Category Archives: Recovery

Endocarditis & Drug Use

is a serious cardiac condition that can often become life-threatening. The condition occurs when the endocardium, which is the inner lining of the heart, becomes inflamed. Both bacteria and infection can lead to the development of this disease, and it can be either short term or chronic. In cases where the illness is caused by an infection, physicians refer to it as infective endocarditis.

Generally, symptoms of this disease develop when bacteria or infection enters the bloodstream and attaches to the heart valves, triggering inflammation.

What Are the Risk Factors for This Condition?

This condition is relatively rare in healthy individuals. Patients who have heart defects, artificial heart valves or urinary catheters are at an increased risk. Individuals with gum disease, inflammatory bowel disease and any other disease where dangerous bacteria can potentially enter the bloodstream are also at an elevated risk. Certain dental procedures that involve cutting the gums may pose a risk, too.

In addition, individuals who inject illegal drugs face a higher risk. Typically, people who use illegal drugs have difficulty obtaining sterile needles and injection materials. They may share needles with others or use injection practices that are unsafe. For example, they may not be able to find an alcohol swab to disinfect the injection site prior to doing the injection. These practices increase the risk that harmful bacteria will enter the bloodstream. Illegal drugs such as cocaine cause heart damage and this can further elevate the risk in people with substance use issues.

What Are Some Symptoms of Endocarditis?

This illness generally begins with flu-like symptoms. For example, people often present with a fever, chills, fatigue and aching joints or muscles. Swelling of the abdomen, legs or feet may occur, and this is often accompanied by shortness of breath and chest pain during breathing. Less commonly, individuals may have night sweats, unintended weight loss, blood in the urine and pain in the spleen, which is an organ that fights infection. Rarely, people may observe skin changes with this condition. They may develop painful red spots under the skin of the fingers and toes, known as Osler’s nodes, and they may also have red spots on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet, known as Janeway lesions. Tiny red or purple bumps called petechiae may form inside the mouth or on the whites of the eyes, and they can also develop on the skin.

In individuals with substance use issues that involve the injection of illicit drugs, inflammation from endocarditis usually affects the tricuspid valve of the heart. The tricuspid valve is also impacted in cases of long-term intravenous drug use. In cases of substance use involving opioids, the mitral and aortic valves may also be impacted.

How Do Doctors Diagnose This Condition?

Evaluation begins with a health history and a physical examination. The doctor will ask the patient about any personal or family history of cardiovascular disease and substance use, and he or she will also need to have a complete list of all medications that the patient is taking. The clinician will ask the patient if he or she has recently had any procedure that may have allowed bacteria to enter the bloodstream. These procedures include teeth cleanings, dental surgery on the gums, colonoscopies, and bronchoscopies.

At this point, the doctor will begin the physical examination. Cardiac infections can cause bumps on the skin, mouth, and whites of the eyes, so the doctor will shine a light into the patient’s eyes and mouth to check for these. He or she will also visually inspect the patient’s feet and hands to look for signs of Osler’s nodes or other nodules.

One of the key parts of the exam will be the cardiovascular exam. During this portion, the doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to the patient’s heart. To help make it easier for the doctor to detect the types of murmurs and abnormal sounds that are indicative of an infected endocardium, the doctor may listen first with the patient sitting up and a second time with the patient lying down. The doctor may also need to listen to specific heart valves with the patient lying on his or her left side. As part of the cardiac exam, the doctor will check the patient’s blood pressure in both arms, and he or she will check the patient’s pulse at the wrist and at other areas of the body. The doctor will be checking to see whether the patient’s heart rate and rhythm are normal, and special attention will be paid to any signs of potential arrhythmias. The clinician will also listen to the patient’s breathing to check for any signs of a cough or shortness of breath.

During the physical, the doctor will also check the patient’s abdomen and lower limbs. With the patient lying down, the clinician will gently touch several areas of the patient’s abdomen to check for any tenderness, swelling or lumps. Since an infected endocardium can cause pain in the spleen, the doctor will lightly touch this area to check for both pain and potential enlargement of the organ. The doctor may also touch the patient’s lower limbs and ankles to check for the presence of pitting edema or swelling, in this area. The patient will also have his or her temperature measured to see if any fever is present.

If the physical exam results cause the doctor to suspect that the patient may have an infected endocardium, additional tests will be ordered to confirm this. Patients will first have an electrocardiogram, which is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, and a chest X-ray to rule out any lung infections. For a more detailed look at the potential damage to the heart, patients may need to have an echocardiogram. This test is an ultrasound of the heart that uses sound waves to create an image. Where possible, it is done with the probe placed lightly on the skin over the heart. Known as a transthoracic echocardiogram, this form is completely noninvasive and painless.

Occasionally, doctors may need to place the ultrasound probe down the throat and into the esophagus for more imaging. This is called a transesophageal echocardiogram. Doctors will typically perform blood culture tests that involve taking multiple blood samples within a 24-hour period. The samples are then placed in culture bottles to see if any bacteria grow.

How Is Endocarditis Treated?

Generally, antibiotics are the first line of treatment for this illness. Amoxicillin, rifampicin, fluoroquinolones, gentamicin, and oxacillin are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs for endocarditis treatment. The patient will typically begin with at least one week of intravenous antibiotics, and he or she will stay in the hospital during this time. Doctors will discontinue the intravenous antibiotics once the inflammation has subsided. After returning home, patients will need to continue taking antibiotics by mouth for up to six weeks. Antibiotics may cause side effects that include nausea, delirium, liver damage, and kidney damage. During hospital treatment, doctors will carefully monitor patients for these and other side effects. While on antibiotics at home, patients should be vigilant for any side effects mentioned in the medication guide and report these to their medical team.

