Heroin is one of the most addictive substances known to man. It’s an opioid, meaning that it’s cultivated from the poppy plant. It’s also a powerful painkiller and mind-altering chemical. Also known as junk, dope, smack, brown, black, or H, this drug is abused at every level of society. In fact, the United States is currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic.
As you can see, this is a serious situation. This is why it’s important to take a moment to learn more about this horrific drug. Here are the most widely circulated myths about heroin addiction.
1) No one does heroin anymore
You might think that heroin was only popular in the 1970s and 1990s. It was the kind of drug that musicians or artists took. Well, that’s not the case anymore. Heroin has gone national and it’s in every part of our country. You can easily find the drug in the inner cities, suburbs, and rural areas.
Additionally, it’s become common at every level of society. From young teens to older professionals, it’s showing up everywhere. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or what your education is – it’s truly become an epidemic in this country.
But why exactly has the drug become more popular? Well, according to research, 80% of heroin users in the 1970s reported that it was the first opioid they ever used. Nowadays, that number is flipped: 80% of heroin users report that they started with prescription painkillers. As a result, heroin has become a growing threat due to prescription drug abuse and addiction.
2) You get instantly addicted to heroin
This is a common myth. The idea is that someone offers you heroin, you try it once, and immediately you’re a full-blown addict. This is simply not true. Addiction usually takes a while to develop.
But it’s also important to learn the difference between addiction and dependence. Let’s take a look at these concepts:
- Addiction means that you crave heroin and have developed addictive behavior.
- Dependence means that you are now physically dependent on the drug. If you suddenly stop using, then you will go through withdrawals.
In the case of heroin, it is possible to quickly become psychologically addicted. However, it takes some time to become dependent. Once you do, then quitting heroin becomes even more difficult. If you stop “cold-turkey” without medically detoxing, then you’ll suffer from withdrawals. This is also known as “kicking the habit”. For many addicts, this is a difficult and painful process that often leads to frequent relapses.
3) Heroin withdrawals aren’t fatal
So now we know that heroin causes dependence. Withdrawals include anxiety, depression, muscle pain, excessive sweating, and runny nose. You’ll also suffer severe stomach cramps as well as nausea and vomiting.
Heroin withdrawals are always unpleasant. However, they can also be deadly. In fact, according to a 2016 study in the Journal of the Society of the Study of Addiction, there are cases of fatal heroin withdrawals. These are usually due to severe dehydration.
That means that it’s best to go through a medical detox. That way you can be under the care of medical professionals. It’s not necessary to tough it out and kick the habit cold-turkey. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that a “tough love” approach helps in heroin withdrawal and addiction. Plus, there are also medications that you can be prescribed to decrease symptoms and cravings. These include methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone). This is also referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
4) Smoking or snorting is safer than shooting up
This is a common misconception. It’s true that using needles to shoot up is very common. That’s because it’s the most cost-effective way to take the drug. But it’s a very dangerous method and the risk of overdose is very high.
However, you can also snort or smoke the drug. Let’s take a moment to go over the types of heroin:
- Powder - This can also be known as “China White” or “Number 4”. It’s usually a white, off-white, or light brown powder. This form is most frequently available in the Midwest and East Coast.
- Black tar - This form has more impurities than powder. It’s usually black, brown, or even orange. It’s sticky and feels like tar with a strong smell of vinegar. You usually find this form on the West Coast and the Southwest.
Both forms can be shot up. People usually snort powder and smoke black tar. However, it’s possible to snort or smoke both At the end of the day, any one of these methods can result in addiction, dependence, and even death.
Heroin is incredibly addictive and dangerous, no matter how you take it. That’s because the drug disrupts your breathing. Plus, because it causes extreme intoxication, it’s possible to pass out and not even know that you’ve stopped breathing.
Finally, long-term heroin abuse also leads to tolerance. This means that the addict has to take larger doses of the drug. This puts them at a serious risk for overdose or death.
5) Only homeless people use heroin
The United States is in the grips of an opioid epidemic right now. It all started with prescription painkillers about 20 years ago. Most patients were overprescribed. Over time, people became addicted to and dependent on the painkillers. When law enforcement made it more difficult to get these prescriptions, the demand for heroin suddenly skyrocketed.
As a result, heroin is cheaper, stronger, and more easily available than ever. It’s in every level of society. It’s important to not stereotype every heroin addict as a homeless “junkie”. It can affect your family, friends, or coworkers. Because it’s so incredibly addictive, heroin takes no prisoners when it comes to addiction. It can infiltrate your social network anywhere and everywhere.
This means that the face of heroin addiction has changed. If left unchecked, it can ultimately be fatal for the addict. It’s important to remain compassionate and nonjudgmental.
6) It’s impossible to quit heroin
No way! While it’s true that quitting heroin is hard, it’s definitely possible. It requires hard work, dedication, structure, detox, rehab, and, in some cases, medication-assisted treatment (MAT). But above all, the addict must want to get clean. They also need to be honest with themselves and with the professionals treating them.
Addicts claim that it’s impossible because of the withdrawals. These can be brutal. In some cases, they can be dangerous. However, if you go into a structured detox program under the care of medical professionals, then they can ease the pain of withdrawal. They can also decrease the cravings. This is because MAT has made it possible to treat these physical aspects of heroin addiction.
7) It’s possible to be a functioning drug addict
You’ll see this myth pop up frequently. It’s usually said by addicts who abuse “lighter” drugs, especially alcohol or pills. This is because addicts are in denial.
It’s a way for them to justify their behavior. Although most addicts want to quit, they can’t do it alone. This is usually due to mental health reasons that drive their addiction and abuse. So they tell themselves and others, “It’s OK. I’m a functioning drug addict.”
Let’s take a moment to examine this carefully. Addiction is characterized by two things that contradict this statement:
- Addicts cannot control their addiction
- They need to take higher and higher doses because of tolerance to the drug
Both of these ideas make it clear that “a functioning drug addict” is just not possible.
If we add heroin into the mix, then it becomes really clear that it’s just denial. This drug is arguably the most powerful and most addictive street drug available. Even small doses can cause extreme intoxication. Plus, dependence and tolerance make it so that addicts need to feed their addiction, no matter the cost.
Find Treatment for Heroin Addiction
It’s always important to remember that heroin addiction is a disease. In most cases, you’ll have to undergo detox first. It has to be done by medical professionals. Plus, you may also benefit from MAT. This can decrease withdrawals and cravings. As a result, you’ll be at a lower risk for relapse and overdose.
So what are some signs of heroin addiction and heroin abuse?
- Being unable to quit the drug even if you want to
- Never having any money and having to resort to criminal behavior
- Pupils that have become extremely small (“pin-point”)
- Marks and bruises on the arms from injecting (“track marks”)
- Behavior that’s unpredictable and destructive
- Suffering from withdrawals if you suddenly stop taking the drug
These are all pretty clear signs of heroin addiction and abuse. However, it’s also important to remember that heroin and lying go hand in hand. Addicts will lie to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. They’ll also lie because they are ashamed and feel that they’re weak.
Bedrock Recovery Center focuses on providing a compassionate and nonjudgmental setting for people to address their addiction. This includes identifying the underlying reasons. So start your new life today by calling and talking to our treatment specialists!