You read about it every day. People overdose from opiates and die. In fact, it seems the shock of staggering death statistics and numerous efforts to fight drug abuse are having little effect on the rise of the opiate epidemic. Heroin is presently killing people at unprecedented rates.
Within minutes, injected heroin crosses from the bloodstream to the brain. Once inside the brain, heroin is metabolized to the active drug 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM), and then to morphine. Each of these chemicals binds to opioid receptors in the brain, which results in heroin’s euphoric, pain relieving, and anxiety-relieving effects. The duration of a single dose of heroin is 3-4 hours.
In addition to sensations of euphoria, calmness, sleepiness, pain relief, and blunting of anxiety, narcotics cause significant decrease in both the rate of breathing and the depth of each breath.
But, do you really know how these overdose victims die?
Despite introducing a rather morose subject, I think understanding how heroin overdose works may enlighten some and hopefully deter potential users.
The following explains how most people die from heroin overdoses. I present this to you, the readers, and I sincerely hope you and your loved ones use the information in an effort to stop these horrible tragedies.
Death By Overdose
Most people die from heroin overdoses
when their bodies forget to breathe.
The thing that you and I do every second stops, and a heroin overdose victim becomes vulnerable to death. You have probably already taken scores of breaths while reading this post not even thinking twice about it. That thing that gives us life, that many of us take for granted doesn't operate during an overdose -- that's how heroin kills you.
"Heroin makes someone calm and a little bit sleepy, but if you take too much then you can fall asleep, and when you are asleep your respiratory drive shuts down," said Dr. Karen Drexler, director of the addiction psychiatry residency training program and an associate professor in Emory University's psychiatry and behavioral sciences department.
"Usually when you are sleeping, your body naturally remembers to breathe. In the case of a heroin overdose, you fall asleep and essentially your body forgets."
(Jen Christensen. "How heroin kills you." CNN. August 29, 2014)
Click here to read the article: http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/04/health/how-heroin-kills/index.html
Other complications can lead to death.
In addiction, the overdose can cause your blood pressure to dip significantly and cause your heart to fail.
Studies show intravenous heroin users are 300 times more likely to die from infectious endocarditis, an infection of the surface of the heart.
Heroin use can also cause an arrhythmia -- a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body, and lack of blood flow affects your brain, heart and other organs.
Heroin use can also cause pulmonary adema. That's when the heart can't pump blood to the body well. The blood can back up into your veins, taking that blood through your lungs and to the left side of the heart.
As pressure in the blood vessels increases and fluid goes into the alveoli, the air spaces in the lungs, this reduces the normal flow of oxygen through your lungs, making it hard to breathe. This too can give you a heart attack or lead to kidney failure.
Heroin can also come with other toxic contaminants that can harm a user -- although deaths from such instances, while not unheard of, are thought to be rare.
Studies suggest instantaneous death is unusual. Such deaths, where a needle and syringe are still in place, would be considered instant by scientists. One study showed such deaths, where a needle and syringe are still in place, account for only 14% of heroin-related deaths.
(Jen Christensen. "How heroin kills you." CNN. August 29, 2014)
* Men who have struggled with other drugs or alcohol as other drugs alcohol are often present in their systems.
* Many who overdose are single, and most die in their homes and/or in the company of another person.
* An addict has a much higher chance of dying if he or she leaves treatment. The risk of death is higher for newly clean heroin addicts. A number of fatalities appear to happen after periods of reduced use, one 2000 study showed.
* Long-term users who die from overdoses are likely to have heroin levels no higher than those who survive, maybe caused in part because those who are newly clean don't know how much of the drug to give themselves any more. Some studies show tolerance to the respiratory depressive effects of opiates increases at a slower rate than tolerance to the euphoric and analgesic effects.
* Simultaneous usage of additional central nervous system depressant drugs, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Librium, Ativan), or narcotic pills (oxycodone, Vicodin, Percocet) along with heroin can intensify the respiratory depression, and place the addict at even higher risk of ineffective breathing and resultant cardiac arrest.
* One of the symptoms of heroin addiction is depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts. Many addicts feel hopeless and isolated enough to kill themselves, and they do.
* Hepatitis B & C. Those who take the drug intravenously and share needles are at a high risk for these deadly diseases.
* HIV/AIDS. Like Hepatitis, HIV and AIDS are contracted through the sharing of dirty needles. In fact more heroin users have died from AIDS than overdose over the past 10 years.
* Heroin users also may develop bacterial infection of the heart valves (bacterial endocarditis), reactions to contaminants (e.g. starch, talc, or other drugs) in the heroin preparation, and localized infections (abscesses) at the site of injection.
Paramedics, enforcement officers, and addicts, themselves, can carry a medication called naloxone that is the perfect antidote for opiate overdoses. Naloxone is an opiate antagonist, which means it essentially blocks opiates from affecting the brain and actually kicks out the opiates that are already there.
To close, here is one perspective from one heroin addict who survived an overdose:
"I do not use the term 'overdose.' This is because the term is misused; and it is almost never the case that a heroin user dies of an overdose (defined here as simply using too much heroin in too short a period of time).
"In almost all cases, the true cause was the mixing of heroin with some other drug (either deliberately, as when a user does a speedball--a combination of heroin and cocaine, or accidentally, as when the heroin itself is cut with some drug such as quinine).
"'Overdose' is a convenient shorthand for 'heroin related death,' but it gives users and non-users alike, the wrong idea. The misuse of the term 'overdose' perpetuates ignorance of the danger of mixing heroin and alcohol, for example. This is responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of heroin users each year.
"The media almost always attributes such deaths heroin overdose. The fact that the deceased had near toxic levels of alcohol in his blood is rarely mentioned and never blamed."
(Dr. H. "A Junkie Dies." heroinhelper.com. January 08, 2004)
Take Me in Your Arms
So now, little man, you've grown tired of grass
LSD, goofballs, cocaine and hash,
and someone, pretending to be a true friend,
said, "I'll introduce you to Miss Heroin."
Well honey, before you start fooling with me,
just let me inform you of how it will be.
For I will seduce you and make you my slave,
I've sent men much stronger than you to their graves.
You think you could never become a disgrace,
and end up addicted to Poppy seed waste.
So you'll start inhaling me one afternoon,
you'll take me into your arms very soon.
And once I've entered deep down in your veins,
The craving will nearly drive you insane.
You'll swindle your mother and just for a buck.
You'll turn into something vile and corrupt.
You'll mug and you'll steal for my narcotic charm,
and feel contentment when I'm in your arms.
The day, when you realize the monster you've grown,
you'll solemnly swear to leave me alone.
If you think you've got that mystical knack,
then sweetie, just try getting me off your back.
The vomit, the cramps, your gut tied in knots.
The jangling nerves screaming for one more shot.
The hot chills and cold sweats, withdrawal pains,
can only be saved by my little white grains.
There's no other way, and there's no need to look,
for deep down inside you know you are hooked.
You'll desperately run to the pushers and then,
you'll welcome me back to your arms once again.
And you will return just as I foretold!
I know that you'll give me your body and soul.
You'll give up your morals, your conscience, your heart.
And you will be mine until, "Death Do Us Part"