For patients who have chronic or severe cases of an infected endocardium, surgery may be advised. During surgery, doctors will remove any dead tissue, debris or scar tissue that may have formed and damaged the heart valves. If a valve is severely compromised, additional surgery may be needed to try to repair the valve, and surgeons may also be able to replace the valve with an artificial one.

What Are Possible Complications of This Illness?

Even with treatment, there is a risk that this illness may lead to complications. For example, patients who have it may develop pus-filled pockets known as abscesses in the heart, brain or lungs, and the condition can cause a pulmonary embolism or blood clot in the lungs. Other potential complications from the disease include stroke, seizures, damage to the kidneys, heart failure, and heart murmurs.

How Does Substance Use Impact Cardiac Treatment?

Patients who have substance use issues that involve injecting drugs typically have multiple episodes of this condition, especially if they continue having untreated substance use issues. Conservative treatments, including antibiotics, may not work as well in these patients; they may require stronger antibiotics or higher doses. Treatment time with antibiotics may have to be extended for longer than the standard six weeks. In many cases, patients with substance use may have such extensive damage from cardiac infections that surgery is needed.

Depending on how advanced a patient’s heart condition is, simply repairing a valve may not work, and valve replacements may be needed. Sometimes, patients with substance use issues need to have multiple heart valve replacements due to extensive cardiac damage. Additionally, due to the surgical risks that substance use may pose, it is not uncommon for some hospitals and surgery centers to refuse to perform cardiac surgery for patients who have substance use issues.

Studies have shown that substance use substantially increases the risk of death from this illness. In a recent study of patients in London, Ontario, 55 percent of patients who had infected heart valves also had substance use issues that involved injecting drugs. One-third of these patients later died as a result of their infection.

Can It Be Prevented?

One of the most important things people can do to prevent endocarditis is to avoid intravenous drug use. In addition, patients who are having dental surgery or other medical procedures should speak with their health care team about taking a preventative course of antibiotics in advance of their procedure. If prescribed, patients should take the entire course of antibiotics exactly as directed. To further reduce their risk, people should avoid body piercings and tattoos, and they should have regular professional dental checkups and cleanings.

How Can People With Substance Use Issues Reduce Their Risk and Complications?

Canadian research from 2018 suggests that surgery can reduce the risk of death from this heart condition by 56 percent. Patients who had substance use counseling while they were in the hospital were able to reduce their risk of mortality by 72 percent. Experts suggest that the most important thing a person with substance use can do to protect themselves from this dangerous cardiac condition is to have treatment for substance use.

What Substance Use Treatment Options Are Available for Those With Cardiac Conditions?

People who have cardiac conditions can use the same treatment services that are available to anyone else with substance use issues. Since infection of the endocardium is a serious disease, individuals are advised to attend a medically supervised detox program. These programs are held at residential facilities, and people are provided with both medical and psychological support.

As part of the treatment process, patients will go through withdrawal. This process rids the body of all traces of any substances, and it can typically take around one week. During this time, patients will have their vital signs monitored regularly, and they will be given medications to help ease pain, nausea, shaking and other symptoms that may occur during the withdrawal process.

Counseling is provided during treatment, and this typically takes place in both individual and group therapy sessions. Patients may also have family therapy sessions. Cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and motivational enhancement therapy are a few of the psychological techniques often used. These techniques help patients reframe their thoughts, develop healthy coping mechanisms and learn to observe their urges without acting on them.

Individuals with heart conditions and substance use issues may require additional monitoring during and after substance use treatment. People should try to educate themselves about their health conditions, and they should watch for and immediately report any signs of heart issues such as chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or fast heart rate. People should take all medications as prescribed, and they should be completely honest with all medical staff about any health issues they may be experiencing. With the right medical interventions and appropriate substance use treatment and support, many individuals can live full lives in recovery.

Drugged Driving Statistics

Driving under the influence is one of the most preventable crimes in the United States. Especially in the age of ride-hailing services and apps, it’s easy to avoid drugged or drunk driving, yet statistics from the Bureau of Transportation report that three people are killed in alcohol-related crashes every two hours. In the same survey, the Bureau cites that in 2010, 4 million American adults said they’d driven drunk at least once.

Many people are aware of the effects that alcohol and illicit drugs can have on the human body, but many legal and doctor-prescribed drugs also affect a person’s driving ability, making accidents far more likely to occur. If there is any intoxicant present in a person’s body, they are considered to be driving under the influence. Not only is it illegal to drive high or drunk, possibly resulting in getting a DUI citation or arrest, but it’s also incredibly dangerous. Drugged driving can bring harm to more than just the user, and the ramifications of doing so can have an impact on many people’s lives.

What Is Drugged Driving?

Drugged driving is driving under the influence of any intoxicant whatsoever. Alcohol and marijuana use are two of the leading causes of DUIs in the United States, but drugged driving is not limited just to these two substances. Illegal drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, LSD and cocaine significantly impair someone’s ability to drive, and prescribed pharmaceuticals of any sort can do the same. Even some store-bought or over-the-counter medications can alter a person’s consciousness enough to turn driving into a more dangerous activity.

Most people know the moral and legal consequences of drunk driving, but they may be unaware that even medication prescribed by a doctor can result in an accident or DUI if misused. It’s wise to ask your doctor if a medication that he or she prescribes to you will affect your ability to drive, and, if so, how long after taking it you have to wait before you can operate a vehicle.

