What are the many effects of heroin while pregnant? It is an alarming fact, but many studies state that there are many users of this drug who are pregnant women. Because of their addiction to heroin, they cannot stop taking the drug even if they are pregnant.
They may know the effects of heroin while pregnant and what it could do to the fetus. But a brain that has become dependent on an addictive drug makes it almost impossible to stop. Let’s try to understand why this is so.
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A Brief History of Heroin
Heroin is an illegal and extremely addictive drug. An alarming number of people use heroin and suffer from addiction to this substance. Once they become dependent on it, stopping becomes a challenge. It is because they will experience very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
The production of heroin began in 1898 by Bayer, which is a German pharmaceutical company. At first, heroin was available as a treatment of tuberculosis. It was even marketed as a cure for morphine addiction.
In the 1850s, the main drug problem was an addiction to opium. The solution at that time was to have a drug that can be a substitute. It was thought that morphine was less potent and non-addictive. But soon, morphine addiction became the problem.
To address the problem of morphine addiction, a substitute was made, and that was heroin. Later, it became clearer that heroin was more addictive than morphine. At present, methadone is the drug for treating heroin addiction.
Chemical Processes of Heroin Creation
The first stage of heroin production is getting morphine from opium poppies. The part that the creators gather are the seeds from the flowers of the opium poppies. The pods are cut, and they gather the sap from it. Cooking the sap with lime separates the morphine from the sap.
Morphine floats like white scum and collects on top of the boiling water. The creators of this drug mix the morphine with ammonia and expose it to heat several times. After that, filtration is necessary to get a brown paste of the substance.
The paste undergoes purification to become heroin. Preparation of several chemicals like acetylate is necessary to convert the brown paste of morphine into heroin. Such chemicals are harmful. They are combustible and can lead to accidents and death.
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Distribution of the Drug
Once the production of heroin is complete, the drug goes through distribution to various retailers. These retailers typically cut or bind heroin with other drugs to dilute it. Retailers do this to artificially inflate the quantity of the drug to earn more cash from it. Sometimes drugs in the mixture are hazardous. It makes heroin more dangerous than it already is.
Because heroin is an illegal drug, there are no limitations on the substances that become part of the mixture. Retailers are willing to reduce the purity of the drug with anything to earn more money from it.
Without professional lab testing, there is no way to tell what is in the mixture. Fentanyl, acetaminophen, sugar, caffeine, flour, powdered milk, and starch are some of the most common substances in the mixture to dilute heroin.
If you have a family member or friend who you think is using heroin, try to observe if he or she has heroin paraphernalia. You may find things that they use to keep or consume the drug. The drug itself is usually inside small glass or plastic vials.
Heroin may even be in tightly packed plastic bags. Check for pins and syringes as your loved one may be injecting the drug rather than snorting it. If the user smokes the drug, then the things to look for are lighters, aluminum foils, straws, and tubes.
Heroin Use and Addiction
Heroin is an illegal drug that is widely taken in North America. Heroin addiction is a widespread disease that threatens thousands of lives each year. It only gets worse as many individuals use heroin as a last chance drug to fuel their painkiller addiction.
Heroin may occur as a white or brown powder or a sticky material called black tar heroin. Its other names are dope, smack, horse, and junk. Heroin is an opiate, a natural derivative of the seed pod of opium poppy flower. It gives rise to emotions of elation and enjoyment to users of the drug.
Heroin comes from morphine, but after it enters the brain, it shifts back into morphine. The regions of the brain accountable for enjoyment and mood becomes active after linking to opioid receptors. Such regions include the brain stem, which controls significant autonomous body tasks. It includes blood pressure, heartbeat, and excitement.
Usually, people with addiction to prescription meds like Vicodin turn to heroin. Heroin is much cheaper and more available compared to prescription opioids. Heroin, like other opioids, can ease the pain. But that’s not the only reason why many individuals use it.
Heroin causes individuals to feel happy, comfortable, and sleepy. It can also cause short-term relief from stress, depression, or even anxiety. People who use the drug want to make the most out of their money. And heroin being cheaper than prescription opioids makes it more appealing.
Effects Of Heroin Addiction
The effect of heroin on the body greatly depends on the amount and frequency of drug consumption. Various batches or kinds of heroin can have distinct impacts. Some types are far more powerful than others. And there are two types of effects of heroin addiction: the short-term and the long-term effects.
Users of the drug typically encounter an immediate euphoric shock after they inject or snort heroin. Heroin euphoria takes a few minutes to kick in. After that, the user will feel several hours of drowsiness. Using heroin repeatedly can lead to a number of changes in the body.
