Heroin Dependency Today

Heroin addiction is becoming something of a phenomenon in Britain today, with heroin use increasing significantly in the last decade; research carried out by the Centre for Reform suggested that heroin use doubled every four years in the 1990’s and has continued to rise at an alarming rate since. Due to the power and speed of the ‘rush’ brought about its consumption, heroin is highly addictive and it is often the addiction itself that is the most concerning issue related to heroin. Drugs charity, FRANK estimates that a heroin addiction can cost around £100 a day meaning that addicts become increasingly desperate to keep up with their dependency. Taking heroin can seriously alter an individual’s mindset and studies have confirmed those dependent on heroin will often do anything to procure the money necessary for feeding their habit; this often includes stealing.

Effects of Taking Heroin

Short term effects of heroin use include experiencing a ‘rush’, nausea and vomiting, slow breathing and a reduction in the sensation of pain. Long term effects can include collapsed veins, liver, heart and kidney disease and bacterial infections in the blood vessels. The practice of injecting also carries several health risks, most notably the contraction of HIV and hepatitis. The presence of used needles in public places also causes social concerns especially in places where children go, such as parks.

Treatment, Help and Advice

Treatment for heroin dependency accounts for two thirds of drug treatment in the U.K and a significant proportion of the quarter of a billion pounds spent each year by the National Health Service on drug treatment. As withdrawal symptoms of heroin are so severe and the possibilities of injury or overdose so high, treatment must be administered extremely carefully. Heroin treatment often involves a combination of taking a substitute medication and following a counselling programme.

Most commonly, those dependent on heroin are offered a course of methadone in order to wean individuals off drugs gradually whilst involving them in practical sessions preparing them emotionally and physically for life without drugs and offering advice on any other issues. A key worker will also be assigned to each individual case. In addition to NHS treatment several organisations offer further support and guidance; these include FRANK, the Samaritans and Narcotics Anonymous. Local community groups and self-help groups can also provide an environment for emotional support and discussion with people in a similar position.