Where Does Heroin Addiction Start?
Heroin addiction in Ohio frequently starts in the most unlikely of places: the comfortable chair of your doctor’s office. When someone is in extreme pain, for example, if they’ve thrown out their back, they go to the doctor. In an attempt to manage the patient’s pain, the doctor prescribes opioids. The patients use the opioids to relieve their pain, and when they’ve fully recovered, stop using them.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Unfortunately, a percentage of patients will become addicted to the opioids. Since they’re no longer able to get a legitimate prescription, they will seek out drugs – including heroin and its more concentrated alternatives – in an attempt to replicate the euphoric feeling that their prescription painkillers provided.
Ohio’s Heroin Epidemic
Like all hard drugs, heroin used to be associated with a particular stereotype. When you think of a heroin addict, you probably think of someone who looks strung out. They’re thin, haven’t showered for days, and are constantly scratching their arms. You expect them to live in a run-down house in a bad neighborhood. Unfortunately, what many people don’t realize, is that heroin doesn’t only impact those struggling with poverty – it’s now frequently associated with middle and upper-class neighborhoods. Anyone can become addicted to heroin and other opioids. In fact, that’s one of the key things you need to keep in mind: addiction isn’t limited to a certain range of people. High-powered lawyers, law enforcement officers, school teachers, and businesspeople are all caught in heroin’s headlights.
The stats, provided by the Center for Disease Control, show this to be true. The amount of people who have overdosed on opioids has quadrupled since 1999. In 2015, heroin addiction in Ohio cause the state to be the 4th highest overdose death rate in the country – with the majority of those deaths being caused by opioids. In 2016, an estimated 4,149 people died from heroin addiction in Ohio from an overdose, which was up 36 percent from 2015. In fact, the Center for Disease Control marked this increase as statistically significant, which means that Ohio faces a definite and widely-acknowledged problem.
How Heroin and Other Opioids Work
When you take an opioid, the drug binds to the area of your brain that controls pain and emotions. Essentially, the drug increases the amount of dopamine – a feel-good hormone – and produces an intense state of euphoria. Dopamine effectively blocks out negative feelings, so you no longer have to deal with pain.
However, your brain naturally adjusts and will soon become desensitized to the dopamine rush. This means that you’ll need more dopamine to get the same euphoric feeling. In order to do so, you’ll need to take more opioids.
Addicts will seek this dopamine spike in two ways. First, if they’re using heroin, they’ll increase the quantity that they use. While no amount of heroin is safe, the more heroin used, the more likely the individual will overdose. Secondly, addicts may seek the dopamine spike by using opioids that have a higher potency of heroin, such as fentanyl and carfentanil. Again, this increased potency increases the likelihood of an overdose.
As time goes on, heroin has become more concentrated. Before, when someone overdosed, first responders would treat them with Narcan – naloxone – which could bring the individual out of an overdose. This worked against heroin of an average potency. However, Narcan is less effective against the stronger opioids. Even when first responders are able to reach the individual in time, they don’t necessarily have a strong enough medication to combat the overdose and save the individual. Heroin addiction in Ohio has led to an increase in overdose deaths.
The Risks of Heroin Use
The risk most people associate with heroin use is that of an overdose that causes death. However, even if heroin and other opioids don’t kill the user, they can still cause long-term damage. Potent opioids will actually alter the structure of the user’s brain, creating a variety of imbalances. The user’s white matter, which is used for regulating behavior and making decisions, will begin to deteriorate. Unfortunately, this creates a vicious cycle. Part of defeating any opioid addiction is the ability to regulate behavior, and opioids destroy this ability.
Heroin addiction also affects people outside the user. Relationships fracture and families are torn apart. In fact, it’s estimated that 70% of infants who are placed in foster care are children of opioid-addicted parents.
Even if they’re aware that they’re addicted, heroin users rarely seek help for their heroin addiction in Ohio. They may fear the intense withdrawal symptoms, or they may be afraid that they’ll be shunned by their friends and family. As such, it’s up to those friends and family to look for signs of addiction – needle marks (though opioids can also be found in pill form), a lack of grooming, a lack of hygiene, and a refusal to eat are all symptoms of opioid addiction.
Unfortunately, unless you’ve been trained, it’s unlikely you have the expertise to guide someone through their withdrawal symptoms. That’s why it’s recommended that you find a caring team like the one at the Lumiere Healing Centers, who are trained in dealing with opioid abuse. They will guide the individual through the withdrawal symptoms, as well as provide the patient with long-term strategies to help their recovery.
For questions about our rehabs in Ohio, call Lumiere Healing Centers today at 513-909-2225.