Drugged or drunk driving is a common occurrence in some people’s lives. Many believe that just one drink or one hit of pot won’t affect their driving ability, but even a small amount of alcohol or drugs in the body can be enough to alter someone’s motor abilities and reaction times. Statistics from a 2013 – 2014 Governors Highway Safety Association roadside survey indicate that nearly 22 percent of all weekend drivers were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This number could be much higher, however, as it’s substantially more challenging to test drivers for drug use than for alcohol in roadside conditions.

How Many Accidents Are Caused by Drugged Driving Each Year?

In 2016, 20.7 million drivers drove under the influence of some substance, and 11.8 million of them were under the influence of something other than alcohol. Every year, millions of people are arrested for drugged driving. A survey by the GHSA reported that 44 percent of drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Not all of these drugs were considered illicit; over-the-counter drugs and doctor-prescribed pharmaceuticals were also accounted for in these statistics.

State law enforcement agencies are having a challenging time adjusting to changing marijuana laws. Though still illegal on a federal level, many states have legalized pot for medicinal or recreational use. With marijuana use increasingly becoming legalized throughout the United States, the rate of drugged driving accidents each year has increased. From 2007 to 2014, states saw a 48 percent increase in drivers testing positive for THC, the psychoactive compound contained in marijuana.

How Do Drugs and Alcohol Affect a Driver?

Every drug, including alcohol, affects a person’s ability to drive a vehicle, but not every intoxicating substance goes about this in the same way. Each substance changes various aspects of the brain and other bodily systems, making driving dangerous because of the possibility to react differently than while sober.

Alcohol, for instance, affects drivers’ central nervous systems by limiting activity in the brain’s neocortex and cerebellum. These parts of the brain are responsible for high-level decision making, coordination, and motor skills. Alcohol greatly reduces these systems’ ability to function, resulting in blurred or doubled vision, slurred speech, impaired balance and the possibility of blacking out, to name a few symptoms.

Marijuana affects different parts of the brain that respond to the plant’s cannabinoids. Memory loss, paranoia, hallucinations and a loss of coordination are some symptoms of pot use that may cause a driver to weave in and out of lanes, not respond to traffic lights or signs, or briefly lose consciousness, all of which can be incredibly dangerous when operating a vehicle.

Opiates, a widespread class of medication that has both prescribed varieties, i.e., Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Dilaudid and Vicodin, as well as illicit forms like heroin and fentanyl, affect a person’s brain differently than alcohol and marijuana. However, symptoms like memory loss and incredibly marked drowsiness can cause a driver’s abilities to become significantly impaired. Other illegal drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine can cause a person to become agitated, aggressive and reckless, to name only some of their effects. A driver under the influence of these or any other illicit drugs can cause injury or death to themselves or others.

Many people who drive drunk have other intoxicants in their systems. These substances can combine to create an even stronger effect on the user, so anyone driving intoxicated is substantially more likely to cause a potentially fatal accident.

Who Are the Most at Risk for Drugged Driving?

Anyone who drinks or uses any form of drugs and then chooses to drive is at risk of getting into a severe accident. However, men are much more likely than women to be involved in an accident involving drugs or alcohol. In 2010, men committed four out of every five DUIs, and 32 percent of these belonged to males between the ages of 21 and 34.

Another group that’s more at risk than others is those who engage in drug or alcohol use on a regular basis. People who binge drink, which is having more than five drinks in a setting for men or four drinks for women, are more likely to find themselves behind the wheel of a car more often, resulting in a much higher rate of accidents. This group was responsible for over 80 percent of drunk driving accidents in 2010.

Teens are especially susceptible to drugged driving. Their lack of experience with driving as well as with drug and alcohol use results in a particularly deadly combination. Teens exhibit less regard for speed limits and safe driving habits than adults, and drugs and alcohol can especially exacerbate this behavior. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 16 and 19. According to a 2016 survey by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 12 percent of high school seniors reported driving under the influence of marijuana while 9 percent said they’d driven drunk.

Some people believe that they have a high tolerance for liquor or drugs and therefore are better suited to drive a car inebriated. This belief, however, is not true. Any amount of alcohol or drugs in a person’s system can result in a DUI or arrest by the police. The legal blood alcohol content, or BAC, limit in most states is .08  although a police officer can arrest anyone who’s showing signs of intoxication even if their BAC is below that percentage.

What Are the Penalties for Drugged Driving?

The most significant penalty that can occur because of drugged or drunk driving is causing death to yourself or others. Vehicles of any sort can turn into deadly weapons if operated by a driver who’s drunk or high. It’s for this reason that every state has strict laws regarding DUIs and DWIs.

Sixteen states have zero tolerance laws making it illegal for any measurable amount of a drug to be present in a driver’s system while operating a vehicle. Seven states have “per se” laws that make it illegal for any measurable amount of drugs to be in a person’s body outside the legal limits. States are also making more specific regulations regarding the parameters and legality of marijuana use.

Penalties for breaking these laws can be strict. Citations, arrests, jail or prison time, hefty fines, DUI classes, and rehab are just some of the punishments a person convicted of drugged driving can expect if they are pulled over or involved in an accident.

How Can Drugged Driving Be Prevented?

There are many ways to prevent drugged driving. The simplest and by far the most effective way is to never get behind the wheel when you’re under the influence of any substance whatsoever. If you’ve had anything to drink or you’ve consumed any intoxicant, find a designated driver to take you home. A ride-hailing or taxi service can take you where you need to go without you having to drive at all. If you’re in addiction recovery, it’s strongly suggested that you avoid going to places or events where alcohol and drugs are readily available.

It’s also important to not let anyone you know drive drunk or high. If you see a friend about to drive in this state, and if you’re not under the influence of anything, offer to take them where they need to go or get a taxi for them. Even if you’re not intoxicated, it’s important to pay attention to the road when you’re driving, especially on popular drinking days like the weekends and holidays. Always be sure to wear your seat belt.

