Heroin is a highly addictive drug that creates feelings of euphoria and strong cravings after stopping use. Without proper intervention, heroin can affect your brain, heart, fertility, liver, and digestive system, which is why prompt and evidence-based treatment is vital for recovery.
1. Suppressed Mental Function
Shortly after using heroin, a person experiences a suppression of the central nervous system. This creates mental cloudiness. It’s hard to respond to people and make decisions in this state.
This suppressed mental function is a short-term effect. It eventually passes as heroin leaves the system. However, when the person craves more heroin, the clouded mental function makes it temporarily hard to resist cravings.
Over time, heroin causes permanent changes to the physiology of the brain. Studies have linked it to deterioration of the brain’s white matter, which can cause poor decision-making abilities. People who lose white matter lose their ability to regulate behavior or respond properly to stress.
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2. Cardiovascular Disease
Because heroin is often injection, it has a direct impact on the cardiovascular system. Intravenous heroin use can cause collapsed or scarred veins near the injection site. Bacterial infections of the heart valves and blood vessels are both common as well.
Lack of sterile injection technique is the most common reason for these complications. However, a careful injection cannot completely remove this risk because the drug itself impacts the overall health of the blood vessels and heart.
Some types of heroin also contain additives that can clog blood vessels. If these additives block blood vessels leading to the lungs, kidney, brain, or liver, stroke and organ failure are possible.
3. Liver Disease
Hepatitis C is directly connected to liver disease, and approximately 3.5 million people in the United States have this virus. If not treated, it causes cirrhosis of the liver, a chronic and potentially fatal liver disease. It can also lead to liver cancer.
Heroin injection increases the risk of hepatitis C infections to spread. Shared needles and drug preparation equipment exposes people to bodily fluids that contain the virus.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one person infected with hepatitis C who injects drugs will infect around 20 additional people within the first three years of infection.
4. Chronic Constipation
Long-term exposure to heroin in any form, including injected or snorted heroin, can lead to chronic constipation. Chronic constipation can cause blockages in the colon or rectum. Straining to have a bowel movement can lead to tears in the anal tissue.
If left untreated, chronic constipation increases the risk of colon cancer or intestinal blockage. Other abdominal organs that press on the colon are at higher risk for cancer when someone suffers from chronic constipation. It also increases the risk of rectal cancer.
5. Infertility And Pregnancy Complications In Women
Women who use heroin are at higher risk for infertility and menstrual cycle disruption. Disruptions in menstruation can make it more difficult to become pregnant later, even after stopping use.
In addition, some studies have found that pregnant women who choose to use heroin are at high risk of having a spontaneous miscarriage.
If a pregnant woman continues to use heroin and the baby is not miscarried, the mother has an increased risk of premature delivery. Babies born to people addicted to heroin are often at low birth weight and may suffer from withdrawal symptoms at birth.
Treating Heroin Addiction At Turning Point
The long-term health effects of heroin abuse have serious consequences. If you or someone you love is battling heroin addiction, you need to get help to avoid these problems. Professional addiction treatment with medically supervised detox is the best plan of action.
At Turning Point, we use an evidence-based addiction treatment protocol that focuses on healing and lasting change. Reach out to us today to learn how you can start your recovery journey in a supportive and nurturing environment.
- National Institute On Drug Abuse — Viral Hepatitis - A Very Real Consequences Of Substance Use
- National Institute On Drug Abuse — What Are The Long-Term Health Effects Of Heroin Use?
- National Institute On Drug Abuse — What Are The Medical Complications Of Chronic Heroin Use
- Mayo Clinic — Constipation