Health / Lauryn Winterson

The Lesser Known Dangers of Heroin

Heroin, despite being a drug that has been around for a while, has not lessened in popularity or use. Even celebrities have come out recently to say they have or do use heroin. For example, Russell Brand, actor and comedian, has come out recently in a documentary stating he used drugs and heroin everyday!

Heroin is a dangerous drug that has short and long term effects on the body. The obvious and most well-known dangers are overdose, addiction, and risks of contracting HIV or hepatitis B from shared or dirty needles. However, there are a number of other threats to health, both physical and mental, that many people don’t even know about.

Short Term Dangers
Other substances are added to heroin in order to lower the quality. Anything from sucrose, starch, nutmeg, caffeine, talcum powder, and powdered milk to more hazardous ingredients like laundry detergent and even strychnine are used to “cut” the heroin. The more benign of these substances can cause lingering issues like itching and inflammation of the skin and veins. But if more toxic items are used like strychnine, this can result in liver failure, convulsions, and even death.

Long Term Dangers
Prolonged use of heroin can cause a number of other health issues such as scarring or collapsing of the veins, soft tissue infections like abscesses, and kidney and liver disease. Heart valves, the lining of the heart, and blood vessels can be subjected to serious bacterial infections because of the absence of sterile injection techniques. A chronic user usually suffers from overall poor health, making them susceptible to lung problems like tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Heroin has a negative effect on the bowels and can also cause constipation. This, plus the fact that a user does not eat properly, can lead to hemorrhoids. Heroin addicts are never hungry, which can result in malnutrition. When someone is malnourished the immune system does not work properly and the user is unable to fight illnesses and infection.

A pregnant woman who uses heroin has a much higher chance of having a miscarriage or delivering prematurely. The baby is at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as well as being born with an addiction.

Smoking heroin can cause damage to the brain, in particular the white matter. This part of the brain is responsible for the higher cerebral functions like consciousness.

Dangers Related to Lifestyle
There is another group of dangers often referred to as “lifestyle dangers” connected with chronic heroin use. These include things like poor personal hygiene that can be the cause of some of the issues already mentioned like infection.

Chronic heroin users may begin to withdraw from their usual life and spend most of their time with others who use. Depression and suicidal tendencies are a possibility. Their risks of being a crime victim are higher after the drug has caused them to become sleepy and lethargic.

 Lauryn Winterson

Lauryn Winterson is a professional writer who is an active advocate of drug rehabilitation. Click here to learn more.

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