Opiate abuse in America is at epidemic levels, with more than 65,000 people losing their lives in fatal overdoses every year. It is a crisis that has emerged in recent years to take a grip on the nation, impacting people from all walks of life.
Perhaps the most sinister aspect of the opiate crisis is that many people are initially becoming addicted to prescription drugs obtained legally from their physician to treat chronic pain conditions. Many people attempting to manage chronic pain using opiates for prolonged periods of time find themselves using heroin, a street alternative to opioid prescription meds that poses significantly more risks to human life.
According to reports from the heroin rehab centers, there are more people in a heroin rehab as a result of opiate addiction than ever before and alarmingly this number is rising dramatically every year. Nevertheless, our improved knowledge of opiate addiction means that there are now more treatment options available for people seeking help with prescription drug abuse.
In this article, we want to expand a little on how people can become addicted to heroin after they’ve developed a dependence on opiate-based prescription drugs in order to raise awareness of the issue that is sweeping America.
Opiate Addiction Increasingly Starts in the Physician’s Office
In the 1990s, physicians across America began to prescribe a new type of painkiller containing synthetic opioids to hundreds and thousands of people. At that time, they were of the belief that drugs working in a similar way to the natural form of opium poppy extract or heroin would be beneficial to patients with chronic pain conditions.
Opiates basically block the brain’s pain receptors, flooding it with a euphoric sensation that serves to distract the mind from the body’s pain. However, there is a significant downside to taking highly addictive drugs for medical conditions, which only emerged in the years after physicians began prescribing them.
How Does Prescription Drug Dependence Develop?
When someone is taking drugs to manage chronic pain, they are likely to have to take prescription medications for a prolonged period of time. This increases the risk of developing a tolerance to the drugs’ effects over time which leads to individuals requiring a higher dose to cope with their pain.
However, because of the crisis situation in the US at the current time, physicians are reluctant to increase doses of opioid meds as their dangers have now been established. This often leads to individuals seeking alternative ways of managing their pain and increasingly they are turning to heroin instead.
The Hazards of Heroin Abuse
The hazards associated with heroin abuse stem from the substance itself, the way it is taken and the environment of the user. When someone has become addicted to heroin, they are less likely to be concerned with using sterile needles and may even share with others which can cause the following serious health consequences:
- Hepatitis C
- Liver disease
- Respiratory and pulmonary infections
- Arthritis or rheumatologic problems
- Collapsed veins and circulatory issues
- Chronic constipation and kidney disease
- Infected heart valves and coronary lining
- Skin abscesses, boils or infections due to track lines or injection sites
- Increased exposure to conditions such as HIV
- Higher risk of contracting blood-borne viruses other than HIV
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), heroin and other opioid-based drugs have significant effects on the brain, which can cause long-term disturbances to neurofunction. Medical research shows that the changes to the brain created by opiate abuse can make a person more susceptible to relapse, even after successfully achieving long-term recovery after heroin addiction treatment.
This is because the way opiates affect the brain makes it almost impossible for a dependent or addicted person to think with any clarity. They are likely to have lost the ability to make even the simplest of decisions as the drug takes its hold on them, making it difficult for them to control their behavior or their need to abuse the substance.
It is the psychological damage done by opiates that takes time to heal when it comes to prescription drug or heroin treatment medication; although it has been proven that it is very possible to receive treatment that ensures a long-term recovery from the drug. As with any type of addiction, the individual suffering has to accept they have a problem before they can reach out for help. This can often be harder for someone who initially started their journey to heroin addiction in a physician’s office, which is a factor behind America’s current crisis.
Opiates Are Never “Safe”
Opiates are highly addictive drugs that have widespread effects that are at best unpleasant and at worst, life-threatening. It is also very unlikely that an individual with opiate dependence will be aware they have a problem, as they may be under the impression their prescription is “safe.”
The benefit that heroin addiction treatment offers people with prescription drug or heroin addiction is that they can learn other ways to manage the painful symptoms they originally sought help for. Alternatives to the conventional approach such as holistic medicine, offer a number of different solutions for pain management that are entirely natural. Individuals seeking help can be confident that there is a path to a drug-free life that can lead to an enriching and fulfilling future after attending a heroin rehab center.