heroin was available over the counter and used to treat myriad conditions in both adults and children in the United States, according to Narconon, an organization that provides self-help 12-step programs for individuals suffering from drug addiction. Even though heroin was made illegal in 1920, it was a significant problem throughout the 20th century. The image one might have of a heroin addict, often referred to by the name “junkie” because of heroin’s street name “junk,” is a clear one based upon stereotypes.
An article published in 1986 by the New York Times indicated that heroin use was dropping off in the city as the heroin-abusing population aged. Younger drug users were engaged in the abuse of a new form of cocaine. Since that time, heroin use among high school students in the United States has risen slightly, according to the Monitoring the Future Survey. Heroin, it would seem, is still a problem for American teens.
Long-Term Effects of Heroin Abuse
Heroin is derived from the drug morphine, which is made from opium. The substance, like its previous incantations, is addictive and can cause severe, lifelong difficulties if the addiction does not receive proper treatment. Addiction is a chronic disease that changes how a person thinks and how they behave, often by disrupting their ability to employ willpower as a means to stop using drugs.
The disease begins with the presence of tolerance in the body. When a teen introduces heroin into their body, the body reacts in a specific way. Eventually, it will become used to the chemical changes and the effects will become less pronounced. The person taking the drug will need to take more of the drug to obtain the same “high” that lesser amounts of the drug created earlier. As more and more drugs are introduced, the body will become physically dependent on the drugs in order to even feel normal. If the drugs are no longer introduced, even for a short while, the individual will begin to suffer withdrawal symptoms that can be incredibly uncomfortable, such as nausea and vomiting, physical pain in the abdomen, joints and muscles, or seizures. Known as “dope sickness,” most addicts will do anything they can to obtain more drugs in order to alleviate the symptoms. Additional drugs will be needed to accomplish the euphoric feelings, thus continuing the cycle of tolerance and addiction.
Consistent abuse of heroin can also lead to:
- Disorders of the veins due to intravenous drug use
- Higher likelihood of blood-borne or sexually transmitted diseases, such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS
- Disease of the joints such as arthritis
- Disease or infection in the heart
- Abscesses and bacterial infections
Getting Help for a Teen Heroin Addict
Addiction is a complicated disease. For someone who is not suffering from addiction, it may be difficult to understand why your teen simply refuses to stop abusing drugs. After all, if they really wanted to stop, they would, right? It isn’t quite so simple unfortunately, and the compulsion to abuse drugs is a characteristic of the disease, not a result of it.
This doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to help your son. A simple phone call can begin the process with a full assessment of your son’s situation and condition, followed by the development of an individual program that includes evidence-based therapies and alternative methods that can have significant rewards over the course of treatment, as well as the rest of his life. If you are the parent of an adolescent boy who desperately needs to get help for teen heroin addiction, please do not delay. Call right away to find out how we can help.