Despite alcohol being legal to purchase by anyone over 21, the legal status of most drugs varies considerably. Marijuana is legal in only some states and still illegal on the federal level. Doctor-prescribed drugs, especially opiates, are highly controlled and illegal to use without a prescription. Illicit drugs, which include but are not limited to heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, LSD, inhalants, and methamphetamine, are entirely illegal no matter the state. Using these drugs can result in DUIs, injuries or fatal accidents.

Drugs and alcohol can significantly inhibit your ability to drive. With many states legalizing marijuana use, and with more and more people using it, drivers need to be aware of the risks that can come from drugged driving. With more ways available to people to travel without driving under the influence, drugged driving is more avoidable now than it ever has been.

America’s Heroin Epidemic

How does taking opioids make someone feel? We usually avoid asking this question when discussing recreational drug use because nobody wants to encourage drug experimentation, let alone drug addiction. When the topic is addressed, it’s easy for people to assume that only weak-minded, reckless people turn to drugs.

Sadly, not many people are prepared to understand that drug addiction, particularly heroin and opioid addiction, has risen to epidemic proportions. America’s heroin epidemic affects all of us. It could be your significant other, your neighbor or even your child. No one ever thinks that it can happen to them or someone they love. However, heroin addiction doesn’t discriminate.

Dating back to the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies claimed that patients taking certain opioid medications would not become addicted. As such, health care providers began prescribing opioids for everything from sprained ankles to post-partum pain control. With this increased rate of opioid prescriptions, it slowly became clear that these types of medications were highly addictive and often led to substance abuse issues. As addiction levels rise, so does the need to understand that opioids, legally or illegally, led the U.S. to its current heroin epidemic.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, estimates that the economic burden brought about by prescription opioid and heroin use comes in at $78.5 billion. This figure includes addiction treatment, the cost of health care, legal expenses and lost productivity.

Understanding the Epidemic

The opioid epidemic has been described as the deadliest drug crisis in American history. According to the CDC, more than 115 people die from opioid overdoses every day.

People used to think that only unemployed people from broken homes turned to heroin to escape reality. No longer is opioid use limited to low-income areas; it has transcended into all geographic areas, affecting people of all ages and ethnicities. Now, the faces of heroin addiction include veterans who cannot find work after leaving the military, moms who needed pain relief after giving birth and even people who had oral surgery.

Many people who become addicted to heroin do not have a prior history of substance misuse. Substance use disorder is not linear or predictable. Some people who were introduced to drugs through prescription pain relievers end up on heroin. Health care officials say that the ever-increasing abuse of prescribed painkillers leads users to the street when they no longer can obtain the drug legally. Unfortunately, because heroin is so addictive, it leads to increased drug-seeking behavior.

Those who misuse the drug and become addicted look for a stronger and possibly cheaper high. Heroin is both, but it is also deadly. It can be laced with other drugs that cause death. Deaths from heroin overdose doubled between 2010 and 2012. The death toll also increased dramatically in 2014 when heroin mixed with fentanyl became more common. Fentanyl, when combined with heroin, is lethal. Users can die within seconds of ingestion.

Although the issue is multifaceted, drug makers and physicians play a key role in this epidemic. After all, if there were no pharmaceutical opioids, physicians wouldn’t be able to prescribe them. That is not to say that they are responsible for another person’s substance use disorder, but the snowballing effect of prescription drug use and not being able to gain access to them has led many Americans to heroin.

Veterans and Heroin Use

Veterans have also been affected by America’s opioid epidemic. Untreated chronic pain has led many veterans to seek out pain relief on the street. After being discharged from their service, some veterans find themselves unemployed and homeless. Depression and the need to escape create the perfect backdrop for substance use disorders. According to the VA, it is estimated that 68,000 veterans are currently struggling with opioid use disorders, and when they can no longer gain access to prescription pain medication legally, they may turn to heroin.

Heroin’s Effects

Heroin can be snorted, injected or swallowed. The speed at which heroin reaches the brain depends on the method taken. Users who inject heroin can feel its high within seven to eight seconds. Astonishingly, not all first-time users experience the feeling of euphoria we hear about. Since heroin slows down the digestive tract, some users may become nauseated and vomit.

Many users report that the high they experience is similar to the feeling after a satisfying sexual encounter, only much more intense. It is this sensation that drives users back to the drug. The brain cells that are affected by heroin eventually become damaged, causing the inability to feel pleasure without heroin. In turn, these cells create the intense craving heroin users have. Unfortunately, the more that individuals take the drug, the larger amounts they need to achieve a high. Often, users become convinced that they can’t function normally without the drug.

Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

It is not surprising that an estimated 23 percent of all people who try heroin will become dependent. The brain’s receptors change almost immediately upon use, leading to an inexplicable high within minutes. Since heroin produces a downer effect, using it produces an almost instantaneous feeling of relaxation and euphoria. Similar to other kinds of opiates, heroin prohibits the brain’s ability to feel pain.

Initially, heroin users can hide the signs of their habit. Over time, family members and co-workers may start to notice the signs of drug use, which include cycles of alertness followed by falling asleep, constricted pupils, rapid behavioral changes and shortness of breath.

