For a lot of people the idea of sticking a needle into their veins to shoot up heroin seems preposterous. For them there is no fathomable feeling or result that could possibly possess them to do that even once, let alone become addicted to it.
But for those who have tried heroin, they universally describe a similar version of the same experience. For a piece in Vice, people who have used heroin in the past detail what it was like to use the drug, and how it changed them and their way of thinking even after the first time.
Vice interviewed former users who described a feeling of warmth all over their bodies, and that in general, everything was just going to be okay. Their anxiety was gone, and any and all cares that once plagued them just melted away.
A New York Times article about the opioid epidemic quotes two addicts about their experiences. One stated that the feeling was “like being hugged by Jesus,” and another described it as “exhaling from holding my breath for my whole life.”
One commonality between the people quoted in both of these pieces is that they knew, even after just one time of using, that they wanted to do it again and again.
How Heroin Affects the Body and Brain
Heroin produces a certain feeling of physical euphoria, but it also affects the way the brain functions. When a person introduces opioids into their system, a rush of dopamine is released and the body is flooded with “happy” feelings. Over time, the brain begins to lose its ability to create these same feelings without the assistance of drugs. So when doing something exciting or rewarding, like going on a roller coaster, falling in love, or getting that big promotion at work, used to provide that rush on its own, heroin stops it from doing so.
After a while, the brain rewires itself to depend on the drug in order release dopamine at all. If opioids are not constantly being supplied to the brain, then withdrawal symptoms begin. The more an addict uses, the worse the withdrawals are. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, body aches, headaches and cold sweats.
An Addict Is Born
No one ever plans on becoming an addict. They don’t wake up one morning and think, “Today is a great day to throw my life away to drugs!” But with opioids, the progression is swift, and before you know it, the drugs have taken hold.
Many people turn to heroin when it becomes impossible to keep getting their prescription medications for pain. Heroin is not only cheaper, but very easy to get. Along the same lines, when a person who uses opioids used to take them in pill form starts to shoot up, the high from the needle is stronger and hits them quicker. It all becomes about getting the high more efficiently.
The Progression of Addiction
When someone uses opioids just a few times, the brain is able to bounce back and rebalance fairly quickly. But with each use the brain is changing and becoming more used to the drug, needing it more. The phrase “chasing the dragon” refers to the desire to recapture the feeling of the first high off heroin. The more heroin someone uses, the more tolerance they build up. From there the body needs more and more to feel high at all. Sadly, that first high is never felt again, but the addict is always chasing it.
Soon the desire for heroin circumvents the need for anything else. This is usually driven by the need to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Addicts will often do absolutely anything to steer clear of getting sick and will resort to stealing, selling their bodies and more. Often heroin users are taking the drug solely to not get sick, and the high they once craved becomes more and more elusive.
This stage is dangerous is other ways as well. As the desperation for the drug mounts, taking risky steps become unimportant. This can mean sharing needles which would lead to hepatitis or HIV infection. Rapidly the thing that once brought so much pleasure becomes a full time job. The only thing on a heroin addict’s mind day to day is getting high to avoid going into withdrawal.
While the pitfalls of opioid addiction can make recovery seem hopeless, treatment centers all over the world have turned their attention and approaches to helping people get off heroin. Oceanside Malibu, a premiere residential treatment facility situated on the beach in beautiful Malibu, California, offers structured and focused treatment for their clients who struggle with this kind of addiction.
They bring compassion and understanding to their clients throughout treatment. They also understand the reality of being addicted to heroin, and that often times relapse is a very real element of the recovery process. While relapsing can not only be dangerous due to the risk of overdosing, it can also shatter one’s resolve and riddle them with shame—thus the cycle begins again.
Oceanside Malibu customizes their treatment tracks to each person’s needs. They work to eliminate the shame that often encompasses addicts, and show them that there is fun and joy in a life free of their addiction. Oceanside knows that the process is ongoing, and they are able to offer support not only during their residential program, but continuing with their sober living and outpatient care. Their holistic and individualized approach consists of dual diagnosis care that gets to the root of the addiction, and begins to work from a place of compassion and empathy.
Clients of Oceanside Malibu can expect group and individual therapy, somatic experiencing, equine therapy, salt water therapy, and nutritional counseling, just to name a few of their services. They have yoga on the beach and enjoy delicious, chef created meals that balance out their physical bodies while aiding in the overall healing process. They are supported and guided by caring professionals who have real life knowledge of what their clients are going through.
There Is Hope
Heroin can take over a person’s life until they don’t recognize themselves anymore. And while the loneliness of this existence can seem profound, there is help readily available. Oceanside Malibu has staff ready to answer any questions one may have about the recovery process, and set their mind at ease about the next steps. Recovery is possible.
Reach Oceanside Malibu by phone at (866) 738-6550. Find Oceanside Malibu on Facebook