Heroin is highly-addictive, semi-synthetic opioid that gives users a intense rush of euphoria by binding with opioid receptors in the brain and accessing the brain’s pleasure pathways that release endorphins. Heroin can be smoked, snorted, or injected. Many people who begin by abusing prescription opioids like oxycodone or hydrocodone eventually go on to abuse heroin because it is cheap and easier to access, despite being illegal.

Heroin was first developed as a treatment for morphine addiction. Once it crosses the blood-brain barrier, heroin mimics the effects of opium on the brain by binding to opioid receptors that influence pain and pleasure, but much less heroin is required to create the same experience. Heroin users report a sudden euphoric rush followed by ups and downs of wakefulness and drowsiness. Heroin is classified as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act, which means it has no legitimate medical purpose and carries a high risk of abuse.

Persons who begin by smoking or snorting heroin often move on to intravenous injection. Intravenous use carries its own set of risks because of the possibility of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV when sharing needles. All three methods of administration carry the drug quickly to the brain and thus carry a high risk of addiction and overdose.

Heroin addiction is marked by increased tolerance and dependence, leading to compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Users who have become dependent will experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not continue to use the drug. These symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, insomnia, cold flashes, kicking movements, and intense heroin cravings. Long-term heroin use can lead to heart infection, gastrointestinal cramping, collapsed veins, constipation, and liver or kidney disease.

Serenity House provides a safe way to detox from heroin under close supervision from our medical staff. Using buprenorphine, which subdues withdrawal symptoms without creating the euphoric effect, our physicians and nurses can help you safely transition out of heroin abuse and prepare for a journey of recovery from drug addiction.

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