Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Health Concerns of Prolonged Heroin Use

Heroin use and abuse are dangerous for a number of reasons, but the health concerns related to use of the drug are deadly – both the acute and chronic issues risked. Depending upon the method of ingestion, additional health risks may be a concern for users as well. Also, the effects of heroin abuse are detrimental to your teen’s mental and emotional health. It’s a problem that cannot be ignored.

But how do you know when your teen is abusing heroin? Depending upon the area of the country where you live, heroin may look different. In the Northeast and certain parts of the Midwest, heroin may be light brown or beige and come in a powder form that is snorted, smoked or injected. On the West coast and in the Bay Area, heroin is often of the “black tar” variety, a dark brown or black sticky substance that is either smoked or injected. Both types of heroin are equally dangerous and equally addictive.

If your son is abusing heroin, don’t wait to see the signs of the illness or allow him to continue to risk his health with ongoing heroin abuse. Call us at Muir Wood now to discuss his options in recovery and learn more about our evidence-based, teen-specific treatment programs that will help him to avoid the health problems that are inevitable with untreated heroin abuse issues.

Acute Health Problems

The initial health concerns caused by heroin abuse are the acute health problems that can arise with a single use of the drug. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), first-time users and long-time users of heroin all have an equal chance of experiencing issues that include:

  • Slowed heart rate and breathing rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Miscarriage
  • Accident under the influence
  • Overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

Signs of being under the influence can help tip off parents to the fact that heroin abuse is an issue for their teen and aid them in intervening before occasional heroin abuse turns into a chronic problem that risks ongoing health.

Chronic Health Risks

When heroin abuse is allowed to continue without intervention, it can destroy your teen’s life. Chronic health problems are a huge risk. They begin to build with the first use and every subsequent use moves your child closer to dealing with any of a number of long-term – and deadly – health problems, including:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Collapsed veins
  • Abscesses
  • Respiratory ailments
  • Rheumatologic illnesses
  • Diseases like hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS
  • Addiction

Many of these chronic health concerns come with a slew of related health problems. For example, heroin addiction brings the issue of withdrawal symptoms. If your son develops a physical dependence upon the drug, according to Medline Plus, he may experience a number of problems including extreme muscle cramps, bone pain, cold chills, diarrhea, vomiting, restless legs and more.

Risks Related to Method of Ingestion

The method of ingestion can change some of the health risks related to heroin abuse. Smoking the drug will cause different health problems than injecting the drug or snorting it. Specific to each method of ingestion, health concerns include the following.

  • Snorting heroin
    • Sinus problems
    • Bloody nose
    • Headaches
    • Deviated septum
    • Mouth and throat illnesses
  • Smoking heroin
    • Lung, mouth and throat cancers
    • Asthma
    • Emphysema
  • Injecting heroin
    • Abscesses
    • Hepatitis C
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Infection of the heart lining or valves
    • Bacterial infections

Though more heroin users are choosing to smoke the drug rather than inject it (69 percent injected the drug in 1995 compared to 63 percent in 2005, according to The DASIS Report), all methods of ingesting the drug come with a wide range of health problems that are deadly. Additionally, many heroin addicts in recovery report that the day their abuse issues turned into addiction was the day they first used a needle.

Risks to Teen Development

The brain develops rapidly during the teen years. Behavior, cognitive function, and emotional maturity all develop extremely quickly during this time. Heroin use and abuse of any drug or alcohol can cause a wide range of problems that can change the course of your child’s life. Call us at Muir Wood to discuss the options in treatment available to your teen, or download the admissions packet and get your teen started in recovery today.