Searidge Foundation is an addictions treatment facility located in rustic Annapolis Royal. Individuals struggling with heroin addiction have access to individualized treatment plans supported by evidence. It is our goal to provide each resident with a comprehensive and effective treatment plan catered towards their unique needs and desires. Some of the programs we offer include:
- Treatment in residential settings
- SMART Recovery
What is Heroin?
Alt-text: This photo depicts a clear, cylindrical needle with a translucent brown substance inside. The needle is laying near multiple piles of a fine, white powder- this is heroin. The brown substance within the needle is a liquified version of the heroin powder.
Heroin was discovered in the late 19th century by researchers looking for an effective and safe alternative to morphine in pain management. In response, the American Medical Association quickly approved its use in clinical settings upon discovery. However, this decision lead to its eventual recreational use and related morbidities and heroin was consequently recalled from the healthcare system not long after.
Heroin is a member of the opioid family and is identified as a white, odourless powder in pure form. On many occasions, it can be mixed with other substances, giving it a beige, pink, or brown colour. According to recent studies, most of the heroin in North American is only 50% pure. Oftentimes, other ingredients such as starch, sugar, or poison (strychnine) are added.
Intravenous injection is the most common route in which the drug is taken. The drug is dissolved in an aqueous solution (usually water) and taken up into a syringe. Despite that, it can also be snorted, smoked, or injected. Recent reports in Canada suggest that 75 000 – 125 000 of individuals who use illicit drugs do so via injection (Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse, 2018). An investigation in Montréal found that 5000 – 15 000 of these cases involved heroin (Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse, 2018).
Heroin Addiction – What Does it Look Like?
Heroin is an opioid. Therefore, its potential for addiction is largely dependent on the extent to which an individual experiences withdrawal and tolerance. Oftentimes, those who use the drug over the long term are doing so to avoid the adverse withdrawal symptoms of withdrawal (e.g., nausea, depression, shaking, etc.). As a rule of thumb, the higher the dose of the drug, the worse an individual will experience these symptoms. This is the nefarious nature of heroin. Tolerance is quickly built with use. Therefore, individuals require a higher dose of the drug with subsequence use to achieve similar “good” affects and to reduce symptoms of withdrawal.
Individuals with heroin addiction are further susceptible to contextual and environmental cues related to heroin-use (e.g., people, places, needles, etc.). For example, the sight of heroin-associated stimuli can promote the activation of craving pathways in the brain. In turn, this can drive drug-seeking behavior as the individual develops a “craving” for the drug. These cravings are quite intense and can oftentimes cause individuals who have abstained from the drug for an extended period of time to relapse.
Short-Term Effects and Risks
Individuals usually notice the effects of ecstasy within the first 20 minutes of taking the drug and then symptoms can last up to six hours. Symptoms can include:
- Feelings of warmth
- Tranquility (aka: on the node)
- Emotional self-containment
- Need for socialization
- Semi-consciousness (with high dosage)
- Severe itch
- Possible overdose
- Potential for collapsed veins
- Infections related to injections (e.g., HIV/AIDS)
- Liver disease
- Lung complications
Like many other drugs, heroin can easily pass through the blood-brain barrier due to its lipid soluble properties. This allows it act rapidly throughout the brain. As it happens, once it passes the brain barrier, it is converted into 6-MAM and morphine by enzymes. Both constituents act similarly to the brain’s naturally occurring pain-killers at the mu-opioid-receptor of the brain. Consequently, this relieves individuals from pain and causes both respiratory and cardiovascular depression. Symptoms of euphoria, calmness, and fearlessness occur when these metabolites interact with the brain’s limbic system- which contains a dense population of opioid receptors as well.
Brief Overview of Ecstasy
Active Ingredient(s): heroin, 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM), morphine
Synonyms: Smack, junk, dope, H, Chiba, Snow
Legal status: Illegal
Most common route(s) of administration: Intravenously, smoking, snorting
Leading cause of drug-associated mortality: Overdose
- Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (2018)
- American Psychiatric Association, 2000. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) Retrieved from PsychiatryOnline.com.
Meta-data: This webpage provides a comprehensive overview of heroin, heroin addiction, and available treatment at Searidge Foundation.
Key words: heroin, addiction, treatment, opioids, drug