One of the most dangerous addictions is heroin addiction. In women, heroin addiction is actually quite common.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, heroin overdoses in women have tripled. Between 2010 and 2013, female heroin overdoses went from .04 to 1.2 for every 100,00 people. This statistic is quite terrifying. However, it certainly speaks to the fact that there is a serious heroin epidemic in the United States. Women are not immune to this terrible drug problem. In fact, heroin is one of the more commonly abused drugs among women.
Overdosing on heroin can be incredibly deadly. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, there were around 13 thousand recorded heroin overdose deaths in 2015 alone.
What’s more, since around 1 in 10 heroin overdoses actually ends in death according to estimates, that means that annual heroin overdose, in general,l reach well over one hundred thousand.
And while these overdoses are not always fatal, they can end up having lasting, and even permanent, damage.
That’s because one of the most common symptoms of heroin overdose is respiratory depression. When this respiratory depression is particularly severe or long lasting, the brain becomes starved of oxygen. Within minutes, the lack of this essential component can end up killing brain cells permanently, potentially leading to life-long cognitive changes and impairments.
It’s incredibly important, then, that you know how to identify the signs of a heroin overdose, so you can get emergency help as quickly as possible. According to MedlinePlus, some of the clearest signs of overdose include:
- Shallow, slow and difficult, or no breathing
- Dry mouth
- Pinpoint pupils
- Discolored tongue
- Low blood pressure
- Weak pulse
- Bluish-colored nails and lips
- Spasms of the stomach and intestines
- Uncontrolled muscle movements
If you suspect someone is overdosing on heroin, call 911 immediately. Every second you wait is affecting their chance at survival.
The Physical Risks of Using Heroin for Women
For women, the physical risks of using heroin cannot be ignored, nor should they be. This is a highly dangerous drug that has serious, negative physical consequences.
Women who use heroin run the risk of:
- A diminished sex drive
- Deterioration of white matter in the brain
- Pulmonary or lung infections
- Kidney disease
- Infection of the heart tissues
- Arthritis and other rheumatologic problems
- Liver disease
- Greater risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne infections
Heroin use also poses a particular risk for women in that it has been shown to have a direct impact on female reproductive systems and pregnancy in general.
Abusing heroin has also been associated with irregular menstrual cycles as well as reduced fertility. The diminished sex drive that often comes with heroin abuse can also affect a woman’s chances of getting pregnant as well.
When it comes to pregnancy, heroin use while carrying a child can lead to what’s known as neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS. With heroin abuse, the drug passes through the placenta to the fetus which eventually causes the child to become dependent on the drug while in the womb.
When the child is born, it then goes through withdrawals. These symptoms can include:
- Excessive crying
- Slow weight gain
As a result, a child born with NAS will have to be hospitalized and treated with medications like methadone and buprenorphine to treat these symptoms. What’s more, NAS may have long-term implications for the cognitive development of the child as well.
Heroin may also increase the risk of spontaneous miscarriages and premature birth as well.
Do You Have a Heroin Addiction?
You may be facing a situation right now where you wonder if you have an addiction to heroin. It’s not always easy for people to tell. You may view heroin as a drug you like to use regularly. However, you don’t feel that it controls you. Maybe you don’t even use heroin regularly. You could still have an addiction to it.
The bottom line is that you need answers for your dilemma. You need more information about heroin addiction and how it could be affecting you. Fortunately, you’re in the right place to get the information you need.
The fact is that the addiction treatment needs for men and women are very different. As a woman, you need to know what heroin addiction looks like for you. You need a personalized approach to heroin treatment if you do have an addiction. We wan to offer you the help that you need. The more you know about heroin addiction, the better equipped you will be to make the right decision.
Heroin is a drug that comes from the Asian poppy plant. It is an opioid drug made from morphine from this plant. It comes in powder form, and it can either be white or brown. It can also be formulated into a black, sticky substance. This is known as black tar heroin.
When heroin is used, it enters the brain quickly. As it does, it changes back into morphine. It produces a high because of the way it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. These opioid receptors are responsible for feeling pain and pleasure. Other opioid receptors are influenced as well. These control breathing, arousal and blood pressure.
Heroin can be used in a number of different ways. It can be injected, smoked or snorted. Sometimes heroin can be mixed with other types of drugs. For example, people will often mix it with cocaine. When this is done, it is known as a speedball. As you can imagine, if heroin is mixed with other drugs, it becomes much more dangerous.
