difference between saving a life and losing it.
- People who struggle with addiction lie. You may suspect that someone is using the drug, but the person will most likely lie about it. Unless s/he is ready to get help, s/he’ll try to explain away any drug paraphernalia you find.
- Heroin use takes a physical toll. Weight loss is a common sign. The same goes for uncharacteristic drowsiness and extended periods of just “chilling” in a half-sleep. Needle marks, bloody noses, sudden cramps, and gastrointestinal upset between doses are typical.
- Constant money problems. Someone who’s always short on rent, unable to pay the utility bill or out of food may be a poor money manager. However, it might also be someone with a need for a drug. People dealing with feeding a heroin addiction will always put the next fix first, before paying the rent, even though they may become homeless in the process.
- Inability to stop using the drug. No matter what the physical, financial, job-related, or personal cost is, the person keeps using the substance. Some minimize their guilt by withdrawing from close relationships. They also willingly let go of a good job, a beautiful place to live, or financial security so they can continue the drug use. Choosing to become isolated is a common behavior of those unable to stop using.
How to Help Someone (or Yourself) Who Uses Heroin
Compassion is a necessity. There is no use to blame or suggest, in so many words, that the person picks her or himself up by the proverbial bootstraps. You can help someone by informing yourself about detox, rehab, and reintegration into a social or professional environment. Offer to be a stabilizing presence in the person’s life and to be a support person in the face of detox and rehab.
At the same time, resist the temptation to enable someone’s drug use. It’s easier to do that than you may think. For starters, don’t pay the drug user’s bills, buy food, or get the rent current. The money your generosity frees up becomes funding for more heroin.
Don’t allow the person to move in with you. Instead, offer to take her or him to a detox facility where s/he can stay while withdrawing from the drug. Similarly, provide emotional support for someone who wants to quit. Walking into a detox or rehab facility is a courageous step, and you should treat it as such.
If you’re the one with the addiction problem, remember that it can happen to anyone. A number of factors beyond your control have contributed to your problem with substance abuse. The drug itself has altered your brain, which makes quitting by yourself virtually impossible. But with professional assistance, you can get the support you need to stop using heroin and avoid drug relapse.
It’s Never too Late to Get Help
Frequently, people on heroin feel hopeless and believe that it’s too late for them to get help. Being isolated, they don’t realize that professional assistance is just around the corner. A medically supervised heroin detox experience provides physical safety and minimizes discomfort during withdrawal. Make today the day that everything changes in your or a loved one’s life. Dial 866-294-5306 and connect with the compassionate addiction therapists at Serenity House Detox.