Skin Abscess from Injecting Heroin

The Dangers of Skin Abscess from Injecting Heroin

The highly addictive, semi-synthetic opioid made from morphine, a substance taken from opium poppy plants that produces intense feelings of euphoria has exploded along with the opioid epidemic in the USA. As prescribed opioids by doctors and prescribers become harder to get, newly formed addicts turn to the street drug known as “heroin” for their latest fix. Mostly in urban centers, drug use has skyrocketed, but also in many major cities and states across the country. Homelessness and abject poverty have created swaths of hardship, disease, and drug laden tent cities where drug use takes center stage. These dens of inequity are breeding grounds for health hazards and complications from intravenous drug use. Along with the increase in drug overdoses and death, another health hazard often develops within user groups, which is a skin abscess from injecting heroin. These skin abscesses themselves can be quite dangerous and lead to further health consequences. That is why it is important to understand what they are and what complications can arise from them.

What is a Skin Abscess?

Usually, a skin abscess is a tender mass surrounded by pink and red flesh, sometimes referred to as a “boil.” This bump is usually bloated with pus or translucent fluid, which is often a sign of an infection. They are usually very painful and warm to the touch and can show up anywhere on your body. An abscess can form when the skin barrier is broken via minor traumas, cuts, or inflammation. Your body’s immune defenses involve an inflammatory response that sends millions of white blood cells to the infected area. The middle of the abscess will then liquefy, containing the dead cells, bacteria, and other scattered waste and remains. Unlike most infections, antibiotics alone will not cure an abscess. These complications may need intervention depending on the severity of the infection and tissue damage. That is why it is important to seek attention as soon as possible.

How Skin Abscess from Injecting Heroin Form

Once a drug user becomes a full blown addict, the fix becomes paramount while all other considerations fall to the wayside. Often times, an addict will find themselves using needles in unsanitary conditions with “dirty” syringes that may be contaminated by other user’s blood, but also by bacterial growth. Each individual, as well as the environment, is covered in microscopic bacterium that may colonize damaged areas of the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis during intravenous drug use. These colonies may jump from needle to user quite effectively without the proper sanitation that can now be found in fix rooms in some major cities. Contaminated needles deliver the bacteria past the skin barrier into the blood stream and also into these soft tissues. Multiple punctures in the same area may worsen the wound and will, in turn, be more likely to be infected during the heroin injections. Forming a skin abscess from injecting heroin becomes common during the constant urge to get another fix. Multiple boils may form as the addict searches for new injection points that aren’t collecting fluid and swelling with pain, redness, and warmth.

Complications from Skin Abscess from Injecting Heroin

Without treatment, many dangerous complications can arise from these skin abscesses. If the infection spreads, it has the potential to cross the blood-brain barrier. The key structure of the blood-brain barrier is the “endothelial tight junction.” Endothelial cells line the blood vessels interior and form the blood-brain barrier; these cells are wedged very tightly, so much so, that only small molecules, fat-soluble molecules, and some gases can pass through. A bacterial infection, however, has the potential to bind to the endothelial wall, causing the junction to open slightly. This development means toxins and bacteria can enter and attack the brain tissue, which can mean inflammation, brain swelling, and even death.

Another complication can arise, often referred to as “blood poisoning,” which is used to describe bacteremia, septicemia, or sepsis. Sepsis is a serious and potentially fatal blood infection. These infections can occur in your abdomen, lungs, and urinary tract. Septic shock has a 50 percent mortality rate, so these complications would call for quick attention.

Endocarditis is another more specific infection that is possible from abscess complications, as it is the inflammation of the heart’s inner lining, called the endocardium. The condition is uncommon for those with healthy hearts, but a possibility for long time drug users that have abused their bodies. This condition may develop over time and may go undiagnosed as the symptoms are similar to the flu and pneumonia. Fever, chills, muscle and joint pain, nausea, heart murmur, swollen limbs or torso, and a cough are common symptoms of this infection.

