Heroin abuse has been a problem for many years, but the problem is growing rapidly. Often people who experiment with heroin underestimate its power. Heroin is extremely addictive, and those who try it can get hooked after the first time. They attempt to chase the initial high, which never comes. Over time, the addict becomes increasingly dependent on the drug just to avoid withdrawals and getting sick.
During active addiction, the effects of heroin use are disastrous. Active addicts not only tend to get in legal trouble, but often get sick, experience severe withdrawals, become poverty-stricken or homeless, and many heroin addicts overdose. Heroin use comes with many short-term effects, but the long-term effects can be just as devastating.
Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use
1.) Contracting Diseases and Infections
Heroin addicts are often prone to diseases, especially if the heroin used intravenously. Needles that are shared can lead to transmission of a range of diseases, including HIV, Hepatitis C, or Hepatitis B. According to Rutgers University, soft tissue and skin infections are common for IV drug users.
2.) Collapsed Veins
Collapsed veins are common among heroin users that inject the drug due to repeated injection into overused veins.
3.) Long-Term Brain Damage
Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, frequent heroin abuse changed the brain’s physiology and physical structure. This leads to long-term imbalances with neurons and within the hormonal system.
4.) Long-Term Withdrawal.
While initial and severe withdrawals from heroin are at their worst between 24 to 48 hours after the last use and last for approximately one week, The National Institute on Drug Abuse also reports that some heroin users also experience long-term withdrawal symptoms that can last for months.
5.) Organ Damage and Failure
Long-term heroin use can lead to damaged organs that could lead to a shorter life span. Heroin abuse takes a heavy toll on the body. Kidney, liver or heart disease may result from long-term heroin use, even if an addict stops using.
6.) Dependency and Addiction
Addiction to heroin goes together with dependency. Over time, the user’s tolerance becomes very high to heroin, requiring higher doses. This often leads to overdose. Once the user is dependent on heroin, it becomes very difficult to stop using, often requiring medical detox in a treatment facility. However, maintaining abstinence is a challenge after leaving detox or treatment. John Hopkins Medicine reports 65 – 80% of drug addicts relapse after leaving detox.
Death is perhaps the most serious and saddening long-term effect of heroin use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported over 10,000 deaths due to heroin overdose in 2014. There was a six-fold increase of deaths caused by heroin overdose between 2001 and 2014. Overdose is not the only cause of death due to heroin. Users may also die from organ failure, infection, or from diseases transmitted from needles.