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Back with a Vengeance: Heroin in Florida

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Addiction is all too common across the country, and Florida specifically is seeing an increase in heroin abuse. Though government and law enforcement agencies are attempting to crack down on substance abuse, many young people become drawn into the dangerous cycle of heroin use.

What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid, derived from the seed pod of the opium plant. Morphine is harvested from the seed pod and then processed into heroin.

Heroin can be snorted, smoked or injected. Each method produces a different high. Injection can result in an immediate high followed by falling into a prolonged drowsy state. Because heroin use suppresses breathing and heart rate, no matter what method is used, there is a risk that the brain will not receive enough oxygen, leading to brain damage.

Addiction occurs with repeated use as heroin interacts with the opioid receptors that manage the pleasure and reward portions of your brain. With continued use, a tolerance develops and the brain requires higher doses to achieve the same high as the initial dose. When you attempt to go without, the body reacts to the sudden absence of the drug, leading to cravings and withdrawal.
What Caused the Heroin Resurgence?
Heroin abuse isn’t limited to one area of the country, but why has heroin in Florida become such a problem? For several years, addiction to prescription painkillers ran rampant throughout the state as offices freely over-prescribed sought-after medications. In 2011, the government began cracking down, attempting to reduce the number of pill mills in the state by removing physicians’ ability to dispense painkillers directly from their offices.

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They were successful, but with an unfortunate side effect: a steep increase in the use of heroin. With decreased access to prescription pills, prices skyrocketed and those struggling with addiction turned to the less expensive alternative of heroin.

In a single year, use of heroin in Florida increased by 126 percent, and heroin-related deaths rose 111 percent. The majority of users belonged to a younger demographic, 34 and below. With so many young people abusing heroin, there are many stories of lives cut short far too young.

Fortunately, there is hope for recovery from heroin addiction. Through support, determination, and treatment, heroin addiction can be overcome.
What Can You Do?
Treatment for addiction can take many forms. The first step toward recovery is a complete detox. Because of the effects of heroin on the brain, your body needs time to purge the drug and adjust to its absence. That initial detox can involve withdrawal symptoms that may include sweating, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety and other effects.

Medications are available that can help manage heroin withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone interact with the opioid receptors in the brain, helping to suppress cravings and keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.

Once detox is complete, a longer-term treatment option is necessary to address the underlying issues that led to drug abuse.

Residential treatment is available for those wrestling with heroin addiction. Inpatient treatment may last 30, 60 or even 90 days, giving you time to learn coping methods for stress and tactics to manage cravings. The intensive therapy in these settings encourages interaction with others who struggle with addiction and can help you build better habits for healthy living.

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Outpatient therapy may help you maintain your life and job while still achieving the treatment you need. Outpatient treatment involves dedicated time with a therapist each week during which you learn how to recognize and cope with the triggers and stresses that lead to heroin use.

Despite the concerning increase in heroin use in recent years, there is hope for those struggling with heroin addiction. With treatment, you can overcome your addiction and live a long and healthy life.

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