Heroin is a popular street drug. On the streets, it goes by a number of different names. These include:
- The Big H
- Brown Sugar
- Hell Dust
- Nose Drops
- Number 8
- Murder 1
- China White
- Dr. Feelgood
When heroin is used, it is also referred to as “Chasing the Dragon.” This is a phrase that originated from China. People often use this phrase to mean chasing the first high they ever experienced with heroin. This is usually what they think of as the best high. Generally, they will only ever experience this feeling one time.
Other terms associated with heroin use include:
- Atom Bomb – Mixing heroin and marijuana
- Pineapple – Mixing heroin with an amphetamine
- Z – One ounce of heroin
- Paper Boy – The heroin dealer
- Channel Swimmer – The one who injects heroin
What Makes it So Addictive?
There are several reasons that heroin is so addictive. When someone uses it, one of the first sensations they experience is a euphoric high. This is because of the way the drug causes the brain to release excess amounts of dopamine.
Dopamine is a chemical that your brain naturally produces when something enjoyable happens to you. You experience a rush of dopamine when you eat a good meal or spend time with a loved one you have not seen in a long time. Once you introduce heroin, your dopamine levels increase even more; to euphoric levels. Over time, the brain gets used to this sensation, and it becomes the new normal. Also, the brain begins to rely on the drug for the dopamine it releases.
When someone uses heroin, they also experience pain relief. This is due to the way the drug binds to the body’s opioid receptors. People often become addicted to this drug after they have abused prescription painkillers. They enjoy the relief they get, and when that is combined with the euphoria, it is a recipe for addiction.
CNN released an insightful video that explains more details about the brain on heroin. You can find it here: https://youtu.be/IhfZ7ZPPRQA
Are Women More Vulnerable to the Heroin High Than Men?
Research suggests that women could be more susceptible to the high that comes from using heroin than men are. There are several reasons for this.
First and foremost, more prescription opioids are prescribed for women than they are for men. NIDA reports that women appear to be much more sensitive to pain than men are. They are also much more likely to go to the doctor to request medication for relief.
According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health from 2010, women were prescribed opioids more often than men between 1997 and 2005. They were also given higher doses for longer periods of time. When they are no longer able to get prescriptions, women are more likely than men to purchase opioid drugs illegally. They may also be more likely to turn to heroin for the same reason.
Additionally, the euphoric sensations heroin can produce are often more attractive to men than women. This is due to the fact that they tend to suffer from more mental health issues. These pleasurable sensations in the brain can be quite desirable for someone who does not feel much joy.
This drug is very appealing to women who suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. Its use is also common among those who live with unhappy conditions. For instance, women who live in poverty or in abusive homes may gravitate toward heroin.
Heroin Dosing and the Effects
Women who use heroin will often describe various sensations based on the dose they take. Some will report feeling warm and safe, which is ironic because this drug is neither. But it does explain why the drug is so appealing to women who live in unsafe living conditions. It is a common choice for women who are homeless for this reason.
When women take lower doses of heroin, it can cause them to feel calmer. They often report feeling less tense and even less lonely. They feel more accepting of the people around them, and it generally reduces their feelings of anxiety. This type of sensation can be quite appealing to women who are sex workers. Using the drug may make it easier for them to perform sexual acts with strangers.
When women use higher doses of the drug, it allows them to feel disconnected from the world around them. It can produce a dream-like state, and many women report that it feels as though they are floating. Again, this is very relieving for someone who experiences high levels of anxiety, or someone who is depressed.
Opioid Use Statistics and the Differences Between Men and Women
Dr. Melinda Campopiano is a medical officer with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. She states that women bear a much greater burden in the opioid epidemic by citing the following statistics:
- Between 2002 and 2013, heroin use among women increased by 100%.
- For men, this increase was only 50%.
- Between 2000 and 2009, the prenatal use of opioid drugs increased from 1.19 to 5.63 for every 1,000 hospital births.
- Between 2009 and 2012, the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) increased from 3.4 to 5.8 for every 1,000 hospital births.
- This means that there were more than 20,000 babies born with signs of withdrawal in 2012.
Heroin Abuse vs. Heroin Addiction: What’s the Difference?
It’s important to understand the difference between heroin abuse and heroin addiction. These are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, they actually mean very different things.
Once you know the difference between abuse and addiction, it can help you tremendously. In fact, you might be able to understand more fully where your relationship with heroin lies.
Heroin Abuse Defined
When someone is abusing heroin, that person is probably only using once in a while. He or she may have used the drug once, and never picked it up again. Even one use of heroin is known as abuse. This is because the drug is illegal.