Tissue death or gangrene in the area of the abscess is another concern as it usually affects your extremities, which also happen to be injection points. It can start in a hand or leg and spread throughout your entire body and cause you to suffer shock. Shock will be marked by low blood pressure or hypotension. Vital organs such as the brain may we starved of oxygen and nutrients, creating light-headedness, weakness, blurred vision, and fatigue.

Ken Seeley Communities Provides Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Ken Seeley Communities is a recovery program specializing in addiction and dual diagnosis conditions. With an expert team of recovery agents, Ken Seeley Communities guides individuals through the steps necessary to recover from heroin’s dark path, starting with processing, detox, treatment, and aftercare. Ken Seeley is known for being an interventionist that provides quality and professional care for families dealing with addiction and has the communication skills necessary to persuade individuals to enter treatment. Once entered into the treatment process, individuals will be provided evidence-based treatment solutions, as well as nutritious programs and fitness regimen to support the recovery. Sobriety is a multi-stage and multi-faceted undertaking, which is why our treatments are comprehensive and robust. For more information about the program, please contact Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.

effects of fentanyl laced heroin

Effects of Fentanyl-Laced Heroin

Heroin use began to surge about a decade ago, creeping into just about every nook and cranny of society. Then around 2014 there was a sudden surge in overdose deaths, initially attributed to heroin. Eventually, it became known that this spike in overdoses was due to the effects of fentanyl-laced heroin. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine, and which is usually used by physicians to help manage pain in terminal cancer patients. Fentanyl and its analogs, or clones, are being manufactured illicitly in China and Mexico, then widely distributed on the streets of our country in the form of as fentanyl-laced heroin.

In 2016 alone, more than 19,000 opioid-related deaths were attributed primarily to fentanyl, according to statistics provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, showing a six-fold increase since 2010. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that overdose deaths caused by fentanyl doubled in a six-month period between the end of 2016 and the summer of 2017. According to the CDC, “The number of deaths involving heroin in combination with synthetic narcotics has been increasing steadily since 2014 and shows that the increase in deaths involving heroin is driven by the use of fentanyl.”

The CDC had issued a health advisory in 2015 regarding the dangers of fentanyl, but this was upgraded to an alert in early 2018 as deaths continued to mount. The alert included information that the powerful drug was showing up in heroin, methamphetamine, ketamine, benzodiazepines, cocaine, and counterfeit opioid pills on the street, and encouraged wide availability of the opioid antidote, naloxone, to help reverse the effects of the drug in individuals still alive. While a heroin overdose can be overturned with 1 mg of naloxone, for the individual who has overdosed on fentanyl laced heroin, a dosage of 8-10 mg of naloxone is needed, although most individuals will not survive.

Why is Fentanyl So Deadly?

Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic analgesic manufactured under such brand names as Duragesic, Abstral, Fentora, Actiq, and Subsys, and is used by physicians to control pain in patients with serious or terminal illness. The fentanyl compound is easy to be replicated and reproduced in a lab, being widely distributed as street drugs or through online websites.

The drug is so potent that it is measured in micrograms, not milligrams. Law enforcement and first responders fear having any contact with the substance, as just a few granules can produce fatal respiratory effects. Many of the overdose deaths occurring in recent years occurred in individuals who were unaware that they were ingesting fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was first introduced in the 1960s for use as an anesthesia during surgeries. Later, fentanyl was approved for its analgesic properties for use as a prescription pain medication. Although fentanyl is in the news in recent years, it is not new. News reports from 1991 were informing the public of a spate of fentanyl laced heroin overdose deaths in Pennsylvania. Later, in 2005-2006, this deadly mixture was at the center of another outbreak of overdose deaths in various regions.

Deaths occur because the fentanyl, an opioid agonist, impacts the opioid receptors in the brain associated with controlling the respiratory system. A high dose of fentanyl can reduce the breathing rate dramatically, possibly causing breathing to stop altogether, leading to death.

The Danger of Heroin and Fentanyl Together

In many cases, it is the opioid epidemic of this past decade that has led to a significant increase in heroin addiction. This happens when the opioids become increasingly difficult to obtain, or if the cost of the prescription opioids becomes prohibitive. To avoid withdrawals, some will switch to heroin as a cheap, easily procured substitute for the opioid.

