Drug users are increasingly taking heroin through “chasing the dragon” method of inhaling the addictive opioid to get high. According to a new review published in the journal JAMA Neurology in July 2018, the method could lead to several devastating side effects like irreversible brain damage and dementia. Lead author and neurologist Ciro Ramos-Estebanez of the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in Ohio was inspired to conduct a research in this area after coming across a strange case in 2015 of a young opioid-dependent woman whi had slipped into a coma.
The researchers found that the coma was an outcome of the accumulation of spinal fluid in the woman’s brain, resulting from a rather unusual condition known as hydrocephalus. The woman, who regularly inhaled heroin, suffered from chronic inflammation in the brain that caused the spinal fluid to get trapped. Finally, doctors performed an emergency surgery to drain the lodged spinal fluid, after which she recovered from her coma, but with long-term cognitive impairment.
Ramos-Estebanez and his team members also came up with a theory to explain the possible cause that could have led to this phenomenon. According to the team, the high temperatures used to vaporize heroin could have converted the drug into a chemical capable of transcending the blood-brain barrier with greater ease. Moreover, due to speed with which the drug makes it to the brain, the user’s body fails to metabolize the lethal compounds into a relatively less toxic substance. Therefore, the final outcome is a powerful high that poses a greater danger to the brain. Notably, in chasing the dragon method, heroin is heated on an aluminum foil to produce a vapor that is inhaled.
According to Ramos-Estebanez, taking heroin by inhaling is an emerging public health issue. “‘Chasing the dragon’ is not as safe as portrayed. And this isn’t something some doctor is saying to scare people away, it’s reality. It’s a heavy cost for patients, their families, and society itself,” said Ramos-Estebanez.
Heroin is a dangerous drug
In recent years, the U.S. has witnessed a skyrocketing spike in cross-border trafficking involving heroin, especially against the backdrop of the terrible opioid crisis that has sent innumerable Americans languishing in the throes of withdrawal. The numerous points of entry (POEs) dotting the international border separating Mexico from the U.S. are known to be prized corridors to transport enormous amounts of deadly drugs, including heroin.
The crisis has left public health officials and law enforcement authorities in a dilemma whether the uncontrollable heroin epidemic be treated as a medical or a legal problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin overdose death rates rose by 19.5 percent from 2015 to 2016 and approximately 15,500 people lost their lives in 2016 alone. The number of people dying of deadly overdoses involving heroin has increased fourfold since 2010. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says those hooked on prescription opioid drugs end up using heroin due to low cost and easy access.
Heroin addiction is treatable
Although addiction to any substance usually affects every part of the body, when it comes to the brain, its impact could be significantly harmful. Once addicted to heroin, people often overlook the ubiquitous repercussions of addiction and crave for the “perceivably unparalleled high” produced by the drug. In the natural world, it takes a lot of hard work, efforts and some delay to reap the fruits of reward. However, addictive drugs such as heroin provide an effortless shortcut to access the rewards of pleasure.
The good thing is that heroin addiction can be treated. A pioneer in mental health and substance abuse treatment, Sovereign Health of Florida provides top-notch heroin addiction treatment programs at its Fort Myers and Pompano Beach facilities. For more information on our state-of-the-art heroin detox centers, call our 24/7 helpline. You can even chat online with one of our representatives for further assistance.
Get the latest news on program developments, behavioral health news and company announcements