Heroin abusers generally don’t feel a need to keep using the drug. They may use it occasionally when the opportunity arises. They may also turn it down once in a while when given the chance to use. They don’t feel compelled to use it at all. They may or may not like the way it makes them feel. When they stop using heroin, they don’t go through withdrawal.
The problem is that most people assume that they are only abusing heroin. Quite often, they’re mistaking heroin abuse for heroin addiction.
Heroin Addiction Defined
A heroin addiction is defined as feeling the need to use the drug regularly. Someone who is addicted to heroin might not feel right without their regular dosage of the drug. That person will go through withdrawal symptoms once the heroin starts to exit their system.
A heroin addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition. This is what characterizes it as a disease. Someone who is addicted to heroin probably has a very hard time stopping the use of the drug. This is even truer for someone who tries to quit alone, without professional help.
Heroin addiction is also progressive. That means it gets worse, and it does not get better. Heroin addicts will continually use larger doses of the drug to get high. They may mix heroin with other drugs or substances, such as alcohol or cocaine. They’re always chasing after that first high they experienced when they started using.
The Connection Between Heroin and Prescription Drugs
There are so many prescription drugs that are quite similar to heroin. Oxycodone is one of them, and it’s the one that predominantly leads to heroin addiction. Others, like Vicodin and Percocet, can lead to it as well.
Prescription drug addiction often occurs accidentally. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, women are significantly at risk. They state that more than 6,600 women died after overdosing on prescription painkillers in 2010. This is a 400% increase from the year 1999.
This tells us that more women than ever are now using prescription drugs. As far as how this is related to heroin use, there is a close correlation.
When women are no longer able to obtain prescription drugs, heroin seems a suitable substitute. It is still very closely related to some prescription pain medications. It can be cheaper, in some cases, and more readily available. Given these facts, it’s easy to see how these two types of drugs are connected.
The Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on Women
In the past, the fact that opioid drugs were so heavily promoted to doctors convinced them that they were not treating pain aggressively enough. The pharmaceutical industry was very good at downplaying the risk of addiction and dead as well. The result was an increase in prescribed opioid painkillers. As we discussed previously, women were the most common recipients of these drugs.
According to the National Women’s Health Network:
- One in five Americans received an opioid prescription in 2016.
- 21% of these individuals were women.
- Only 16.4% of them were men.
- Women of reproductive age who received Medicaid were much more likely to receive prescriptions for these medications.
- 25% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 who had private insurance were prescribed opioid drugs.
Every single one of these women had an increased risk of opioid use disorder. However, the media has remained relatively silent about the issues impact on women.
Women face a lot of barriers to treatment. Among them are the high cost of treatment and the lack of access to effective options. This can include medication assisted therapy and proper rehabilitation programs. Addicted women who are pregnant or nursing may find it even more difficult to find suitable treatment options.
Proposed Solutions for the Opioid Crisis
There are a number of solutions that have been proposed for our country’s opioid crisis. These include:
- Making MAT more available – Drugs like Buprenorphine and Suboxone have been shown to be very effective for women who are addicted to heroin and other opioids. This type of treatment needs to be offered at more rehab centers.
- Promoting the use of medications like Vivitrol – This is a medication that has demonstrated its effectiveness at treating opioid addictions. Unlike many other forms of MAT, it is not an opioid, nor is it addictive.
- Expanding the states’ Medicaid programs – In Virginia, they have started to make some headway in the opioid epidemic by taking this action.
- Making it more difficult for patients to obtain prescription painkillers – Many drugs have already been formulated to make them more difficult to abuse. This can be done for all of them, across the board. Also, doctors are less willing to prescribe them now than ever before.
- Introducing pain control options that do not involve any type of opioid medication. This, of course, will take a lot of research, but it can be done.
One proposed solution appears more like a band-aid than an actual way to help the crisis. All across the United States, cities are opening up safe spaces where people can use heroin. They are known as supervised drug consumption facilities or safe injection sites. Sterile injection equipment is provided, and the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone, is available for staff in the event of an overdose.
Am I a Heroin Addict?
After learning more about heroin and how addiction occurs, it’s natural to wonder if you’re a heroin addict. This is a very important question for you to answer for yourself. It is vital for you to understand your own relationship to this dangerous drug. Unless you do, you won’t know how to proceed. If you need heroin treatment, that’s something you need to know right away.
You need to know, am I am a heroin addict? If you are, you should be able to notice these signs of heroin addiction:
- Enjoying the way that heroin makes you feel – happy and satisfied.
- Pin-point pupils in both of your eyes.