Since most heroin addicts obtain the drug from dealers on the street, they may be unaware that the heroin they purchased is cut with fentanyl—or may even be pure fentanyl. In most cases it is impossible to detect the presence of fentanyl, especially when it is cut into counterfeit opioids or cocaine, as these are also white substances. However, because heroin has a yellowish tint, if a large amount of fentanyl has been cut into the heroin it might be detected. Understanding the dangers of heroin and fentanyl can help raise awareness through the education of our youth from as early as adolescence.

Symptoms of Fentanyl Overdose

Because fentanyl impacts the central nervous system like any other opiate, the respiratory system is significantly affected. The drug is so potent that a tiny amount carries the risk of a drug overdose. The effects of fentanyl-laced heroin can lead to an overdose, which is a serious medical emergency that allows very little time for successful intervention. Signs of fentanyl overdose include:

  • Extreme grogginess, sleepiness, or fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing, slowed respiratory function
  • Contracted pupils
  • Inability to walk, loss of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Coma

A fentanyl-related overdose is a medical emergency. Death can occur rapidly, so if these symptoms are present it is necessary to obtain immediate medical help. Most first responders now carry naloxone to help reverse the effects of opiate overdoses.

Getting Help For Heroin Addiction

Individuals who are addicted to heroin or opioids must seek professional help to be able to get off these highly addictive drugs so they can avoid the accidental effects of fentanyl-laced heroin. Overcoming an opiate addiction requires specialized treatment. Without a formal addiction treatment program, the individual will not succeed long-term.

Opioid addiction recovery is possible but it is dependent on the individual completing a treatment program that uses evidence-based, or proven, treatment methods, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), as well as complementary therapies and aftercare services.

Those who decide to get treatment for a heroin addiction will progress through four steps in recovery:

  1. Intake. When the individual approaches treatment they will first be involved in an assessment and intake process. After the clinician has considered all the information, including the length of history of heroin abuse, the daily dosing, the general health status of the individual, and whether there is a coexisting mental health disorder present, they will design an individualized treatment plan. This tailored approach is important, as each person will have unique recovery needs.
  2. Detox and Withdrawal. Detoxification is the first necessary step in getting free of a heroin or opioid addiction. Without clearing the body of the drug and stabilizing, the individual would be unable to fully participate in treatment with a clear mind. The detox and withdrawal process is difficult and highly unpleasant, and not to be undertaken on one’s own. People who attempt to go it alone are not able to endure the withdrawals and will swiftly relapse back to drug use.

A medically monitored detox will provide continuous oversight while providing medical interventions that help ease the withdrawal symptoms. Psychological support is also provided, helping the client emotionally throughout the detoxification process. Medications, such as buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone, can be initiated once the drug has been eliminated from the system, and can help reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and also reduce cravings. This medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help the individual become stable in recovery by reducing the risk of relapse. MAT requires the individual to continue engaging in outpatient therapy following rehab, and the medications are strictly monitored to help prevent abuse.

  1. Active Treatment. Active treatment begins immediately following detox and involves a variety of treatment elements. Rehabs programs include individual psychotherapy, group therapy, recovery group meetings, family therapy, addiction education, relapse prevention planning, and medication management. Together these interventions can help the individual change habitual addiction-associated patterns and behaviors, while also addressing underlying factors that may be contributing to the drug abuse. In addition, the individual is coached to establish healthy lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercise, and taught relaxation techniques to help manage stress.
  2. Aftercare Therapy. Once the treatment program has been completed, it is essential to continue to participate regular outpatient counseling, both individual therapy and support groups. Attending a weekly or twice weekly therapy session can help clients over the rough spots during the first year of recovery when they are the most vulnerable to relapse. Sober living is another good aftercare option, providing a living environment that is drug and alcohol-free and where the client can learn healthy new daily routines and habits, and practice recovery skills before heading back to their regular life. Additionally, engaging in a 12-step or similar recovery group can provide an additional layer of peer support and accountability.

