Heroin is one of the most addictive and dangerous substances on the planet. There is extensive coverage of the damage that this substance is doing nationwide. However, living through it is a different story. Between 2010 and 2017 there was over a 400% increase in heroin-related overdose deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Statistics like this don’t do heroin justice. Tori Herr died in a Pennsylvania prison due to her withdrawing from heroin on April 5, 2015. While held in jail, Tori couldn’t keep fluids down and was suffering from dehydration. Eventually, she collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. She died a few days later in a local hospital.
The coroner ruled the death accidental and in 2016 her family sued Lebanon county where she died. Recently, news that Tori’s family will be awarded $4.75 million dollars to settle their wrongful death lawsuit against the county.
This heartbreaking story just highlights the immense problems opioids are causing nationwide. The National Institute of Health, NIH, reports that 11.5 million Americans abused prescription pain medicine in 2016. Many people start out on prescription painkillers like Oxycodone. However, these drugs are expensive and the cost can quickly become prohibitive.
People often turn to heroin for financial reasons. The potency of heroin is hard to match, and when a person runs out, it’s heroin they need more of. The prescription opioids cease to have much effect after the switch, causing people to go to great lengths to get more heroin.
The nature of illicit drug addiction involves periods where obtaining the drug seems impossible. During these times, people often start to experience the beginnings of withdrawal. The pain is enough that many are terrified of running out after their first experience with the withdrawal symptoms.
Disease of Addiction
In decades past, the common belief about addicted individuals was that the person lacked in moral character. People mistakenly thought that people who kept using a substance wanted to continue and had complete control over their using.
Today, we know better. Substance Use Disorder, SUD, is a mental illness that can be mild to severe. Mild substance abuse means that the person has two or three symptoms of SUD. Severe SUD is diagnosed when someone has six or more symptoms.
Symptoms can vary between people; however, some are common to most. Compulsive using, plotting to get more and continuing to use despite negative consequences are just a few.
People with a substance abuse disorder may want to stop using but simply can’t will themselves to follow through. This aspect of addiction is one of the most perplexing to outsiders, who don’t understand that the person is no longer in control of his or her actions.
Few people start out using heroin and no one dreams of becoming a heroin addict when they’re young. According to the CDC, people who are addicted to heroin were also addicted to at least one other drug and, most often, people were addicted to three other drugs.
Opiates and opioids are some of the most challenging substances to stop using. In terms of addictive properties, both illicit opiates and opioids are immensely addictive. People who become addicted to narcotics of these types find quitting impossible without strong support and good guidance.
The disease of addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful; it can affect people from all demographics and spares none. No matter your age, race, sex or socio-economic status, addiction can affect you.
Withdrawing from Heroin
Withdrawal from heroin is a truly harrowing experience. The extreme discomfort experienced people in the throes of withdraw from heroin often spurs a relapse.
In Tori Herr’s case, withdrawing from heroin caused her death. She isn’t the only one to have died from heroin withdrawals. However, heroin withdrawal is usually not fatal. Other substances are known to cause death if stopped suddenly, but heroin is more often intensively unpleasant.
People commonly report such amazing pain and suffering that they ultimately pick up the drug again to feel relief. Symptoms are broad and vary by individual, often including body aches, chills, diarrhea, sweating and insomnia.
Symptoms often start within 6 hours of the last drug use. The body aches start within a day and intensify during the first 48 hours without heroin. By days 3 through 5, the withdrawal is at its height with all the symptoms coming into play. Sweating, abdominal cramping and more keep the person in a state of true misery day and night.
The final few days of acute withdrawal are approximately 5 to 7 days after the last use. The intense symptoms start to dissipate and the period of Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) begins. These vary by length and amount used, as well as the genetics and other personal details of the individual going through the experience.
If you’re struggling with heroin addiction, find a detox center to help you safely and more comfortably detox off the drug.
It sometimes takes the willingness of a dying person looking for a life raft to take the leap toward sobriety. Luckily, with the addiction epidemic, comes a surge in treatment facilities as well. Substance abuse treatment centers are well-versed in caring for clients who are addicted to heroin.
Anyone who struggles with heroin or prescription painkiller addiction, shouldn’t feel ashamed. You’re not alone and there are many treatment programs ready and able to help you get past this turbulent time of your life.
Treatment centers will help you regain your mental and physical health. They’ll detox you safely off the substances you have been using and get you stabilized during the detox phase. Then, in rehab you will get to the root cause of your using and learn about addiction.
So many people have been through what you’re going through and have found a better way to live. No matter how far down you’ve gone, you’re not past help.
You too can find a life better than you can imagine in sobriety. But you have to ask for help! Reach out and get the help you deserve today.