Most people today are aware of the highly addictive and destructive nature of heroin, but few people understand the extent of the potential internal effects from heroin abuse. Heroin is one of the most frequently abused drugs on the streets today, and authorities are struggling to control the epidemic of heroin-related overdoses and deaths in the United States. In fact, the heroin overdose deaths rival automobile accidents as the number one cause of preventable deaths. Statistics show that of the 20.5 million Americans that have a substance abuse problem, more than 591,000 of those have a heroin problem.
What are the Internal Effects from Heroin Abuse?
The physical effects from prolonged heroin abuse are not well-known by the average person. Unfortunately, many heroin users were aware of the potential dangers, yet they chose to experiment with the drug anyway. After repeatedly abusing the drug, heroin users are at risk of serious damage to vital organs in their body. Some of the internal effects of heroin abuse include the following:
- Brain: Disintegration of brain tissue is apparent even in the early stages of heroin abuse. The damage is similar to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that heroin causes a “spongy-like texture” in the brain that causes permanent hand tremors, overall weakness, and spastic attacks. These effects on the brain are not caused by the accidental head injuries often suffered by heroin users. Most of the brain damage caused by heroin abuse is the result of oxygen deprivation which can lead to cognitive decline. Heroin also causes a person to suffer sleep apnea which contributes to the lack of oxygen in the brain.
- Kidneys: Repeated heroin abuse can cause high levels of protein in the urine which can lead to kidney failure. Much of the protein in the kidneys is the result of toxins and bacteria in the drug. Additionally, many heroin users have hepatitis C or HIV which also contributes to kidney problems. Another factor in kidney-related problems is the result of a condition known as rhabdomyolysis. This condition occurs when a person becomes comatose after a non-fatal heroin overdose and can require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
- Intestines: One significant side effect of opiates (heroin) is constipation. Over time, chronic constipation can lead to hemorrhoids, fissures, or ruptures in the rectum that require surgery. Many addicts are aware of the problem of constipation and allow themselves to go into withdrawal occasionally in order to induce diarrhea.
- Lungs: Heroin begins its damage to the lungs by slowing down respiration. In most cases of overdose, 15% of the people die from built up fluid (edema) in the lungs. Because of heroin’s effects on the lungs, many heroin addicts suffer a variety of lung diseases such as pneumonia, abscesses, scarred air passages, and tuberculosis. A condition known as Empyema is also a risk for heroin users. Empyema is the result of pus accumulation between the lung and chest wall. Symptoms of this condition include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing. Another problem with the lungs occurs when addicts filter their dissolved heroin through pieces of cotton. Bacteria in the cotton can enter the blood stream and cause lung and heart infections.
- Heart: Heart infections can be caused by bacteria in the cotton as mentioned above. This condition is known as Endocarditis. The clumps of bacteria are difficult to reach by the body’s immune system and heart tissue death is often a result. In many individuals, heart valve replacements are the only way to save the person’s life. Many heroin addicts suffer irregular heartbeats because of the fatty or fibrous tissue caused by bacteria in the heroin.
Another danger presented by heroin abuse includes the risk of unknown substances that have been added to the drug. Some of these additives can include Rohypnol, Fentanyl, and Quinine. Other dangerous chemicals found in heroin are a result of the manufacturing process and can include calcium oxide, ammonia, chloroform, hydrochloric acid and acetic anhydride.
More information on the internal effects of heroin abuse can be found by calling our toll-free number today.