Although overcoming heroin dependence requires time, patience, and perseverance, it is something that can be done. A heroin addiction cannot be wished away, it must be muscled away through sheer will and a steely commitment to embrace a clean and sober lifestyle.

Ken Seeley Communities Provides Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Ken Seeley Communities is an integrated addiction recovery program in beautiful Palm Springs, California. Through an immersive approach to recovery, the expert team at Ken Seeley Communities will guide individuals through each step of the process—intake, medical detox, treatment, and aftercare. Ken Seeley is a renowned interventionist who provides these professional services for families to help persuade someone to enter treatment. In addition to the evidence-based treatment approach, the emphasis on nutrition and fitness helps reinforce recovery efforts. Embrace sobriety with the support of this comprehensive and highly effective program. For more information about the program, or about the effects of fentanyl-laced heroin, please contact Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.

how long does heroin withdrawal last

How Long Does Heroin Withdrawal Last?

Wrenching yourself free from the grip of a heroin addiction can seem impossible. Having experienced the suffering of withdrawal symptoms on a regular basis, it may seem like going through the detox process would be unbearable. In fact, anticipating the difficult withdrawal phase of recovery actually deters many from ever seeking help, keeping them stuck tight in their addiction. So how long does heroin withdrawal last anyway? In most cases, the heroin detox timeline involves approximately 5-7 days. Although the physical and emotional effects that accompany the heroin withdrawal process are daunting, it must be looked at as a very short-term issue that will soon pass.

Some addiction treatment centers use specific prescriptions to assist with the highly unpleasant side effects associated with heroin withdrawal.  is itself an opioid that can help block the effects of opiates from ever attaching to the brain receptors, so euphoria is not experienced. Over time this helps reduce cravings, and subsequently the desire to use again declines.

There is another option available to help with heroin withdrawal, and that is to go the holistic route.  The holistic approach to heroin detox and withdrawal means that drug-free interventions are made to help assist the recovering addict through the uncomfortable side effects of heroin withdrawal.

It’s totally understandable why someone about to begin a heroin detox might ask, “How long does heroin withdrawal last?” Going through detox and withdrawal from heroin or opioids is a hurdle to clear, versus a welcome event. Detox and withdrawal will vary from one individual to another, based on a number of factors that help determine the timeline. But knowing approximately how long does heroin withdrawal last, and what to expect in a residential detox, can help one prepare mentally for what lies ahead, and to gear up for it.

About Heroin Dependency

Heroin is in the opiate family of drugs, derived from morphine, a natural byproduct of certain poppy plants in regions like Afghanistan, Colombia, and Burma. Opium is produced through the fluid that seeps out of the poppy seedpod and dried into a resin product.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug that leads to rapidly increased tolerance to the drug, resulting in increased dosage and usage in an effort to relive the initial euphoric high.  Heroin use causes a powerful reaction in the brain’s chemistry, attaching to opioid receptors in the pain and pleasure centers. A flood of dopamine leads to the “rush” that is felt upon injecting, snorting or smoking heroin.

This powerful drug makes lasting changes in brain cells, causing the brain to eventually cease producing its own dopamine. Without the drug, the user will become unable to experience pleasure at all, only leading to higher dosing. When chemical dependence takes hold, any attempt to stop taking heroin results in highly uncomfortable flu-like withdrawal symptoms. At this point the addict needs to take the drug to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms and feeling very sick (“dope sick”).

The Centers for Disease Control recently released data from 2017 citing alarming statistics regarding heroin and other opioids. According to this report, deaths from heroin increased sevenfold from 1,960 in 1999 to 15,482 in 2017. A sense of urgency exists today regarding the staggering increases of heroin and opioid abuse and addiction, and the related fatalities.

What to Expect During Heroin Detox and Withdrawal

It is natural for someone to wonder how long does heroin withdrawal last.  In general, the heroin detox process follows a fairly predictable pattern. The first withdrawal symptoms appear between 6-12 hours after the last dose of heroin. The length of the detox period, as well as the severity of symptoms, will be dependent on factors such as:

  • The duration of the heroin habit
  • Heroin consumption level
  • If the individual has a co-occurring mental health disorder
  • General state of the individual’s health.