Some of the damages include that of the veins bruising on different parts of the body become noticeable. Cuts and scarring because of itchy skin will also be present. The user will also lose a considerable amount of weight because of appetite loss, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. They will experience wheezing, fluctuating moods, nosebleeds, and nausea.
As with any drug addiction, abuse of heroin can alter an individual’s behaviour or personality. Changes such as poor performance at work or school, social isolation and changes in sleep patterns can happen.
Other behavioural changes such as avoiding eye contact, lacking motivation, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, mood swings, and having a hard time managing emotions are present as well.
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Signs and Symptoms
Heroin activates and binds receptors in the brain called mu-opioid receptors (MORs). The impact on the reward system of the brain increases as the dosage of heroin increases. Heroin addicts tend to use more because they want to reach the same high as before.
Other signs of heroin abuse are the following:
- Reduced in the sense of pain
- A heavy feeling of arms and legs
- Slurred speech
- Runny nose (if snorted)
- Dry mouth
- Needle marks (If injected)
- Severe itching
- Memory Problems
- Clouded mental functioning
People who are addicted will have difficulty stopping the use of heroin since their mind and body think they need more. Aside from that, there are a lot of side effects during the withdrawal period. Some are even very painful and harmful.
Effects and symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Irritability and hypersensitivity
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Muscle Aches and fatigue
- Dilated pupils
- Panic attacks
- Poor concentration
- Memory loss
The duration of withdrawal depends on the length and level of use. Some factors are the frequency of heroin use, the method by which they took heroin, and the primary medical or mental health issues. The effects on mental health will remain for several months after overcoming the withdrawal.
Overdose on heroin can cause a dangerous and life-threatening reaction or even death. Some people who overdosed on heroin were reported to have slowed breathing. Others may experience difficulty in breathing or no breathing at all.
There is a decrease in the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, which is a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia affects the nervous system that may result in a coma or permanent brain damage. Even with the numerous reports on death because of a heroin overdose, the number of cases is still increasing.
When a heroin overdose happens, the user may experience slow or shallow breathing. There are cases when the user may stop breathing altogether. The skin will become cold and clammy. The blood pressure drops, and they could fall into a coma. It is very dangerous and may even be fatal if immediate medical attention is not available.
Heroin abuse and addiction, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, or financial status, can harm anyone. There are already many deaths of celebrities due to an overdose of heroin. Overdoses are increasing throughout the world. With over half a million people using heroin, dependence continues to increase over the past ten years.
Harmful Effects Of Heroin While Pregnant
Using heroin is dangerous already. Using it while pregnant is even more harmful. The effects of heroin while pregnant may result in several significant medical complications. The fetus can acute and chronic abnormalities.
The woman using the drug may not have any severe or long-lasting issues. However, the fetus will. Parents with addiction problems often have children who have many developmental issues. A pregnant woman taking drugs like heroin will affect the fetus. The drug will get into contact with the fetus through the placenta. It goes through the same route where oxygen and nutrients pass through.
Heroin impacts the functions of the central nervous system and brain. It can cause stomach problems. Using heroin can trigger severe health issues. The user may suffer from heart complications and pulmonary diseases. There are also other risks like kidney and liver disease and respiratory failure. Infectious diseases are also a problem such as HIV or hepatitis.
Illegal medications like heroin, cannabis, cocaine, and methamphetamine are not the only drugs damaging the baby’s growth. Even commonly used over-the-counter drugs, along with substances like caffeine and liquor, can have enduring impacts on an unborn baby.
How Heroin Affects the Fetus
There are many severe conditions that the fetus can suffer from because of the mother taking heroin. One of those is when the placenta divides from the barrier of the uterus. The placenta provides the child, through the umbilical cord, with nutrients and oxygen. Placental abruption can trigger very severe bleeding, and both the mother and fetus may die.
Premature labour is another risk of taking heroin while pregnant. It is when labour starts too early. It may happen about 37 weeks into the pregnancy. Premature labour may result in premature birth. It is possible that the fetus may not survive or may be underdeveloped.
Low birth weight is also a concern. It is when a child weighs less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces. Some children with low birth weight, though tiny, are safe. But some children may have severe health issues due to low birth weight. A child with low birth weight may have difficulty eating, gaining weight, and battling various infections.
Are Any Drugs Safe During Pregnancy?
While it is considered safe for a few prescriptions and over-the-counter medications to be used during pregnancy, most drugs are not. And when you are taking medications for medical purposes, always read the medication label if they are safe to use while pregnant. But if you’re unsure, you can call your doctor and ask for advice.
