Caught in a trap! Cravings fighting with repulsion. Skin crawling, sweating, needing to throw up and bones aching, a heroin addict’s life is not pretty. Globally, it is estimated that 9.2 million people experience this torment daily.
Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the opiate family. It is a fast-acting painkiller derived from opium and used to make morphine and codeine. Heroin, also known as smack, can be smoked, snorted, ingested and shot intravenously. Street heroin is usually a powder similar to brown sugar. It can be bought for as little as $10 a dose. While the price of the physical product is low, the cheap high quickly escalates into a costly addiction and not just monetarily.
Cheaper, Less Potent Cuts Create a Vicious Circle
The street cost of heroin is between $10 and $25 per dose, depending on quality. It is important to understand that street heroin is often “cut” with other products to extend the supply and reduce the immense power of the drug. This means the addict is not only taking in the drug but other chemicals such as, flour, chalk, talcum powder, starch and powdered milk. The more the drug is cut, the cheaper it becomes. A vicious circle begins at this point as a cut $10 hit isn’t enough to satisfy the addiction or keep the high long enough. The addict then has to purchase more to maintain the high spending upwards of $150 per day. An addict can spend $4,500 or more a month supporting his or her addiction.
Physical and Emotional Costs
The monetary cost of addiction is only part of the heroin paradigm. There are also physical and emotional expenses to heroin dependence. Hollywood has left us with an image of a skinny, derelict heroin addict passed out in a dark alley, covered in scabs with a needle stuck in his arm. While this can be the case, it is not as common as portrayed in the movies. Often secondary illnesses from the substance abuse rear up before an addict is alley-bound causing the addiction to be unveiled. Some of the common health side effects of this addiction are:
• Heart problems – Irregular heartbeat and infections of the heart and valves are common.
• Infectious diseases – Needle sharing is the main cause for contracting HIV and hepatitis.
• Pneumonia – The harshness of the drug and powders with which it is cut causes chronic lung issues including pneumonia.
• Blood clots – These form at injection sites or from the collapse of veins from overuse and impurities in the drug. Blood clots are extremely dangerous and left untreated can cause stroke and death.
• Seizures – Heroin is particularly well-known for causing seizures due to the potency of the drug, its ability to interact with the brain and the impurities found within.
If the addiction is not discovered via the physical side effects, the following common emotional effects or personality changes can indicate addiction:
• Degradation of work or school performance
• Borrowing or stealing money
• Mood swings
• Change of appearance such as wearing long clothing to cover track marks
The emotional or personality changes seem to have the highest cost in any addiction. Like a tornado, eating up everything in its path, heroin addiction plows through friends and family destroying them in the storm. It is usually family, unable to withstand the tornado, who seeks treatment for the addict. There are a number of treatment options available but due to the extreme addictiveness of opioids, an inpatient program will be the most effective option.
Why Inpatient Treatment is the Best Option
Simply walking up to the nearest methadone clinic to kick heroin is more Hollywood fallacy. This option is available as follow-up or on an outpatient basis, but is neither realistic nor successful in the long run. Inpatient clinics provide:
Supervision – Due to the effects of opioids on the brain, withdrawing from them can be dangerous and painful. Inpatient treatment allows the body to withdraw in a kinder, safer manner.
Counseling – The destruction left by the emotional toll of heroin addiction is enormous. An addict carries huge amounts of shame and guilt for their behavior and the damage they have caused their loved ones. Inpatient treatment is designed to ease the strain felt and allow room for healing.
Support – Reports show the relapse rate for heroin addiction is about 91%. Studies further conclude the longer a person stays in an inpatient treatment program, the relapse rate decreases significantly. Inpatient support is not just using one of the many support group formats, but working with the addict to support their re-entry into the world and set up aftercare to avoid relapse.
Relapse is one of the high costs of heroin addiction. Due to its very nature, a cheap $10 heroin fix can quickly escalate to not only financial, but physical and emotional devastation. Hollywood has made heroin addiction appear ugly with a simple solution when in reality it is an extremely destructive addiction for the addict and his family. Despite the huge relapse rate, success can be found with inpatient treatment options which significantly reduce the odds of relapsing and effectively beat heroin addiction.