Heroin Relapse Rates & Stats

Facts about Heroin Addiction

A few heroin addiction facts are that heroin is a highly addictive substance that is part of a family of drugs known as opioids. Heroin is made from morphine which is a natural substance that is derived from various opium poppy plants that are commonly grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Colombia, and Mexico. The substance can be found in many different forms. It can be various shades of powder ranging from white to dark brown depending on what it is cut with. It can also be seen as a black sticky and gooey substance that is known as black tar heroin. People generally snort, inject, or smoke heroin.

Understanding the History of Heroin

To understand heroin, one must first take a step back and look into the history of the substance. Back in the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia around 3400 BC, opium was the very first opioid that was cultivated from the sap of opium poppies. This substance was first used by the Egyptians and Persians before spreading to Europe, India, and China. By the 18th century, doctors in the United States began using opium as a therapeutic drug that had many uses. It was used to ease the pain of childbirth and alleviate cancer pain. Near the end of the 18th century, doctors began to notice how addictive opium can really be.

In the early 1800s, morphine and codeine were separated from opium and morphine was being used as a cure for opium addiction. Morphine was very successful at curing opium addiction because morphine’s euphoric effects were far more powerful than that of opium. Nevertheless, morphine began to be abused creating a whole nother problem.

Due to morphine’s abuse, heroin was as developed  in  1898  as a non addictive replacement for morphine. As with all the other drugs derived from the opium poppies, heroin was also highly addictive and was classified as an illegal drug in the United States. In 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act was passed stop the abuse  heroin and other substances.

Today, heroin gets into the United States from Southeast and Southwest Asia, Latin America, and Mexico. Drug dealers generally sell the substance as a white or brownish powder or black gooey substance. Heroin is typically mixed with other substances a person may find in their household kitchen or grocery store. Examples of these substances include sugar, starch, lactose, baking soda, caffeine.  These substances bulk up the drug by diluting the actual amount of heroin contained within the substance. Drug dealers turn a larger profit as a result of mixing their products. Heroin can also be sold by drug dealers in its pure form.

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Facts and Statistics on Heroin Abuse

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2013 there were 169,000 people who were imprisoned for heroin abuse. This number is similar to the number of inmates who were imprisoned for heroin abuse in most years since 2002. In 2013,169,000 individuals aged 12 or older used heroin for the first time. This equates to about 460 people trying heroin for the first time each and every day. Also in 2013, 526,000 people aged 12 or older received treatment for heroin abuse. Even with these alarming numbers, heroin use remains uncommon in the United States with only .03 percent of the population aged 12 and older using heroin. In comparison, in the past year about 33 million or 12.6 percent of people aged 12 and overused marijuana.

How Long It Takes To Become Addicted

A person who uses heroin for the first time cannot become physically dependent or addicted to the substance after one use. Physical dependence and addiction to heroin take time and repeated use to develop. According to a federal government survey data, 80% of people who use heroin do not become dependent on it.

Dangers and Risks

There are numerous serious risks to repeated heroin use. It alters the chemical balance in the brain resulting in long-term imbalances and hormonal changes.  Using heroin also creates high levels of dependence and tolerance to the drug. When a person becomes dependent on the substance withdrawal symptoms can occur after just a few hours of not having the drug. Withdrawal symptoms include vomiting, insomnia, diarrhea, and cold flashes. Too much tolerance to heroin can cause a person to overdose from taking too much of the drug. Overdose is extremely dangerous as it can be fatal.

Heroin Overdose

Heroin use in the United States had been growing since 2007. In 2015, over 13,000 people died from a heroin overdose in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States in 2018 almost 15,000 people died from a drug overdose involving heroin. That is a rate of almost 5 deaths for every 100,000 Americans.

The majority of people who overdose from the drug are already dependent and addicted to it. What makes heroin so dangerous is the fact that some people overdose their very first time they use the drug. A heroin overdose occurs when a person uses so much of the substance that their body has a life-threatening reaction to the drug. If a person overdoses on heroin they will get very sleepy, become unconscious, or stop breathing. Other symptoms of a heroin overdose are very small pupils, low blood pressure, blue-colored nails and lips signifying a lack of oxygen and blood flow, uncontrollable muscle movement, disorientation, coma, and even death.  A heroin overdose can result in serious, harmful symptoms, and even death. When a person overdoses on heroin their breathing often slows or stops. Hypoxia, a serious medical condition can result from this because there are decreased amounts of oxygen getting to the brain.

Heroin Relapse

As with any illicit drug use, heroin relapse is not uncommon and may feel like a failure.  According to the National Institute on Drugs, the heroin relapse rate was 31.9 percent of people who went through treatment for heroin addiction. 28.9 percent of those who relapse do so after the first week of their completed treatment program. 25 percent of relapse patients said they did so due to being in a negative emotional state. 34 percent relapsed from social pressures. In order for treatment to be successful, continuous evaluation is necessary. Aftercare and post-discharge counseling that focuses on prevention of relapse is one way to ensure an individual does not relapse. This might help reduce the number of people relapsing and increase the periods of remission for relapsing patients.

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Heroin Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is struggling with a heroin addiction a high-quality rehabilitation center can help. Typically, a recovering individual who spends less than 90 days at a residential and/or outpatient treatment center will not have success. Treatment lasting significantly longer, around one year, is recommended to maintain positive outcomes.

The treatments that have been found to be effective in helping someone overcome heroin addiction are behavioral therapies and medications. Both behavioral therapies and medications have been found to help a person regain normal brain function and behavior. Medications that have proven to help treat opioid disorders are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These medications help a person deal with their withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and contingency management are effective because they help an individual who is overcoming their heroin addiction change the way they think about the drug. With heroin relapse being fairly common, engaging in behavior therapies are very important to ensure that a person is equipped with the appropriate tools to know how to manage their stress and avoid social situations that may lure a recovered individual into engaging in drug use. The combination of both medication to curb withdrawal symptoms and behavioral therapies to realign cognitive functions have been proven to be very effective in helping people overcome their heroin addiction.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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