By | 2018-08-30
How Heroin Kills

Jake is a reformed addiction patient. He does not remember how he got into the habit of abusing heroin; however, he does recollect the minutest detail of his first blackout. It happened immediately after he had snorted the white powder at a seedy bar that served as a hangout for his motley gang of friends. He does remember the sound of the ambulance siren and the slapping of the nurse to wake him up from the deadly stupor into which he had fallen. The youth in his mid-20s experienced excruciating pain and a strong desire for everything to end soon. He remembered that he wished to die, while the nurse strapped him with all the force to administer the lifesaving antidote, Narcan. Though Jake survived his first ordeal, there are many who are not so lucky. In the case of heroin, there is no guarantee when the drug will give one a deadly hit. One could be a pro at the game and yet become a victim of overdose. Overdosing could happen with the first snort, or after the 50th. Like the game of the Russian roulette, there is no knowing when the drug will take a bite out of the user. For most people, this one-time experience with a near-death situation could have been a sufficient deterrent for experimenting with heroin again. However, it was not so in the case of Jake. Out in the streets again, he soon started doing drugs again. How heroin affects brain and body Once addicted to heroin, one experiences the indescribable feeling of being “possessed,” experiencing the irresistible desire for the next dose. It is exactly for this reason that heroin is called the devil’s drug. It has such a stranglehold on the person that breaking off the habit becomes difficult. Even one causal snort can lead to addiction. That is because drugs like heroin and marijuana make certain changes in the brain chemistry, making it difficult for the user to quit the drug-seeking habit easily. When heroin enters the brain, it is converted to morphine which binds to the opioid receptors, also called mu-opioid receptors (MORs). This decreases the body’s perception of pain and increases the level of dopamine responsible for inducing the feeling of pleasure. In the case of a heroin-induced rush, the initial euphoria is followed by a fall, reflected through extreme drowsiness, slowing down of all the vital bodily functions, etc. There is also a considerable decline of cognitive functioning and everything appears foggy and clouded. In a life-threatening situation, the breathing could slow down to the extent that users could go into a coma and experience a permanent brain damage. It could also lead to a blackout, as observed in Jake’s case. With the repeated use of heroin, tolerance and dependency set in. Because of the increased dependence on the drug, users experience withdrawal symptoms in the absence of heroin. This is often the biggest reason why users find it hard to quit the drug-seeking habit. The common symptoms of withdrawal are restlessness, sleeplessness, muscle pain, etc. Turning a new leaf At 27, Jake looked 40. He looked starved and lost. His gaunt physiology was a cause of concern for his parents. His girlfriend of several years said she had enough of him. It was the second blackout that scared the wits out of him. He realized enough harm had been done and it was time to turn a new leaf. Sadly, with a drug like heroin, death is a matter of time, if one does not take the appropriate action soon enough. Fortunately, he found adequate support from his family and friends, who assisted him in his darkest hour. He also found a new hobby, one that gave him a natural high, cross-country hitchhiking. However, it was his promise to Jesus after the second blackout to quit drugs forever that enabled him to achieve sobriety. And as he says, it was worthwhile.