Aspirin and ibuprofen should not be taken during the last three months of your pregnancy unless instructed by your doctor. And also talk with your doctor about special prenatal vitamins that are safe for you and the fetus. Some OTC vitamins may have doses that are too high and may affect the fetus.
When a pregnant woman has been using cocaine, she should not stop cold turkey. Quitting all of a sudden may cause severe problems on the fetus, even death. She can be given treatment meds such as methadone or buprenorphine by the doctor. These medications can help in reducing heroin dependence gradually.
How To Quit Heroin Use
Imagine yourself falling into a dark pit without any means of climbing up and escaping the dark abyss. This image is the best analogy of what it’s like being addicted to heroin. However, not all people comprehend how others become drug addicts. People might think that it’s their choice and that they are reckless with their decisions. But addiction to drugs is a very complex disease, and it shouldn’t be treated lightly.
Addiction is characterized by compulsively searching for the drug and using it despite very harmful results. Although taking the drug is voluntary at the start, consuming the drug repeatedly leads to addiction. It may also lead to biological damage to your bodies, such as brain damage and behaviour disorder.
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Steps To Recovery
You can start by asking yourself simple questions; What was the impact in your life when you use heroin? What have you lost in the process? What will happen to you and your future when you continue consuming the drug? But more importantly, ask yourself over and over how your life will improve if you stop using heroin?
When you consume heroin, your body develops a resistance to the drug. When your body establishes resistance to heroin, it would want you to consume more and more of it to get the same high. Your body now starts depending on your consumption of the drug all the time.
When the time comes when you try and quit heroin, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include itching, chills, vomiting, and constant pain in your muscles and bones. There are also other withdrawal symptoms such as infections, pneumonia, collapsed veins, and so much more.
Getting Out of Heroin Addiction
Many do not understand why other people become addicted to heroin. Drug addiction is a disease, and quitting such takes more than willpower to do so. With proper support from families, friends, and the community, heroin addicts can seek help. There are numerous rehab facilities dedicated to drug addicts and treatments according to the type of drug they use. There are many options for people under heroin abuse.
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Rehab and treatment centers have programs such as residential, outpatient, and aftercare treatments. Treating heroin addiction is accompanied by medications. These medications can reduce the cravings for the drug and will prevent future use. Medications that are commonly prescribed to people addicted to heroin include:
Buprenorphine is a mu-opioid and kappa-opioid used for the treatment of opioid addiction, severe pain, and chronic pain. Buprenorphine might be dangerous to a person who is not ready to stay clean from heroin. If someone uses buprenorphine and heroin at the same time, they are highly at risk with acute symptoms of withdrawal and possible overdose. It is recommended to take the medication directly as prescribed by the physician.
Methadone is an opioid used in maintenance therapy in heroin dependence and for chronic pains. During detoxification, the use of methadone can be accomplished in less than a month or can be done gradually for as long as six months. Methadone works in the same way as buprenorphine, although stronger. According to studies, methadone is the most effective medication for long term therapy.
Naltrexone is primarily used to help manage dependence on alcohol and opioid. It helps in preventing heroin from reaching the opioid receptors in the body. An individual cannot feel any euphoric effects while under the medication of Naltrexone.
Suboxone – is a combination of Naltrexone and Buprenorphine. It will not only relieve pain from withdrawal, but it will also inhibit the effects of heroin in the body. Suboxone is highly dangerous to take if the person decides to use heroin again and try to get high.
Another treatment for overcoming heroin addiction is behavioural therapies. Methods like cognitive-behavioural therapy and contingency management are proven effective based on studies. These approaches in treating heroin addiction are most effective with the assistance of medical treatments.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy can help in managing and changing behaviours. It helps in effectively managing triggering factors and stress. Contingency management is a treatment that motivates the patient to stay clean from the drug by giving rewards and incentives for good behaviour.
Some treatment centres also offer an additional option for behavioural therapy such as dialectical behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. Treatment centres usually provide a comfortable and healthy environment. The staff will make sure that you will stay healthy, both body and mind, while in treatment.
Communities are also helping in supporting treatments for people with heroin addiction. Several formed groups also help people in treatment stay clean. People who overcome addiction are usually invited to participate in several gatherings. These meetings focus on the welfare of people who are recovering from heroin addiction.
Seeking help for your heroin addiction is not that complicated. A person must only be committed to stop using heroin and ask for help. People undergoing treatment also need support from their families and friends.
Addiction is a dangerous disease for anyone, especially for pregnant women and the fetus. Hopefully, this article on the harmful effects of heroin while pregnant has provided you with the information that you need. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us here at Addiction Healing Centre.