Most drugs, including legal, prescription, and illicit, are categorized as being either “uppers” or “downers”. These terms refer to the overall physical and chemical reactions an individual experiences while being under the influence of a specific substance. Uppers are stimulants that produce an increase in energy, feelings of invincibility, and sharpened focus while downers act as depressants, inducing lethargy, feelings of euphoria, and relief from discomfort. 

While uppers and downers produce contrasting highs, each is equally capable of inflicting severe harm to the user.  Adverse reactions associated with uppers include rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and aggression whereas downers contribute to breathing suppression, low blood pressure, and impairment of motor skills. 

Is Heroin an Upper or a Downer? 

Heroin is a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant, classifying it as a downer. As a semi-synthetic opioid, heroin originated from opium found in the poppy plant and has since been chemically manipulated into the illicit drug it is today. This highly addictive and dangerous substance is a main component in the ongoing opioid crisis.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids were responsible for 49,860 overdose deaths in 2019 alone. 

injecting-oxycontin

When ingested, heroin binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, releasing a surge of dopamine. This rush of dopamine generates an intense euphoria and sense of calm. Prolonged use of this substance disables the brain from producing dopamine on its own and the user begins to depend on heroin to avoid dopamine depletion. Once addicted, the user unknowingly inflicts damage to their body with continued use. As stated by the American Addiction Centers,  heroin abuse depresses the respiratory system. With less oxygen, the brain will begin to reduce the function of other systems in the body, which could lead to organ and brain damage.

Since 1999, approximately 840,000 individuals have overdosed and died from heroin use. As one of the most dangerous, illicit substances, heroin is also highly addictive. The American Society of Addiction Medicine estimates that nearly a quarter of those who try it become addicted to the drug. In recent years, heroin use has increased significantly, resulting in a third wave of the opioid epidemic at the beginning of 2013. As a downer, heroin acts as a respiratory depressant which is a leading cause of overdose fatality. 

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The Heroin High

Heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted. The use of heroin results in a high in which the user experiences: 

       Sense of euphoria 

       Numbness

       Dry Mouth 

       Falling in and out of consciousness

       Warm, flushed skin

       Extremities feel heavy 

       Shallow breathing 

       Nausea

       Itching 

 

Long-term Effects of Heroin Use

Prolonged heroin use can cause severe and, occasionally, irreversible damage. This includes:

Liver disease

Skin disease at injection sites

Infections of the heart valves and lining 

HIV or Hepatitis B and C

Chronic pneumonia

Collapsed veins

Brain damage

Kidney disease

Respiratory depression

Seizures

Overdose

Asheville Recovery Center Can Help  

Heroin is a dangerous and highly addictive depressant that inflicts long-term damage on the body when abused. It is important to seek help immediately if you or a loved one is struggling with this addiction. At Asheville Recovery Center, treatment specialists have developed a unique, hybrid model of treatment which combines a traditional 12-step program with holistic rehabilitation. A multitude of services, programs, and therapies are offered, including the Partial Hospitalization Program, Residential-style treatment, outpatient rehabilitation, and more. 

The founders of Asheville Recovery Center, as well as many of our addiction therapists, have struggled with addiction and now enjoy life in recovery. They understand the struggles of addiction and how difficult it is to overcome alone. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call (828)518-6996 and speak with an addiction expert today so you can take the first step towards a rewarding life of sobriety.

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