April 2014

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Health Capsule

Updated Report on Heroin

NIH recently updated its Heroin Research Report, which provides an overview of heroin use and its consequences. The online report also describes treatment options for those struggling with addiction.

Heroin is an illegal street drug that’s highly addictive. Its use is linked to many serious health conditions, including fatal overdose and infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV. Unfortunately, the number of people using heroin in the United States has been rising since 2007, especially among young adults from 18 to 25 years old.

Repeated heroin use changes the structure and function of the brain. It creates long-term imbalances in the body’s chemistry and nervous system that aren’t easily reversed.

Research suggests that abuse of prescription pain relievers known as opioids may open the door to heroin use. Some people report switching to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids.

Like many long-term diseases, heroin addiction can be treated. Medications can help reduce drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms to improve the chances of quitting. Medication combined with behavioral therapy is especially effective.

The Heroin Research Report is available at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin.