Physical and Psychological Effects of Heroin Abuse

Every day, at least 115 people die from an opioid overdose in the United States of America and around 4-6 percent people dependent on opioids switch to heroin, abused as a cheaper substitute to the prescription drugs. It is an illegal opioid prepared from poppy plant and listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). People with dried out prescriptions of painkillers resort to heroin, which is cheaper and easily available. It is smoked, snorted or injected for its euphoric effects.

According to the United Nations, the number of heroin users in the U.S. is the highest in last 20 years. Many drug dealers mix it with fentanyl and other fatal drugs to reduce the cost and increase the potency. Gullible users buy it thinking it’s pure heroin and end up suffering from deadly consequences. Sold in a number of forms, such as solid black chunks, white or brown powder or sticky black substance, heroin is fast in delivering its potent effects. It blocks the brain’s ability to perceive pain by depressing the central nervous system.

As it imitates the brain’s natural process of seeking pleasure, its preliminary experience can lead to tolerance, which slowly transitions to dependence and addiction. With time, more and more quantity of the drug is required to produce the same effects. Eventually, all that users care about is drug acquisition by any means. They isolate themselves from social obligations and personal responsibilities, and prefer to stay alone.

Heroin causes changes in white and gray matter of brain

Recurrent exposure to heroin is not only habit forming; it also starts affecting the white and gray matter of the brain, which in turn, starts affecting the hormonal and neuronal functions of the body. These changes cannot be undone easily. According to the researchers, exposure to heroin might result in the disruption of the brain’s white matter, which connects different regions of the brain with each other and facilitates the transmission of chemical and electrical signals. In the same manner, gray matter located in the regions controlling muscle movements and emotions, hearing, speech, sight, behavior and decision making is also affected by recurrent drug use.

It leads to a disruption in the gray matter volume in the frontal cortex region. This is the area where complicated thinking takes place and information is processed for recollecting and understanding. The disruption in white and gray matter regions of the brain can lead to long-term incongruences in the hormonal and neuronal systems and with repeated intake, the ability to react to stressful situations, make decisions and control behavior decreases.

In addition to short-term physical symptoms, heroin abuse can also lead to long-term health consequences, like increased risk of HIV and other infections due to shared needles, mental health issues like depression and paranoia, reproductive issues like irregular menstrual cycle, and damage to nose tissues due to snorting. Heroin abuse can also lead to troubled relationships, financial problems, legal battles, unemployment and homelessness. Some of the behavioral signs indicating heroin abuse and addiction could be stealing or borrowing money, and hostile or deceptive behavior.

When used in excess and for a longer period, the risk of overdose increases. Some of the overdose effects are depressed heart rate, slowed breathing (condition known as respiratory depression), coma and even death. When the user tries to abruptly stop drug use, it can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms manifested in the form of muscle and bone pain, nausea, agitation, insomnia, and vomiting, drug cravings, cold sweat, diarrhea and fever.

Treatment for drug abuse and mental issues

As heroin withdrawal can be enormously painful, it is sensible to seek treatment under the supervision of a medical professional at a rehab center. Chronic use of any drug requires care from trained and experienced specialists who can diagnose the underlying problem and administer the right recovery plan. The treatment may include detox, medication and behavioral therapies. When a drug user also suffers from a mental illness, it’s called co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Both the conditions need to be treated simultaneously for complete recovery. Leaving one undiagnosed or untreated can worsen both the problems.

Setting The Record Straight on Meat Health

Red meat is often wrongly portrayed as being unhealthy. Even chicken has been getting attacked by some in the media as being unhealthy or not environmentally friendly. Vegan, fish and other non-meat diets have been proposed as healthier alternatives. The result of this onslaught of negative meat messages has influenced many persons including moms and dads to drastically cut back on their meat and poultry purchases. Perceptions may be seen as reality, yet truth trumps non truths. Parents and other consumers want what is best for their health and that of their families. They are also aware that a lot of false information is out there and as such are open to scientific facts that can correct their misconceptions. Below are the facts:

A) LETS IRON OUT THE TRUTH ON MEAT!
1) “You would need to eat a massive amount of spinach to equal (the iron content) in a steak,” says Christopher Golden, an ecologist and epidemiologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (As quoted by nature.com in the article ‘Brain food- clever eating’.)
2) Let’s get precise. For a woman to receive her recommended daily intake of 18 mg of iron would need just 300 grams of cooked bovine liver, 625 grams of cooked beef or an astounding 2.4 kg of spinach!
3) In addition, the Iron found in vegetables is harder to absorb than the iron found in meat as it is attached to fibre which inhibits its absorption.

B) MEAT FOR A HEALTHIER BRAIN!
1) Being deficient in the micronutrients found in meat have been linked with low IQ, autism, depression and dementia says Dr. Charlotte Neumann, a pediatrician at the University of California, as quoted in the above article.
2) Zinc found in meat is crucial for learning and memory.
3) Vitamin B12 found in meat preserves the sheaths that protect nerves.

C) MEAT- BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY!
Due to its antioxidant powers, zinc is involved in creating antibodies to fight free radicals that increase our risk for chronic diseases.

D) MEAT- POWER YOUR MUSCLE GROWTH!
1) The protein in meat helps build and repair body tissues.
2) Muscles are made of protein. That is why athletes who are building muscle strength increase their meat protein consumption.
3) The protein and zinc found in meat are important for muscle growth and repair.

E) MEAT- THE COMPLETE PROTEIN!
Meat contains all of the nine essential amino acids that your body cannot make by itself. Say ‘hello’ to histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lycine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, threonine, and valine. Meat supplies all nine. That is why it is called a complete protein.

F) MEAT- FOR A HEALTHY HEART!
1) Meat contains lots of the B vitamins needed for the production of hormones, red blood cells and for the proper functioning of your nervous system.
2) Say ‘hello’ to niacin, folic acid, thiamine, biotin, panthothenic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6. They are all found in meat.

So let’s counter those negative meat health myths, by setting the record straight.

Nose Injuries – When There Is No Doctor

Injuries to the nose are not uncommon; yet, when they happen, people tend to panic. Instead of letting the situations “lead you by the nose”, follow these simple first-aid measures, and stay in control:

Your nose is not merely an organ of smell. It’s a filter, a temperature controller, a passageway and sometimes even an alarm system. It is closely connected with your eyes, mouth, ears and head, both cosmetically and physically. So, when it is injured, to treat it you’ve got to look beyond your nose.

“In order to treat any injury to the nose, you must first understand the nature and extent of the injury,” say ENT surgeons. “Basically, there are three kinds of injuries: those that involve the nose and the head; those that affect the nose and the face; those that pertain only to the nose. Only after the kind of injury has been ascertained can proper treatment or first aid follow.”

The first two kinds of injuries are usually the result of a violent, perilous impact, like a fall from a great height, or a road accident. When the nose and the head are injured – and such cases are obvious even to a layman – the damage is serious and can occasionally be fatal. In all probability the victim will be unconscious and to render first aid would be impossible. Your only course of action is to rush the victim to a hospital and leave him in the hands of the doctors.

If the head is not hurt, that is, if the injury is only to the front of the face, then check the extent of the damage. Any injury to the eye directly, or even to the area around the eye, will need a doctor’s attention. You can try to control the bleeding of the nose, if there is any, but the person should be taken quickly to the hospital. Probably he will need the attention of the ENT surgeon and the ophthalmologist.

Injury to the nose and to the area around it, that is, the sides and below, could mean damage to the sinuses and upper jaw. Ask the victim to make as if he is biting on something. Difficulty and pain in moving his mouth indicate probable fracture of the upper jaw. In this case, too, though you could try to control the bleeding from the nose, the victim needs medical attention. An ENT surgeon and a dental surgeon may have to work together to repair the damage. Therefore, such a case should be quickly taken to the hospital.

The third type of injury is more commonplace. In this kind of injury, first aid can be given, but again, it will depend upon the cause and nature of the injury. Injuries to the nose can be broadly grouped as: external wounds; fractures; obstruction by foreign objects; bleeding from the nostrils.

EXTERNAL INJURIES

External injuries like abrasions, bruises, cuts and punctures can be treated as you do wounds. Clean the affected area, apply an antiseptic and bandage. Slight abrasions or cuts will heal with adequate care. Deep and extensive wounds should be shown to a doctor.

