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What is Heroin Addiction?
Heroin is a drug derived from a natural substance found in the seed pods of the opium poppy plant. Heroin is classified as an opioid drug, and it is related to synthetic prescription drugs such as Vicodin and fentanyl.
Heroin is an illegal drug that is typically sold on the street in the form of a brown or white powder or a sticky black tar-like substance. The drug is consumed in a variety of ways, including smoking, snorting, or injecting.
The effects of heroin on the body are quick and intense. The drug binds directly to cells in the brain and elsewhere, producing feelings of well-being and blocking the perception of pain. Repeated use of heroin alters the user’s brain chemistry and results in physical dependence, meaning that the user needs to consistently use the drug (in ever-increasing doses) to avoid unpleasant and potentially harmful withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms of Heroin Abuse and Addiction
Along with the pleasant feelings of the high, short-term use of heroin often causes unpleasant side effects, including:
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mental confusion
- Unconscious or semi-conscious state
Long-term complications of chronic heroin abuse can include:
- Pneumonia and lung disease
- Collapsed veins
- Heart infections
- Skin conditions and infections
- Sexual impotence
Symptoms of heroin withdrawal for dependent users include:
- Intense craving for the drug
- Muscle pain
- Bone pain
- Extreme itchiness
- Cold flashes
- Uncontrollable movement of the legs
- Nausea and vomiting
Withdrawal symptoms begin a few hours after the drug is last used and usually peak within 48 to 72 hours. Symptoms often subside after about a week but may recur for months or years.
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