News broke out earlier today that international pop sensation Demi Lovato has been hospitalised at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The young singer had allegedly suffered a heroin overdose, following which she was rushed to the emergency room. But recent reports suggest that the singer has regained consciousness and is now surrounded by her family and well-wishers. The hospitalisation comes days after the 25-year-old singer revealed through her song “Sober” that she relapsed into drug abuse after her long struggle to stay off. It’s heartwrenching that Demi relapsed after six long years of sobriety. Luckily for her, the singing didn’t meet the same tragic fate as many from her industry did in the past.
Heroin As a Drug
Heroin is one of the most highly addictive, most-abused drug in the world. Also known as diacetylmorphine, heroin is a depressant which affects the central nervous system. It is usually administered intravenously (through the veins) with an injection.
Once it ends up in the brain, heroin gets converted into morphine and increases dopamine activity, promoting feelings of pleasure. Repeatedly administering high doses of the drug eventually causes physical dependence on the drug, which makes breaking free from it very difficult.
Not surprisingly, heroin users are known to exhibit many problematic behaviours, including crime. Since heroin is generally shot through the veins, addiction to the drug also increases rthe isk of contracting associated diseases like HIV, hepatitis B and C and other blood-borne illnesses. Using heroin for a long period can also cause medical complications like scarring of the veins, bacterial infections of the blood vessels, diseases of liver and kidney and lung problems.
Risk of Heroin Overdose
The risk of overdose increases when a person becomes tolerant to the effects of the drug. The person stops responding to the drug in the same way and the intensity of the euphoria may be lesser. So to achieve the same high, the addict may increase the drug dose to feel the effects more intensely. The results could be devastating since the body cannot take too much heroin and the overdose can turn fatal. Mortality rate in heroin users is anywhere between one and three percent.
What Happens During A Heroin Overdose?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), overdose is a deadly consequence of heroin use. An overdose of heroin can depress the heart rate and interfere with respiration, leaving the person at the brink of death. Drugabuse.com says that overdose depends largely on the amount and purity of the heroin, substances consumed along with it and the person’s age and weight.
Side Effects of Heroin Use
Heroin can have a corrosive effect on the health and wellness of the person, both short term and long term. Here's a list of short-term side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Alternating between alertness and drowsiness
- Flushed skin
- Laboured breathing
- Muscular weakness
Long-term side effects:
- Increasing tolerance to effects of heroin
- Heart valve infection
- Vein collapse
- Decreased liver functions
- Abscess in the liver
Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Overdose
Since heroin affects different parts of the body, the symptoms of overdose can be varied. But here are some of the common signs:
- Pale or bluish lips and nails
- Laboured breathing
- Weak pulse
- Disorientation and maniacal behaviour
- Shrinkage of pupils or pinpoint pupils
- Drowsiness and unconsciousness
What To Do in The Case of An Overdose?
Heroin overdose can turn fatal in most cases if the right medical attention is not given. But to reverse the effects of the drug, the patient has to be given Naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist, which binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, stopping heroin from activating the. The drug can be used even by non-medical personnel who can use it to save lives by giving assistance to an overdosing patient.
Given the addictive nature of the drug, recovering drug addicts find it difficult to stay away from it for too long. Physical dependence on the drug causes major withdrawal symptoms in people who are trying to quit. They experience restlessness, insomnia, intense craving for heroin, diarrhoea, muscle and bone pain, cold flashes and leg movements. The symptoms peak between 48 to 72 hours after the last dose of heroin and can abate after week.
Drug abuse is considered by many as a part and parcel of showbiz. Blame it on the stress and struggle to stay relevant, but the industry is known to trap celebs into a cycle of drug dependence. While some surface unscathed, others are not so lucky. Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morisson, Cory Moneith, Amy Winehouse and Prince are some who couldn’t survive their addictions. With Demi's recovery, let's hope that the young singer finds the strength to beat her inner demons and break free from the cycle of drug abuse for good.