Fractures of the nose are easily detectable from the distorted shape of the nose, the constant pain and swelling. Fractures have to be splinted and set right, which can only be done by an ENT specialist.

Those with children will b familiar with the third type of nasal injury – that is, blockage of the passage due to insertion of foreign objects into the nose. “” Often, the child may not be aware that he has done something he shouldn’t have, says ENT surgeon. “”So the object remains in the nose for days and is discovered only when infection sets in. then, either the parents notice that the child’s nose is swelling, or the child complains of pain in the nose.”

However, even if you know that the child has pushed something up his nose, don’t try to extricate it yourself. You could push it in even further. Sometimes, lightly blowing the nose helps to dislodge the object. But if the object is edged, it may scrape or bruise the nose and bleeding may result. So it’s safest to take the child to a doctor, preferably an ENT specialist, as he is better equipped to deal with the problem.

NOSE BLEEDS

Nosebleeds or epistaxis can occur due to a number of reasons: Sudden climatic changes; a rise in blood pressure; a traumatic injury; high fever.

The air we breathe in has to be homogenised to the body temperature of 34°C before it reaches the lungs. The nose acts as a temperature controller. If the air is cold, the nose warms it; if the air is too warm, the nose cools it. In order to help it carry out its function, the nose is heavily lined with blood vessels. The supply of blood depends upon the difference in the body and atmospheric temperatures. When the temperature outside changes suddenly, as when we move from a warm climate to a cold place, or vice versa, the demands on the blood vessels can be extensive and, consequently, they are likely to rupture, resulting in a nosebleed.

A rise in blood pressure forces the blood vessels to enlarge and sometimes even burst. Since the capillaries in the nose are fine, they rupture more easily. Thus a nosebleed could be a symptom of hypertension. Also, during plane flights, if cabin depressurisation takes place, the difference in air pressure outside the body and within affects the blood vessels and some passengers could experience bleeding from the nose.

Any trauma inflicted on the nose – say, when you fall while running and hit your nose on the ground, or when a child is hit on the nose by a ball while playing – ruptures the blood vessels inside the nose. Often, in these cases, the bleeding may seem heavy, but if there is no fracture, it may not be grave. However, once you’ve stopped the bleeding, you should get the patient checked by the doctor.

Sometimes the trauma can be light, as when a person digs in too hard to clean the nostrils. In that case, the bleeding stops spontaneously after a few minutes.

A high fever may sometimes be accompanied by a nosebleed. Again, this is because of the nose having to adapt to the difference in temperatures of the body and the air outside. ENT surgeon says, “This is occasionally seen in typhoid cases where the temperature rises very high.”

When bleeding from the nose occurs, you should first prop up the patient. Don’t let him lie flat. If you do that, the blood will rush back and enter the throat making him choke or cough, thus increasing the pressure on his blood vessels and forcing out more blood. “Sometimes the blood that is thus forced back goes into the stomach and the patient then vomits it out through the mouth,” says ENT surgeon. “At such times, everyone panics because the patient has vomited blood. They don’t realise he’s merely throwing out what he has swallowed.”

Ideally the patient should be made to sit up; head bent over a bowl so that the blood can drip down from the nose. Pinch closed the nostrils, letting the patient breathe through his mouth. Often, this stops the bleeding. Or you could put an ice pack on the nose. To make the pack, put some crushed ice in a clean kerchief or cloth and pack it closely over the nose. Use crushed ice, not chunks, because it can be moulded around the nose, and even pressure applied. If ice is not at hand, give the patient a freshly-cut onion, or crushed garlic pods, or ammonium bicarbonate, to smell. The strong odour will repulse his sense of smell, forcing the nostrils to contract, and this stops the bleeding.

NOT SERIOUS

Nosebleeds are generally not serious. “In a normal person, the bleeding stops on its own after about five minutes,” says ENT surgeon. “That it lasts for a long time and that the flow is heavy are only impressions. What happens is that, in the absence of muscles in the nose, the tightly-packed blood vessels cannot contract. So the bleeding continues till clotting sets in. and that normally occurs in about five minutes. But if the bleeding does continue longer, don’t panic. Pinch the nostrils or use an ice pack to stanch the flow, which will happen after a while provided there is no serious damage. However, even if the bleeding stops you should get the injury examined by an ENT specialist to preclude complications later.”

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