The above red flags are not unique to heroin. There are more definitive signs that a heroin user exhibits and these typically include possession of paraphernalia used to prepare the drug. In addition, behavioral changes become more evident as drug users sink further into the substance abuse cycle. Individuals may lie to cover up their addiction and avoid making eye contact. Speech may be incoherent. Performance at work and school may decline, resulting in unemployment or expulsion.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

When someone continues to use heroin despite the deadly consequences, they can develop all kinds of health issues as follows:

Central nervous system

Heroin’s impact on a user’s brain is profound. The receptors that produce chemical signals for happiness and pleasure shrink. People who use heroin for long periods of time also show deterioration of white matter on CT scans of the brain. As such, their ability to make sound decisions and regulate their behavior is altered.

Respiratory system

Like other opiates, heroin slows respiratory function. People who use heroin may breathe much slower and shallower when they are high. If someone uses too much, they may stop breathing. The risk of cardiac arrest is one of the major health risks of heroin. Although it can occur the first time someone uses heroin, chronic users usually need to take higher doses to feel the same effect, which increases the risk of respiratory failure.

Cardiovascular system

Large doses of heroin can cause sudden death. Long-term heroin users also face a slew of other cardiovascular issues including vein damage. With each injection, the damage is done to the veins and arteries that lead to the heart. In turn, infection and abscesses can occur. According to the CDC, approximately 32 percent of heroin users in New York City suffer from a drug-induced abscess.

Digestive system

Heroin can also negatively impact the user’s digestive tract. Its sedative properties slow the movement of food and water, causing constipation and bloating. Users may not disclose these symptoms nor seek treatment, putting them at greater risk for developing intestinal blockages.

What’s Being Done

The FDA believes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment would help bridge the gap between substance use disorders and treatment. Stricter limitation of the frequency and the number of opioid prescriptions would force people to look for alternative ways of pain management, including cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

The CDC has also partnered with many states to combat both opioid addiction and heroin use. By educating the public and setting up safe zones for those who are suffering from addiction, the hope is that users will go to those safe zones to inject or use as opposed to getting high on the street.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 marks a breakthrough in the fight against the heroin epidemic in the U.S. Federal action is intended to make people more aware of the crisis and provide resources for those who want to get clean. However, one the largest hindrances to this bill being passed are funding. If the legislation is successful, some pharmaceutical companies could be bankrupt, thus making treatment of other chronic medical conditions more difficult.

Getting Treatment

Behavioral and pharmacological treatment can be effective for heroin users. Comprehensive treatment allows users to remain abstinent and restore a level of normalcy into their lives.

Heroin users must complete a detoxification program prior to entering a long-term treatment program. During detoxification, patients may be given medications to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, which can include pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Even though the detoxification period is not a treatment for the addiction itself, it is an effective first step.

After detox, many users manage their cravings with medication. Several medications have been approved for the treatment of heroin addiction. Since they work on the same receptors as heroin in the brain, they are considered safe and effective. They satisfy cravings while blocking opioid receptors in the brain; even if a user relapses and takes heroin, they would not experience a high, which can help them on their road to recovery.

The most common medication used for recovery is methadone. Taken orally, it is slow-acting and prevents withdrawal symptoms. If the user is not at an inpatient facility, the medication is usually dispensed through an approved outpatient treatment center on a daily basis.

Buprenorphine has also been approved for the treatment of heroin addiction. This medication is only available through certified physicians. However, it also eliminates the need for daily trips to a methadone clinic. Generic options are available, making it a more affordable treatment option.

Getting treatment for any substance use disorder may be frightening and, for some, embarrassing. People with long-standing emotional problems or chronic pain are usually at a higher risk of developing substance use disorders. However, that should never dissuade anyone from asking for help. The good news is that heroin addiction is treatable. The first step is asking for help and admitting that there is a problem. Both inpatient and intensive outpatient treatments are available for those in need.

How Long Does Heroin Stay In Your System?

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is a controlled substance in the United States, and the USDA classifies it as a Class-1 highly addictive drug. It is a plant-based but heavily manufactured and altered opioid drug derived from the poppy flower. Heroin is processed and cut with other substances before it gets to the consumer. Users of the drug typically smoke, snort or inject it intravenously. The immediate effects are feelings of euphoria and sedation.

Health Impacts of Heroin in Your System

Opiate addiction is a significant problem around the world and in recent years, opioid abuse has been on the climb, leading to numerous cases of overdose. These types of drugs have a negative impact on energy levels and sex drive as well as the weight and functions of major organs such as the liver and kidneys.

Most significant, however, is the effect of opiates on brain function. As this drug is used for its effects on brain chemistry, it can cause changes to the way your brain operates and how it sends and receives signals.

In fact, the biggest danger of heroin abuse results from the drug’s ability to block or alter signals in your brain that control important bodily functions. Emergencies from opioid abuse often stem from breathing difficulties associated with overdose. The reason for this is that heroin can change the chemistry of the brain stem and cause depressed breathing.

Parts of your brain control the basic functions of your body, such as breathing and the beating of your heart, so that you don’t have to think about it. Heroin can alter and interrupt these signals that are telling your body to do what it needs to do to survive.

Drug Testing in the USA

In the United States, drug testing is used in many different types of situations. This is a common reason people may ask how long drugs will stay in your system. Many employers require pre-hire drug testing, and some also perform random drug tests on their employees.

Types of Tests

There are several ways to test for opiates and other drugs in the human body. Depending on the type of test performed, heroin can show up on the tests results whether a person has used recently or been abstinent for some time. Here’s a closer look at some of the tests currently in use:

Blood

Blood tests are one of the best ways to test for substances in the body, such as prescription or illegal drugs. This is not the most common type of drug test used, however. Blood testing is sometimes used by law enforcement, but it’s most commonly utilized in emergency medicine. In fact, blood testing is rarely used for legal issues and more often for medical diagnostic purposes.

