Heroin overdose rates have been on the rise since the 1990s. In fact, deaths from heroin overdoses have exponentially risen for all age groups and both sexes since the late 90s. This opioid is used by roughly 9 million people worldwide and is highly addictive since regular usage builds tolerance, prompting users to ingest larger amounts to feel their desired effects. Also, about 80% of Americans who use heroin abuse opioid pain medications.

What often gets neglected in conversations about heroin is the types of long-term damage heroin can do to the body. In fact, there are so many health risks that it was difficult to narrow this list to five items. These, however, seem to be the most common and profound health risks you can take when you choose to do heroin.

1. Impaired Cognitive Functioning

Studies are finding that brain damage occurs slightly after the onset of chronic heroin usage. The brain will actually disintegrate as it becomes oxygen-deprived, resulting in a spongy state of being. The effects of heroin on the brain are similar to symptoms of those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Even brief periods of oxygen deprivation can lead to cognitive decay and even sleep apnea, which can be lethal.

2. Kidney Failure

Heroin abuse can lead to an overabundance of proteins in the urine, which contributes to eventual kidney failure. This overpopulation of proteins might be caused by one of the substances used to dilute heroin or by viral or bacterial contaminants. Nonfatal overdoses can lead to muscle breakdown. Recovery from kidney failure requires a lot of time and money spent on dialysis treatments.

3. Intestinal Discomfort and Damage

Constipation is seemingly a minor side effect, but it can be pretty horrific. Opiates reduce muscle activity, meaning that muscles necessary for passing bowel movements cannot do their jobs. Ruptures can occur when there is severe constipation. It is not uncommon for heroin users to experience rectal damage, hemorrhoids, and anal fissures.

4. Infections and Abscesses

Abscesses and infections are incredibly common in heroin users. Pulmonary infections are common, as are infections of the heart valves and lining. Additionally, the skin easily becomes infected, which might be due to scarred or collapsed veins.

5. Increased Risk of Contracting Bloodborne Illnesses

Finally, heroin users are much more likely to contract HIV, hepatitis, and other bloodborne illnesses due to exposure from sharing contaminated needles. Many of these illnesses can be lethal or at least very difficult to treat. Before it gets to the point of contracting a bloodborne illness or overdosing, it is worthwhile to check out a local recovery center like Brightside Clinic. These centers are equipped with staff and resources to help you or your loved one overcome their addiction and lead a healthier lifestyle.

If you or a loved one are using heroin and want to quit, you are not alone. Help is available. Detox and recovery can be painful and difficult, but they are probably a lot less painful than HIV and anal ruptures. It’s okay to reach out for help and find a way to get back to healthier living.

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