- Track marks on your skin from injecting heroin.
- Feeling as though you need to use more heroin to get high.
- Changes in your behavior.
- Lying to others about your drug use.
- Having legal problems related to your heroin use.
- Continuing to use heroin even though there are negative consequences to it.
- Withdrawing or becoming isolated from your friends and family.
- Exhibiting aggressive moods or behaviors.
- Having symptoms of depression.
Heroin is an expensive habit to maintain as time goes on. You may resort to stealing money from others to pay for it. You may also sell valuables (yours or someone else’s) to cover the cost of your drugs.
If any of these apply to you, you probably do have an addiction to heroin. If you do, heroin treatment is the best course of action for you.
Some women only intend to use heroin one time. Or, they may only intend to use it for a short period of time. Even so, it can still have a devastating effect within the brain and body.
Some of the short-term effects of heroin include:
- Losing your memory
- Losing any motivation to complete important tasks
- Experiencing constipation or other digestion problems
- Problems with motor control
- An upset stomach with nausea or vomiting
- Itchiness of the skin
- Experiencing catatonia
Heroin is a drug that is often injected. This is the most popular way to use the drug because of the body’s fast response. Needles are frequently shared between heroin users. This puts all heroin addicts at risk for contracting diseases, such as HIV.
The short-term effects of heroin are quite dramatic. However, the long-term effects are even more so. Long-term heroin use really damages the brain and body. It can result in:
- A diagnosis of arthritis
- Collapsed veins
- Infections in the heart valves and blood vessels
- A diagnosis of tuberculosis
- Bad teeth and gums
- A damaged and weakened immune system
- A high risk of a coma
- Respiratory illnesses
- Partial paralysis of the muscles
As you can see, none of the above are worth the short-lived high that heroin results in. It is a high that develops quickly, and just as quickly, goes away. This results in continuing use of the drug, and a rapid decline of one’s health and well-being.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug. For this reason, when it is stopped, withdrawal symptoms are likely to result. Many women who are addicted to heroin believe they’ve felt withdrawal, and some have. However, most have never experienced heroin withdrawal to its full extent.
Some of the more common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Experiencing severe cravings for heroin
- Becoming very depressed
- Becoming extremely agitated
- Experiencing abdominal pain
- Becoming very nauseous
- Hot or cold sweats
- Shakiness all over the body
- Feeling nervous
Most heroin addicts may experience cravings when too much time has passed since their last use. They tend to think that this is as hard as it gets when they stop using. Unfortunately, heroin withdrawal can linger on for quite some time. It only gets much worse before it starts to get better.
After the last dose of heroin, the withdrawal timeline starts ticking away. Between 6 and 12 hours since the last dose, the early withdrawal symptoms begin. This might mean mild cravings for the drug. It could also mean some agitation, and even some depression.
When the body doesn’t get “fed” its usual dose of heroin, these symptoms get worse. In addition, other symptoms are added. This will continue until the symptoms hit a peak. This generally occurs somewhere around day 3. Once that peak is reached, the severity of symptoms can begin to diminish.
It usually takes about a week before heroin withdrawal symptoms start to go away completely. However, they can come back again at any time. In fact, it’s not unusual for people to experience a resurgence of heroin withdrawal years later.
As a woman who is a heroin addict, heroin addiction treatment offers you so many great benefits. These include:
- Having the opportunity to go through heroin detox. This will help you with the physical side of your addiction.
- Being able to get support and help from other heroin addicts, or other types of drug addicts.
- Gaining professional insight into your addiction.
- Learning what living your life without heroin will be like.
- Understanding why you became a heroin addict and healing from the originating cause.
What are Your Options for Women’s Heroin Rehab?
You have many different options for heroin rehab, as a woman. It’s important for you to choose the one that will be right for you. These options include:
Many women who are addicted to heroin opt for a sober living environment for recovery. It helps them to live in a structured and supportive environment. Sober living provides them with access to helpful staff members. It also puts them in contact with other recovering heroin addicts with the same goals.
Sober living can last for several weeks, or it can stretch on into several months. The programs are detailed according to what each patient needs.
This type of program works best when it is combined with sober living services. During intensive outpatient treatment, patients participate with heroin rehab several days a week. These programs generally run for 12 weeks, or so. They can be longer or shorter, based on patients’ needs.
During IOP programs, patients learn about the dangers of their addictions. They work with a counselor who will identify any co-occurring disorders they might have. This is so important. If these conditions are not identified and treated, recovery might not take place.