All these factors will play a part in the detox experience, as far as how intense the withdrawal symptoms will be and how long withdrawal will last. Generally, symptoms will peak between 24-48 hours and then gradually subside. Most heroin detoxes are completed in 5-7 days, however long-lasting effects can linger, known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Restlessness
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

While some may they might die from experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms, the fact is that, while extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable, it is highly unlikely that heroin detox would be fatal. Detox providers will provide comfort through the use of medications that can significantly reduce the withdrawal symptoms, and will closely monitor the individual throughout the detox process.

Throughout a residential detox the individual will be supported with medications as symptoms emerge. The detox team will access various over-the-counter medications that can alleviate the muscle aches, fever, headache, chills, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea symptoms. The individual will also receive psychological support to offer encouragement and help guide through the detox process, and then into the treatment program.

Residential Detox for Heroin Withdrawal

Increasingly, heroin and opioid detox and treatment involves medication, such as using certain opioid antagonists and agonists to help control craving and slowly reduce the desire for the drug. Prescriptions for stabilizing the individual in recovery can help reduce the risk of relapse. In most cases, the drugs are prescribed for a limited time, such as 3-12 months, before beginning a tapering schedule. However, in some cases long-term use of these drugs is warranted.

What to Expect in Heroin Rehab

It is important to understand that overcoming a heroin addiction is a long-term effort that is undertaken at an inpatient treatment facility. Detox alone is not sufficient to achieve lasting sobriety. Without follow up addiction treatment the individual is bound to relapse right away. This is because the deeply entrenched thought-behavior patterns that define the daily life of an addict do not just go away. These reflexive habits must be identified, addressed, and changed to have any kind of success in recovery.

Heroin addiction treatment is a two-pronged method that typically involves detox and evidence-based behavioral therapies such as contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). During rehab the individual will be immersed in a variety of therapeutic activities that are designed to be an integrated approach to overcoming addiction. These treatment elements include:

  • Psychotherapy: The role of psychotherapy in treating a heroin addiction is a core treatment element in addiction recovery. The therapist will access a number of evidence-based therapies to effectively guide the person toward embracing new healthy thought patterns and introduce coping skills to assist them in recovery. In addition, the therapist can help the individual explore their emotional state and work through any lingering or unresolved issues.
  • Group therapy: Addiction and depression can leave someone feeling very isolated and alone in their disease. Bringing together small groups of peers who can discuss their points of view and personal experiences with each other can give each participant a feeling of belonging. This shared experience, the recovery journey, can bond the participants and even foster new friendships that will endure after rehab is completed.
  • Non 12-step or 12-step participation: The recovery communities that may be integrated into the overall rehab program provide an excellent introduction into the power of fellowship. Recovery meetings offer opportunities to learn from each other and become inspired by those who have achieved a sustained recovery, and who benefited from the particular program, be it A.A., N.A., Smart Recovery or others.
  • Addiction education: Information can be a powerful tool in recovery. By learning about how chemical dependence develops it can give individuals a new perspective about what a danger drug like heroin does to the brain and the body. Along with learning about how addition happens, clients are also taught methods to help avoid relapsing. They will be coached in developing their own specific relapse prevention plan, and will be equipped with the necessary recovery tools to sustain recovery.
  • Adjunct therapies to promote stress reduction and relaxation: These therapies include yoga, meditation, equine therapy, art therapy, and other holistic practices
  • Aftercare services: The rehab should encourage individuals to develop an aftercare plan for post-rehab recovery. These activities or services can help solidify early recovery while helping to avoid relapse. These actions might include continuing on with outpatient therapy, continued participation in a recovery community, or spending a few months in sober living.

Ken Seeley Communities Offers Heroin Residential Detox and Addiction Recovery Services

Ken Seeley Communities is a California addiction recovery complex that offers the full spectrum of necessary treatment components. These include professional intervention services, residential rehab, various intensities of outpatient programs, and sober living housing that all work together on the recovery continuum. For more information about how long does heroin withdrawal last, and additional details about our recovery resources, please contact our team today at (877) 773-8515.