The invasive nature of this test has raised constitutional issues. Of course, blood testing involves taking blood from a person’s body, and this requires either consent or due process of law, including a court order. While blood tests are great for medical purposes to determine what is going on in the body right now, they are not ideal for detecting prior opioid use because opiates may not be picked up in the bloodstream if it’s only been a few hours after use.

Urine

The most common type of drug test used in the United States is the urinalysis test. This is the preferred method for employment testing and probation and parole testing. This is because it is a fast and reliable form of testing that is also far cheaper to perform than blood and hair tests. Additionally, there are fewer legal and constitutional concerns when using urinalysis.

Hair

Hair testing is not especially common, but it does have a significant history of use in the U.S., primarily in the court systems. This method does have one benefit over other methods: While blood and urine tests have a more limited time frame to work in, hair testing can detect drugs months after their use.

Saliva

Testing of oral fluid is another somewhat common testing method for illegal and prescription drugs. This method involves using a cheek swab to collect a sample of saliva and other oral fluids. The test works much the same as a blood or urine test and detects the same content as other forms of testing.

The issue with saliva testing is that it can be a less reliable method due to medical conditions or drug side effects that may cause dry mouth. If a good sample can’t be collected, then the test will fail. In certain instances, the very drug being tested for can cause side effects that will negate the saliva test. This type of test isn’t typically the first choice when it comes to heroin detection.

Understanding Half-life

In science, half-life refers to the time it takes for a substance to be reduced by half, either by decay or through elimination within the human body. In medicine, half-life is used in formulas to determine proper doses and duration for treatment. For example, an antibiotic would have to be administered at a certain dose and frequency to ensure that antibodies remain present long enough to effectively fight the bacteria or infection.

The half-life of a drug determines how long the substance will be present and detectable in your body. If you are not a chemistry person, the concept can seem confusing, but it is fairly simple. Essentially, different substances take longer to clear from your body than others.

On one hand, there is the time it takes for the substance to be cleared to the extent that you no longer feel the effects of the drug, and on the other hand, the time it takes for it to not be detectable by tests. As an example, you could take a medication for pain and at the end of its half-life, you may feel your pain return and no longer feel the effects of the drug. However, a blood test would still show the presence of pain medication.

Variables to How Long Heroin Will Stay in Your System

 

When people ask how long a particular drug will remain in their system, it is not a simple answer that is the same for everyone. The best answer is always going to be a range because not all people are the same and not all drug mixtures are the same. Below are some of the many factors to take into consideration when asking how long a drug will be detectable in your system.

Age

Your age has a lot to do with your metabolism and the way your body processes substances you take in. An older person with a slower metabolism may show the presence of a drug longer than a younger person with a fast metabolism. Additionally, a person who has not yet reached full maturity may process the drug at a different rate than an adult. This is one reason that addiction in youth is of particular concern.

Weight

It stands to reason that weight would be a factor in the half-life of heroin and other drugs. Doses for medication are often based on weight. The reason for this is that the dose may need to be larger to have the intended effect on a larger person while a smaller person may get stronger effects from a drug at a smaller dose.

Body Fat

Body fat plays a role in how your body metabolizes what you put into it and how it breaks substances down. Excessive body fat impacts circulation, digestion, and liver and kidney function.

Hydration

Hydration plays a key role in removing toxins from your body. Good hydration is very effective in reducing the duration of time that drugs can be detected in urine. Using water to clean the urine is so effective that many people will drink large quantities of water in an attempt to pass a drug test. However, many tests will count clear urine as an automatic fail on the assumption that the subject was trying to falsify the results.

Drug Quality

This is one of the biggest variables in determining both the effect of the drug and how long it remains in your system. The fact that heroin is an illegal drug means that supplies are not checked for quality or held to an FDA standard. When using black market products, there is little way to know the purity and strength of the drug itself.

As drugs like cocaine and heroin are cut with other substances, the actual volume of the drug can vary. Think of it in the same way as proof in alcohol terminology. A 4% ABV will have a different effect on your body than a 90% grain alcohol. Similarly, heroin of low purity will break down in your body faster than a higher concentration.

Health Factors

One individual may process heroin in a different way depending on personal health issues. A diabetic, for example, will break things down in the body in different ways and at different rates. A person with blood and circulation issues may also take longer to clear the drug from their body.

Use History

The effect of a particular drug can have a lot to do with a person’s history of use. Consider that a dose for a first-time user may have a much stronger impact than the same dose for someone who has dealt with addiction for many years. One component of drug abuse is the perceived need for more and more as time goes on. Unfortunately, this is what leads to many overdoses.

While a lifelong user may process the drug differently, the bigger issue is their likely increased dosage. If a person is consuming higher and higher amounts to try and get a certain high, the volume in their body will likely take longer to process through the system.

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

Taking all of the above into account, we are talking about a drug with a very short half-life. In most cases, it will be undetectable in urine after only a couple of days. Blood and saliva tests are especially poor testing methods for heroin. In fact, testing blood and oral fluids may yield a negative result within only five to six hours of taking the drug. The most effective test available for detecting drug use over time is hair follicle testing, which has been reported to detect heroin in the body for up to three months after the last use.

So, when considering how long the drug stays in your system, the answer really depends on the test. You can think of two days and up to three months as the two extremes. However, most tests will only be able to detect heroin in your system for a period of two to seven days.

Luvo Manyonga: From Meth to a Medal

luvo-manyonga

It’s 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa and 20-year-old Luvo Manyonga is practicing for the World Championship in men’s long jump. This will be Manyonga’s first time participating in the event, and he will finish fifth overall at the international competition. Two weeks later, he will take gold in the All-Africa Games. His earnings exceed 80,000 Rand, which is equal to about $6,000. He continued to participate in long jump events throughout the year, gaining popularity and acclaim.

