Heroin Overdose

Heroin Overdose, is it an epidemic or a national crisis?

Heroin overdose has claimed many lives in many cities across the US. On average, Cincinnati has four overdose reports per day, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, and usually no more than 20 or 25 in a given week. Almost every city in the US. Heroin overdose is a life-threatening situation and leads to sudden death.

How heroin overdose kills?

Well, when we are asleep we must to continue to breath to be alive. When we breath we take oxygen, and get rid of carbon dioxide. When we are asleep, we temporarily stop breathing. When this happens, oxygen levels decrease and carbon dioxide level increases in the blood. This changes the blood chemistry stimulate the respiratory center (breathing center) in the base of the brain to stimulate the diaphragm (the muscle wrapping around the base of your thorathic cage) to contract. By doing so your theoretic cage deflate and then inflates to allow air to come in to your lung by negative pressure. This flow of air carries oxygen to the blood and get ride of the carbon dioxide levels. The blood chemistry is back to normal again. This step repeats itself thousands of time when you are asleep. Heroin as an opioid containing drug has a strong suppressive effect on the brain stem respiratory centers. In other words, the brain centers are asleep and not on guards to protect your body from the changes in your chemistry. The oxygen levels keep dropping down and the carbon dioxide levels keep rising quickly and your brain is not responding. The blood chemistry changes drastically and eventually lead to shutting down every other vital operation in your body. Sudden death becomes inevitable unless the breathing centers get to be reactivated again. Using naloxone could reverse the effects the opioid had on the brain breathing centers and allow them to regain their function ONLY if naloxone was administered on time before other body vital functions are shut down. The higher the purity of the heroin, the addition of other strong opioid containing drugs such as fentanyl, or mixing heroin with other brain centers suppressive agents the higher the chance of overdose that leads to sudden death.

Potential Causes for the current heroin epidemic:

  • Paradigm Shift: shutting down the doors on the misuse of the “pain Killers”, led to the major shift in heroin use and eventually the overdose.
  • Lack of comprehensive, well integrated health care models that address addiction from biological, social and psychological aspects. Additionally, the compromised physical and mental health and the judicial and financial status in some of the heroin addicts make it harder to have “one size fits all” kind of model. This rigid framework lacks the accommodation, flexibility and individuation of every addicts. This incompetent system of health care delivery leads to very frequent relapses, which is a perfect time for the overdose and death due to the brain over sensitivity to opioid stimulation.
  • Societal Stigma and stereotype: This leads to the heroin users to hide everywhere and not to actively seek treatment. The poor management of heroin use on their own and the development of tolerance to heroin use justifies the constant need to increase the dose of heroin to get the same effect or to minimize the withdrawal symptoms. In this pursuit of dealing with the tolerance issue, the breathing centers get to be shut down.