The Complications On Heroin And Its Treatment

Injecting heroin, or any drug such as cocaine and barbiturates is associated with many local and systemic complications for the individual and also is associated with the transmission of infectious diseases through needle sharing and sexual activity (Baciewicz 2005). Illegal drug production and injection drug use have become globalized during recent years, and according to the World Health Organization, in 1993 some eighty countries report the existence of injecting drug use, and fifty-two of these countries report human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, infection among injecting drug users, IDUs (Baciewicz 2005). In 1999, 136 countries reported injecting drug use, and some 93 of these countries reported HIV infection among IDUs (Baciewicz 2005). Injecting drug use and HIV infection can spread rapidly within a community, and the introduction of and rapid increase in injecting drug use is believed to be responsible for the dramatic increases in HIV infection in many areas, especially in developing countries (Baciewicz 2005). In fact, in many developing countries, injecting drug is the primary risk factor for HIV infection (Baciewicz 2005).

Injecting drug use is responsible for many medical problems by introducing pathogens and other contaminants into the body through shared needles and a lack of sterile preparation and injection techniques (Baciewicz 2005). Moreover, medical problems can arise from damage caused by the drugs themselves, such as morbidity and mortality associated with drug overdose (Baciewicz 2005). The drugs that are injected may not be pure and may be cut with irritants such as talc, lactate, or quinine (Baciewicz 2005). Death from the direct toxic effects of a heroin overdose is usually associated with respiratory depression, coma, and pulmonary edema, while death from the direct effects of cocaine is most often associated with cardiac dysrhythmias and conduction disturbances, which lead to myocardial infarction and stroke (Baciewicz 2005).

Treatment of injecting drug users are often complicated by social and political barriers to treatment and, in developing countries, by a lack of resources for public health approaches to treatment (Baciewicz 2005). In the early 1990’s, Germany’s first safe injection facilities were deemed legal, and by 2000, the federal government had amended its narcotics laws to sanction them formally, thus users today still have to buy their drugs on the street, however they have clean, supervised facilities in which to use them (Lorinc 2005). The site has contributed to a decrease in overdose deaths in cities like Frankfurt and Hamburg (Lorinc 2005). Europe has 8,000 drug-related fatalities per year, and the number continues to rise, yet only one overdose has occurred in a safe injection site as of 2003 (Lorinc 2005). Supporters argue that these facilities have a positive impact on communities that were once overrun with intravenous drug users and dealers, and many European cities claim that there is now less drug use in parks, and fewer discarded syringes (Lorinc 2005). The conclusion seems to be that the “longer the exposure to consumption rooms, the greater the reduction in high-risk behavior” (Lorinc 2005).

Heroin has long been regarded as the dirty drug, the poison that only hardened junkies use, however experts say there has been a turnaround in this seedy image, and now the drug is becoming increasingly glamorous and is attracting a new breed of users (Frame 1996). More and more people are being to use heroin recreationally, and “clubbers” are now using heroin to bring them down from drugs like Ecstasy (Frame 1996). For example, Britain’s heroin addicts have risen from 5,000 in the mid-1980’s to more than 9,000 by 1996, and according to one survey, more than 75 percent of addicts are females (Frame 1996). Most heroin users began by taking Ecstasy, speed, cocaine, temazepam, and finally graduated to heroin (Frame 1996).

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