However, having previously been extremely poor, Manyonga’s first run-in with a large amount of money nearly destroys his life after he becomes addicted to tik, the South African equivalent of crystal meth. The drug is highly addictive and can cause psychotic episodes, as well as sleeplessness, anxiety, and increased heartrate.

 

The Downfall

Tik is simply the slang term South Africans have given methamphetamine. Tik began showing up in the country around 2003 in sparse amounts. By 2008, it was the most popular drug in Cape Town. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that in just a four year period, the amount of people using tik rose from 1% to over 50%. Not even the US has seen drug use spikes of such magnitude over such little time.

It’s 2012 in Cape Town, and Luvo Manyonga is set to compete in a national competition. The South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) tests athletes for performance-enhancing drugs at such events. Manyonga tests positive for tik. At the disciplinary hearing, he fully admits to having used tik, explains why he used it, and is banned from long jump events for 18 months. “I can honestly say that I hit rock bottom,” said Manyonga. He was even “stealing mobile phones just to get money to buy the drug. You lose all perception of what is right or wrong. All that matters is to get your fix.”

From the hearing: “He had used tik on several occasions, after he had observed a friend using tik to recover from a drunken spell. [Manyonga] did not want to go to his mother’s house whilst under the influence and therefore used tik to ensure he was sober. After this he became a user.” He also claims not to have used tik to enhance his performance, as SAIDS considers tik a non-specified stimulant under the World Anti-Doping Code.

Manyonga agreed to enroll in the Harmony Addictions Clinic in Cape Town.

 

The Rise

It’s 2015 in Cape Town, and Luvo Manyonga is sober from tik, and fresh from rehabilitation. Knowing that his hometown is infested with the drug that nearly destroyed him, Manyonga packs up and moves to Pretoria, South Africa, near the High Performance Centre. He trains under strength and conditioning coach John McGrath and former Olympic swimmer Ryk Neethling. He gets his long jump back to top shape, and is chosen for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. He is rated among the top ten globally.

In 2012, Luvo Manyonga said he was “ten, maybe five percent away from death. On August 13, 2016, Luvo Manyonga participated in the Olympic long jump and achieved a distance of 8.37m, a personal best. Then, on his final jump, American Jeff Henderson achieved 8.38m, taking the gold medal. Manyonga won the silver medal.

His story of recovery is absolutely beautiful and inspiring. Although he won silver, it might as well have been gold. Surely Luvo Manyonga took the furthest leap.

Get Help – There’s No Excuse

You have an addiction, but you’re too busy to get help. Maybe you work two jobs and come home to a hungry family. Maybe you travel often and spend more time in airplanes than in bed. Maybe you just have a million hobbies and can’t find the time to get help. Well, it turns out you just don’t want help, because there is no such thing as being too busy to get help with your addiction.

You have several options across a wide range. There are hotlines you can call, meetings you can attend, outpatient recovery facilities you can join, and partial hospitalization options for you. Never say you’re too busy again.

Hotlines

A gigantic number of help hotlines exist, and for all types of needs. The calls are always free of charge. Literally type your addiction and the word ‘hotline’ into a search bar and pick up the phone. American Addiction Centers offers a hotline for addiction and its co-occurring disorders, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a national helpline offering information, support, and referral if necessary, for a wide array of disorders. Both are open 24/7/365. For the addiction hotline call 1-888-986-1295 and for the helpline call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Meetings

At no cost to you other than the gasoline to get there, meetings for all types of addictions are held nationwide. They last about an hour, but people are welcome to stay however long they like. You may have heard of AA, or Alcoholics Anonymous. They paved the way for the many other 12-step programs out there. Find an AA meeting near you here, or a NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting near you here.

Outpatient Recovery

Not all rehabilitation programs require an upheaval or your life. Outpatient recovery allows you to check in with appointment-like structure to a treatment facility. Most insurance companies will cover most of or all of the cost. The best part of outpatient recovery is being able to balance it with work, family, school, or whatever else may be going on in your life. Discussions, detoxification, medicine management, exercise, and education are all part of outpatient recovery.

Partial Hospitalization

Enrolling in partial hospitalization is for those addicts with severe symptoms. All the benefits of a hospital are available, including the knowledgeable staff, the equipment, and the medications. Partial hospitalization as defined by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities is “time limited, medically supervised programs that offer comprehensive, therapeutically intensive, coordinated, and structured clinical services.” Most programs are five days a week, but there are weekend sessions, half-sessions, etc. A partial hospitalization will still allow for a normal life outside of recovery, but will consume more time than the previous methods.

Starting on the Road to Recovery

Starting on the road to recovery begins with admitting they you have a problem and asking for help. This can be turning to friends and family, talking to your Doctor about your options or going directly to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility for help. To truly begin your recovery you need to be committed to your sobriety and ready to leave your addictive habits in the past and take on a healthy and more fulfilling lifestyle.

 

Getting The Help You Need

detoxification-from-drugsNow that you have taken the first step it is important to receive the appropriate treatment for your addiction. There are thousands of Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation centers throughout the United States, many which will meet your personal needs. Reaching out to these rehab centers will get you into the program that will give you the treatment you need to get through the first 30 days in your sobriety, help you to build a foundation in your recovery and offer you the tools needed to maintain your sobriety in your day to day life.

 

Detoxification

The first step in most treatment programs is detoxification. This is an important step as it cleanses your body of the harmful chemicals and toxins related to drug and alcohol abuse in a controlled environment that will ensure your health and safety. The Detoxification process takes 3 to 7 days depending on the severity of your addiction. Your doctor will prescribe you medications to ease symptoms of withdrawal and allow you to comfortably move forward in your recovery.

 

Rehabilitation

The rehabilitation process is the next important step in your recovery. There you will undergo therapy and individual counseling sessions to help you get to the root cause of your addiction and work through it while learning vital skills needed to maintain your sobriety. You will also go through daily group counseling sessions to help you get a better understanding of your addiction and to develop the tools needed to maintain your sobriety in your daily life. Typically the rehabilitation process takes 30 days with 24-7 supervised care, many move forward to intensive outpatient and outpatient programs until they are ready to return home, fully confident in their ability to maintain their sobriety despite any triggers and temptation they may face.

 

Aftercare

When returning home from Drug and Alcohol Treatment it is important to have an aftercare plan in place. This often involves setting up Doctors and Therapist appointments, going to NA and AA meetings, getting a sponsor and set up a support system at home. With a strong aftercare plan you will be prepared for your return home, confident in your ability to maintain your sobriety and ready to continue on the road to recovery.

Health and Happiness in Sobriety

For years you have been mixed up in a world of drugs and alcohol. You’ve fueled this disease and caused chaos in your life and the lives of your loved one. Now you have recognized the damage it has caused and you want better for yourself and those who you love. This is an amazing thing, you have taken the first step in your recovery and there is a healthy life filled with happiness ahead of you.

You Get Back What You Put In

If there was a magic fix for all that’s bad in this world, everyone would jump at it. In reality there is not, to fix the bad we must put work into it. This goes with your recovery too. You get back what you put in. If you do not want to commit yourself to your sobriety then you can not expect your life to get any better. From this point forward you must give 100% of yourself to create a healthier and happier life for yourself in recovery.

Understanding Your Addiction

Many people expect that they will be cured of addiction by going through a treatment program. They are clouded by the misconception that there is a cure. Unfortunately there is not, to stay in recovery you must constantly maintain your sobriety. To do so you must understand your addiction. This means sitting through hours of educational lectures, therapy and counseling sessions. There you will gain the knowledge and know how to maintain your sobriety in your day to day life.

Maintaining Your Sobriety

sobriety-and-healthEach day of your life will require maintenance to ensure your sobriety. While it gets easier in time, you can not forget you are an addict and need self care to stay on top of this disease. Whether it is going to an AA or NA meeting or having a conversation with a friend in recovery, you need to keep working to stay sober, to have the end result of health and happiness in your recovery.

Taking the Steps to Overcome Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a growing epidemic in the United States. Each day thousands of men and women fall victim to heroin addiction, many losing their lives early on in their battle. If you are addicted to heroin and ready to get clean, know you are not alone. With thousands of treatment centers across the nation you can get the help you need to overcome heroin addiction.

 

Admit You Have a Problem

It’s easy to make excuses to why you can’t stop using heroin. We know it’s hard to quit, but you have taken the first step in getting clean by admitting you have a problem and that is never easy. Now that you have admitted you have a problem it is important to immediately seek the help you will need to get clean.

 

Starting Treatment

Whether you found a treatment center by word of mouth, a google search or your Doctor’s recommendation, it is great that you took the step to find the help you need to get clean. Starting treatment can be scary, you don’t know what to expect and withdrawal symptoms are starting to kick in. With a brief intake assessment, Doctors and staff will have a full understanding of your addiction and will put together an individualized treatment plan to help you move forward in overcoming your addiction to heroin.

 

Detoxification

Withdrawal is horrible, that is saying the least. You will experience withdrawal symptoms that vary in severity, some making you feel as if you are going to die. This is why detoxification is so important. During this time you will be monitored by nursing staff that will help to ensure your health, safety and comfort. Doctors will prescribe medications to ease symptoms of withdrawal and help you to stabilize, allowing you to move forward in your treatment.

 

Rehabilitation

addiction-recoveryThe rehabilitation process is vital in helping you to overcome heroin addiction. You will go through therapy, individual counseling and group counseling sessions to help you get to the root cause of your addiction and work through it, while educating you on your addiction and helping you to develop the tools needed to overcome heroin addiction and maintain your sobriety in your day to day life.

Tomorrow is a new day, do not let your past get in the way of your future. Start taking the steps needed to overcome heroin addiction today.

Maintaining Your Sobriety

The road to recovery isn’t easy. It takes strength and determination to create a better life for yourself in sobriety. With the right treatment and support you can develop the tools needed to maintain life long sobriety, opening up a world of success to you.

Everyone Has a Back Story

Each and every person who enters into a treatment facility has a past. Many try to blame their past for their addiction. The truth is there is no one to blame except yourself, you made the choice to keep using drugs or drinking each day. Now you are making the choice to STOP, to stay clean and sober and to start living a more fulfilling life.

While your past may creep up on you and put you in a weak place, with support and treatment you can work through the skeletons in your closet and allow yourself to be freed to move forward in your recovery.

You Don’t Have to Go at it Alone

Remember that you are not alone. Regardless to where you personal relationships stand when you step foot into a treatment center, AA or NA meeting you are surrounded by people who care if you live or die and are ready to do anything they can to help you. Surrounding yourself with a sober support system will help to give you the strength needed to maintain your sobriety.

Each Day You Make The Choice to Stay Sober

As an addict you must live in the day. Each day you make the choice to stay sober is a successful day. Staying positive will help you keep on track. Everything that has gone wrong can be changed for the better if you are ready to put in the effort. You control your future by focusing on today.

Maintaining your sobriety is not about what magic pill you can take to keep straight, it is about never giving up and keeping up the fight each day.