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The Effects of Heroin Addiction on Families

By Michelle Bolyn ; Updated August 14, 2017

Any type of drug addiction greatly impacts a person’s family. However, the powerful addicting qualities of heroin have serious implications for every family impacted by its use. Due to the dangers that come along with heroin use, many families lose family members to this addiction. Sometimes the emotional toll that it takes on a family is irreparable and long-lasting as well.

Stress and Mental Health

Knowing that a family member is using heroin and could overdose or contract an infectious disease can lead to overwhelming stress for any family member. If a parent is addicted to heroin, she probably isn’t emotionally or physically available to her children, which can lead them to being neglected, depressed or anxious. Children of heroin abusers never know in what state they will find their parents. This may result in long-term mental health issues.

Financial Problems

Heroin users usually feel the urge to use four to six hours after every use and experience withdrawal symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, chills and excessive sweating if they don’t use within eight to 12 hours of their last use. People who are addicted to heroin have to spend a lot of money to keep up with the addiction. Sometimes this leads users to spend their life savings, their children’s college funds and any other available money they can get their hands on. Some users resort to illegal means to make money to pay for their next fix, such as prostitution. The user could lose his housing and not have money to buy basic necessities such as food and clothing, which can impact the entire family.

Long-Term Health Effects

Heroin use has long-term health consequences such as heart and lung failure and liver disease. Using this drug causes a person’s immune system to lower, which can lead to poor health and medical issues such as pneumonia. Family members may have to pay expensive medical bills due to these medical complications. Also, users who share needles are at risk for contracting diseases like hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. These diseases can be managed, but they aren’t curable. Therefore, family members are impacted for life when someone contracts one of these infectious diseases.

Overdose and Death

Heroin is dangerous because it can easily lead to overdose and death. The drug attaches to opioid receptors in a person’s brain, and some of these receptors are located in the brain stem, which controls vital functions such as breathing and blood pressure.

Many heroin users die. This can cause family members to feel guilty, ashamed and depressed. It’s extremely hard for children to understand and deal with the death of a family member due to drug addiction.

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