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Much like most other states in the US, Pennsylvania has seen its share of people falling into substance abuse. Truth be told, the current opioid overdose epidemic is the worst public health crisis in Pennsylvania. Heroin has always been a massive problem in the US, which is why recovery and rehabilitation programs by the US government, much like the heroin rehab program in PA, present one of the few beacons of hope for those unfortunate enough to have developed the drug habit.

The state of Pennsylvania has documented at least 47,690 reports of opioid-related overdoses from 2018 to 2022 alone, and there appears to be no clear sign of the statistic going down.

There are, however, crisis response initiatives being undertaken by the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Interagency Substance Use Response Team to address this issue. If you or a loved one are dealing with addiction, now is the time to seek out addiction treatment programs in Philadelphia.

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Why is Heroin so Addictive?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that in 2022 alone, up to 40% of all American adults in the US suffer from one form of chronic pain or another. The massive number also necessarily means that chronic pain sufferers would look for pain relief of any kind, even those that eventually cause the user to form a heavy dependence on it.

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For a person afflicted with chronic pain, any kind of relief for any amount of time would be a huge blessing. Opioids, the substance group that heroin belongs to, provides quick relief from pain while providing a deep sense of euphoria.

This euphoria, however, tends to diminish in duration over time, which is mostly why those hooked on heroin tend to binge on it, taking more as time goes by. People who deal with constant pain are often put into a position where they would welcome any opportunity to be free of it, regardless of the potential consequences.

People hooked on opioids like heroin also say the substance gave them an overwhelming sense of peace, although this could point to the properties of the drug that numbs the senses and their neurological responses, creating a false sense of calm and peace.

Other than being used to deal with chronic pain, many people who use opioids like heroin are hooked on it because of the sense of peace it gives them. Many people have great difficulty in coping with the daily stress of the world today. This stress tends to become quite problematic as it also disrupts a person’s ability to rest and sleep.

Opioids are also known as “downers” because of the heavy depressant effect these substances have on people. This depressant effect gives the user a sense of deep sedation, slowing a person’s breathing and heart rate, and forcing relaxation on the body. The effect has been described as similar to when people use deep breathing techniques to slow their heart rate and regulate breathing patterns.

Stress eating is a very real thing for many people, gobbling down unhealthy amounts of food in order to deal with daily stress. The irony of this situation is that even when stress eaters resort to binge eating to deal with their stress, they still feel miserable while eating, as the realization of what it would do to them hangs over their heads.

One of the many side effects of heroin is appetite suppression, which is why many people who have a heroin habit look thin, pale, and sickly. People who are deprived of food typically set off a fail-safe in the brain that makes them feel miserable. The euphoric feeling that comes with using heroin, however, suppresses this miserable feeling even as it suppresses the appetite, removing any ill feeling the person might have about not eating.

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How Difficult is it to Quit Heroin?

Heroin is known to be one of the most difficult substances to quit once you are hooked on it. As heroin is a central nervous system depressant, the effects of this substance go straight to the bodily system that governs everything else. Over time, heroin drastically alters the chemistry of the brain itself.

On top of the drastic effects that go straight to the brain, people who use heroin tend to develop a tolerance for the initial amounts that they used to take. This tolerance means that the effects that a person feels when they take heroin will diminish over time. To compensate for this, they take larger doses, which puts them even deeper into heroin addiction. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to quit heroin.

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Another reason is that heroin tampers with the normal way that the rewards system of the brain works. The rewards system normally releases the “feel good” hormones of the body after a perceived situation that deserves a “reward”, such as an accomplishment, good news, and anything else that would normally make a person feel good. Using heroin is basically like being able to manually manipulate the reward system of the brain, deriving the reward even without the circumstance that deserves it.

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What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Heroin?

Withdrawal symptoms are never pleasant. This is a fact and it is often used to convince people believed to still be in the early stages of substance abuse to quit using while they are still capable of doing so. The withdrawal symptoms that come with opioids are particularly harrowing since the substance itself affects the bodily system that is associated with pain management.

The withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin begin to manifest just a few hours after the last time it was taken. Some people find the withdrawal process during medical detox to be so agonizing that they opt for medication-assisted treatment, if only to mitigate the severe symptoms that they feel.

For those who have been on heroin for a longer period of time, the process also takes on an added dimension, as complications could arise during withdrawal that could put the patient in a life-threatening situation. This is because many often experience a severe shock to the system once they stop taking substances, on top of the remaining substances being forcefully flushed out of the body.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms of heroin include:

What is the Heroin Withdrawal Timeline?

Although different people tend to have different experiences relevant to withdrawal and when each withdrawal phase hits them, there is a general timeline observed in most people who undergo medical detox for heroin.

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Symptoms may start to manifest in as little as 6 hours after the time heroin was taken. Pain will typically start to set in on the first day, usually in the form of muscle aches. Many could experience intensifying pain over the first 48 hours. People also experience bouts of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, uncontrollable shaking, and diarrhea during this period.

On the third or fourth day after the last time that heroin was taken, most, if not all, of the withdrawal symptoms may manifest. During this time, patients may experience varying degrees of abdominal cramping, profuse sweating, and shivers. Many will also experience varying degrees of nausea which could also include persistent vomiting. A common danger during this period is dehydration as the patient will continue to expel bodily fluids through diarrhea and persistent vomiting.

At the end of the first week after the last time heroin was taken, patients typically experience the end of the period known as acute withdrawal. Patients will experience a marked reduction in muscle pain and nausea. Depending on how soon patients could get rehydrated and recover from the severe loss of bodily fluids, some of those in this phase will begin to feel a bit better as more and more of the discomfort tapers off. The severe loss of bodily fluids, however, tends to leave most people in this phase feeling weak, exhausted, and dizzy.

If managed properly, the most severe withdrawal symptoms are not really expected to extend past the first week, although there are some patients who tend to experience some symptoms irregularly for months after the medical detox. This is referred to as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) and could include bouts of depression, anxiety, varying degrees of fatigue, unexplained irritability, and disruption of sleep patterns.

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Let MPower Help You Back into a Meaningful Life Through Treatment

Recovery is a process that requires time, patience, and a lot of work. This is because it needs to be right the first time around so that healing is complete and sobriety is one that is lasting. There are many treatment forms available at MPower, but before any treatment could be started, there is a need to make sure that it is the appropriate one so that no effort or work is wasted. When a person resonates well with the treatment, the chances of a full recovery are much better, and the risk of a relapse could be next to none. Talk to us now.

How addictive is heroin?

Heroin is one of the most addictive substances ever abused, with people getting hooked after only a few tries.

How dangerous is heroin?

Heroin, much like most opioids, is a central nervous system depressant, which means it affects the brain directly. This effect could extend to the autonomic functions of the body, such as breathing.

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Is heroin detox difficult?

The truth of the matter is that any kind of medical detox is difficult because substances alter the chemistry of the body. The difficulty often arises when the body seeks to correct itself and bring things back to normal.

What treatment would be best for heroin rehabilitation

The best way to determine which treatment would be best is with the help of a professional therapist. The therapist will conduct an assessment to determine what kind of treatment would be best for the particular patient.

Do people die from heroin use?

Yes. An alarmingly high number of people die from opioid-related overdose each year, mainly because of the nature of opioid addiction. There is a high probability that the body will develop a tolerance for heroin after some time. By this time, the user will typically already have a heavy dependence on heroin and its effects. This heavy dependence will cause the user to increase the amount of heroin taken to compensate for the ever-diminishing duration of its effects.

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Find out more about the services available at MPower Wellness and start on your path to recovery.