Many women begin heroin recovery by going through an inpatient treatment program. These programs usually last for about 30 days. They are important because most women need a high level of care during the beginning of recovery.
During inpatient treatment, patients participate with group therapy and individual therapy. Other types of treatment may be assigned as a part of the patient’s treatment plan. The goal of inpatient treatment is to stop the use of heroin and begin the healing process.
There are a number of methods used for patients undergoing heroin detox. This is the first form of treatment for many heroin addicts.
Suboxone is a drug that is commonly recommended for heroin addicts. This, along with therapy and other detoxification methods can help aid in the heroin detox process.
Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment for Female Heroin Addicts
It is very common for women to suffer from co-occurring disorders when they are addicted to heroin. They are usually taking the drug for one reason or another, and most of the time, it is not just because they enjoy the high. Many of them may use it as a way to get pain relief, but others have mental health issues that contribute.
The term co-occurring disorder refers to any condition that may be present alongside an addiction. It is usually speaking of mental health conditions, and these may or may not be previously diagnosed.
Some examples of co-occurring disorders include:
Women who use heroin may be trying to self-medicate symptoms from any of the above co-occurring disorders. In order for treatment to be effective, it is necessary to treat both conditions at the same time. If the mental health issue is ignored, there is a high probability that the active addiction will return.
Female Celebrities Who Thrived After Heroin Addiction Treatment
Everyone knows that Hollywood is filled with people who use all kinds of drugs. It has come to be an accepted part of the culture there. Many celebrities are or have been addicted to heroin, and some have suffered from overdoses as a result. Others have been able to experience recovery. Today, they serve as beacons to the rest of the world. Their actions prove that recovery is possible and that if you take the proper steps, you can stop using successfully.
Nicole Richie, daughter of Lionel Richie, says that it was boredom that brought her into a life of drug abuse. By the time she was in her early 20s, she was addicted to heroin. She claims that her glamorous life in Beverly Hills made it easy to access any drug she wanted.
Now that she is off heroin – as well as other drugs – she has never been happier. She has found real joy in her life, and she no longer has to worry about being shackled to a substance to find happiness.
Unlike other celebrities, Angelina Jolie has not been quite as forthcoming about her addiction to heroin. In 2017, her drug dealer, Franklin Meyer, came forward to discuss the issue with Life & Style Magazine. He claims that he would see her two to three times a week and that she would purchase both heroin and cocaine from him.
Today, Angelina is very vocal about her feelings toward substances of any kind. She even divorced her husband, Brad Pitt, because of his inability to get and stay sober and clean.
Check out this video of Angelina, high on heroin: https://youtu.be/1ghp82bpaKI
The rock star is known as P!nk overdosed on heroin in 1995. After that, she swore off of drugs and never took them again. She claims that she has buried three friends from heroin overdoses, and that was more than enough for her.
P!nk stated, “Heroin is a horrible thing. I’ve seen first hand what it can do to people, and it’s not pretty.”
She started using the drug during her early teenage years when she was living in Pennsylvania. She quit by the time she was just sixteen because she wanted to focus on her career as a singer. This has proven to be a very wise decision.
Tatum O’Neal is most recently known for her role in the Christian film, God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness. She was the youngest actress to ever win an Academy Award. She won the Oscar for her role in the film, Paper Moon in 1973.
In 1986, she got married to John McEnroe, and they had three children. The couple separated in 1992, and Tatum turned to heroin shortly thereafter. As a result, she lost custody of the kids. She was able to get clean and get custody back some time later. While she relapsed again in 2008, it was short-lived. Today, she remains drug-free.
Heroin Treatment for Women at Denver Women’s Recovery
Right now, you could be in a state of shock about having a heroin addiction. Most people never think that they’ll become addicted to heroin when they start using it. They assume that they’re stronger than the pull from any drug. Sometimes they even tell themselves that they’ll just stop if they feel in danger of addiction.
After going over the above information, you now know of the dangers. You’re aware of how heroin can negatively affect your life. You may be feeling scared, but you’re also ready to seek out a heroin treatment program. Here at Denver Women’s Recovery, we can assist you with that.
Our heroin treatment program is completely tailored to our patients’ needs. Because we focus solely on women, you can feel confident that you’ll get the help you desire. Heroin addiction is something that you can overcome. However, you can’t do it on your own. It is a powerful addiction, and having professional expertise will only work in your favor.
Are you interested in talking about your options for women’s heroin treatment? Are you ready to recover from your heroin addiction? If you are, we’re prepared to help you. Please contact us right away for information, or to learn how to get started.