Heroin Abuse

Heroin is an illegal substance that has been categorized as one of the most addictive drugs on Earth. The drug is processed from morphine which is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from the seed pod of poppy plants

Heroin is typically sold as a brownish or white powder which has been combined or “cut” with powdered milk, starch, sugars and/or quinine. Some of the street names that this drug goes by include: smack, dope, black tar, H, brown sugar, chiva and birdie powder. If you or a loved one is abusing heroin, keep reading to learn about heroin addiction.

Brief History of Heroin

Heroin is typically referred to by historians as being “The Hundred Year Habit” due to the fact that it was originally synthesized in 1889. Even though the drug was made commercially available as a cough medicine in 1889, it was originally synthesized by a company that goes by the name of Bayer, a company that is still in existence to this day.

During the early years of the 19th century, it was marketed as being an effective alternative for morphine and, as such, was given to individuals for its cough suppressant and pain relieving abilities.

However, by 1906, it is believed that a quarter of the population of the United States at the time (72 million) was addicted to morphine, heroin, and cocaine. Based on the fact that heroin addiction was blamed for a total of 260 murders that occurred in 1922 in New York, these concerns, along with the high rate of addiction, led the US Congress to ban all domestic manufacturing of heroin in 1924.

Heroin Addiction Statistics

Even though it has been over 90 years since the manufacturing of this drug was made illegal, it is estimated that there are over 900,000 heroin addicts within the United States. Some of the other alarming statistics surrounding heroin abuse include:

  • Heroin abuse accounts for 18% of all drug and alcohol treatment admissions.
  • 93% of the world’s opium supply originates from Afghanistan.
  • 9.2 million people use heroin worldwide.
  • Heroin accounts for 4 out of 5 drug related deaths in Europe.

Medical Risks Associated with Prolonged Heroin Use

Due to the fact that heroin consumption occurs intravenously by a “needle,” people who become addicted to heroin are at a high risk for a variety of long term health effects and diseases as well.

For example, due to the fact that heroin users share needles, this can lead to the transmission of AIDS and other contagious infections as well. Additionally, frequent injections can lead to infections in the heart valves and blood vessels. Some of the long term effects that heroin usage has on the body include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Itching
  • Coma
  • Death
  • Reduced sexual capacity
  • Loss of memory
  • Inflammation of the gums
  • Respiratory illness
  • Impotence
  • Insomnia

Social Consequences of Heroin Addiction

The thing that’s so detrimental about heroin abuse is that, in addition to the manifestation of debilitating physical and psychological effects, it has a lot of social consequences as well.

Due to the fact that prolonged heroin usage rewires the brain in a way that essentially causes the user to develop a lifelong addiction, the user continuously seeks heroin despite the consequences that they may endure. As such, prolonged heroin usage can negatively impact:

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Personality
  • Legal standing
  • Home / Family life
  • Interpersonal relationships

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of treatment options that are available to individuals who have become addicted to heroin. Some of those include the following:


Medication that is developed to treat opioid addiction stimulate the same opioid receptors as heroin, but are safer and do not produce a “high” but rather, acts as a supplement that can effectively curb the individual’s craving. The three types of medications that are utilized to treat heroin addiction include:

  1. Methadone
  2. Buprenorphine
  3. Naltrexone

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies that treat heroin addiction can be delivered in a residential or outpatient setting. Statistics demonstrate that cognitive behavioral therapy in coordination with contingency management, can effectively treat heroin addiction, especially when it is used in conjunction with medication.

Contact us for a free and confidential assessment for you or a loved one.

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