Exploring the agony of heroin addiction

A look at one of the nation’s deadliest drugs and the story of how one girl survived

The November death of a Plano teen-ager was a grim reminder of how substance abuse in America rips apart families and communities, even when it is least expected.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the proportion of new heroin users admitted to substance abuse treatment who were younger than 25 years old increased from 30 to 41 percent between 1992 and 2000. More than 80 percent of the total new heroin users are younger than age 20.

Heroin was the leading illicit drug among substance abuse treatment admissions in 2002, reported by 15 percent of the 1.6 million addiction treatment admissions in SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).

“I became a statistic at the age of 20 when I started using heroin,” explains Erica, a young woman who completed the Narconon Arrowhead drug rehabilitation program. “There is no way to describe the daily misery and agony I went through while addicted to heroin.” By looking at her, one would never guess she was a former drug addict.

A drug that was once found in cough syrup, heroin’s immediate effects include dry mouth and a heavy feeling, which may be accompanied by nausea, and/or vomiting and itching of the face and body and drowsiness lasting several hours. Mental function, cardiac function and breathing is clouded and/or slowed by heroin’s effect on the central nervous system.

Heroin can be injected, sniffed/snorted, or smoked. Admissions trend data suggest many users begin using heroin in the inhaled form and switch to injecting heroin later in their lifetime. Intravenous heroin users are at an extremely high risk of catching diseases that go along with using the syringe such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Aside from the devastating effects of taking the drug and the lifestyle that goes with its use, many addicts of opiates such as heroin fear the pain and discomfort of withdrawal from the drug, which drives them to use more. Symptoms of withdrawal include severe bone and muscle pain, insomnia and restlessness, diarrhea, vomiting, goose bumps, sweats and involuntary leg movements. “It felt like I was going to die,” explains Erica of her own withdrawal from the drug.

It is common for heroin addicts to be turned on to synthetic opiates such as methadone for “maintenance,” but replacing one drug for another is not a viable solution for ending the addiction. Most methadone users wind up increasing their dosage instead of stepping down because a tolerance is built for that drug as well. In addition, methadone patients are physically dependent, and methadone and withdrawal periods are much more violent, and methadone-related deaths are rising throughout the United States.

Regardless of what drug is being used, the effects and cravings last beyond the initial withdrawal stage. Physical cravings for the drug may last several months after usage ceases. In the 1970s it was discovered that drug particles get stored in the fatty tissue of the body and remain there for years, getting released back into the blood stream when those cells are turned to for energy and a person’s heart rate increases.

A unique detoxification program used by the Narconon Arrowhead that was researched and developed by American author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard flushes out the old drug residues and eliminates those physical cravings. A low-heat dry sauna is used in conjunction with essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and polyunsaturated oils to purge the body of the toxins and replace it with healthy, clean tissue. According to Erica: “It was amazing! I couldn’t believe that I no longer craved heroin or felt the effects from it. I truly felt like a new person.”

Unfortunately, the fact is that hundreds of thousands of people are presently undergoing the misery of heroin addiction every day in the U.S. alone. There is a solution, though, and drug addiction can be overcome. If you or someone you love needs help with addiction, contact Narconon Arrowhead today at 1-800-468-6933 or visit www.heroinaddiction.com.

From the Feb. 15-21, 2006, issue

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