How Heroin Addiction Effects Your Body & How Counseling Can Help

Heroin is not only an incredibly strong and addictive drug but it actually begins to damage your body very soon after addiction begins. Many people do not realize that heroin can cause lasting damage to the body and, if they do, they probably do not think it starts to happen so quickly. Heroin addiction can lead to many bad choices that can impact your life in a long-term way but the addiction to the actual drug can leave lasting physical symptoms. Whether you are addicted for a couple of months, years or decades, you are doing permanent damage. Heroin addicts use heroin in a many different ways – injection, sniffing, snorting, smoking, or speedballing – and the different ways of use produce different negative health effects.

Heroin enters the human brain very quickly and binds to opioid receptors which is one of the major reasons that heroin addiction can cause lasting brain damage. Ultimately, heroin addiction can literally rewire receptors in the brain which is one reason why heroin addicts struggle to get clean. Heroin addiction can lead to brain damage that looks very similar to Alzheimer’s Disease, as studies are showing, “Researchers have found that young heroin users suffer a level of brain damage similar to that seen in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The research team from the University of Edinburgh studied the autopsied brains of 34 drug users with a history of opiate abuse – mainly heroin and methadone…They also looked at the autopsied brains of 16 people who had no history of drug abuse or neurological impairment… The study found that young drug abusers were up to three times more likely to suffer brain damage, than those who did not use drugs. The drug abusers meanwhile sustained a level of brain damage normally only seen in much older people and similar to the early stages of Alzheimer’s.”

In addition to permanent brain damage, heroin addicts can experience bad teeth, inflammation of the gums, weakened immune system, respiratory illnesses, partial paralysis, reduced sexual capacity, depression, insomnia, collapsed veins, constipation, pustules, memory loss, menstrual cycle disturbances, and more. The sooner a heroin addict can seek counseling to overcome addiction, the better. One major hurdle of overcoming addiction is the initial withdrawal period but there is far more to beating heroin addiction than that – and that is why you need an experienced and knowledgeable heroin addiction counselor. Withdrawal symptoms from opiate addiction can be incredibly difficult to manage and an addiction counselor can help walk the addict through each step of the process. Further, an addiction counselor can help work with the addict to address behavior patterns that may coincide with their substance abuse. Additionally, an addiction counselor such as Diebold Behavioral Counseling can provide support and counseling to not only the addict but their friends and family as well. This holistic approach to addiction treatment will equip the addict with the tools they need to successfully overcome heroin addiction.

Any addiction, no matter what the substance is that someone is addicted to, can and usually does leave permanent damage to someone’s health and life.  Whether you are addicted to alcohol, prescription medications, or other narcotics you are likely to experience both short-term and long-term problems.  If you or a loved one is experiencing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is critical that you do not put off counseling because an unchecked addiction could lead to more problems than just the addiction itself.

Most obviously, when an addiction is allowed to progress and counseling is not sought, a person is likely to experience many health problems.  Those health problems can include both short-term and long-term damage including brain damage, damage to major organs, birth defects in offspring conceived while addicted, damage to teeth, damage to gums, depression, insomnia, lung disease, liver disease, heart disease, heart failure, HIV, hepatitis, and much more.  The amount of health damage experienced will depend on the substance to which someone is addicted and how long the addiction lasts.  The sooner the addiction is treated, the better chance someone has of avoiding many of these health problems.

Further, if someone is experiencing addiction and does not seek counseling to overcome their addiction, they can experience many social and life problems.  Addicts often experience relationship problems, struggle to maintain friendships, lose their job, get arrested, become depressed and withdrawn and struggle to function in day to day life.  Though some of these things can be repaired down the road, permanent and irreparable damage may occur.

A qualified and experienced counselor, such as Diebold Behavioral Counseling, will help an addict address the root cause of addiction.  It is important to look at the past and what experiences have led to this point, as well as what social and behavioral patterns may be triggering substance abuse and addiction.  Seeking counseling for addiction treatment as soon as possible will give the addict the best possible chance of overcoming addiction and avoiding causing further damage to their lives and health.  Overcoming addiction is not easy and the addict needs to be both equipped and supported so that when social factors and stimuli arise, they are not triggered to relapse.  Those addiction triggers can include everyday things like stress, social settings, romantic relationships, friendships, and lifestyle.  Addiction is complex and an addict needs a wide range of tools including the ability to communicate honestly and openly, behavioral counseling, and a non-judgmental support system to overcome addiction as quickly as possible.

People suffering from addiction need to tackle head-on the root cause. Only then can the individual start the recovery process in earnest. Everyone has different battles, but regardless of what exactly started a person down a detrimental route, it needs to be brought to light.

1. Helping a Person Recognize There Is a Problem

The biggest obstacle to starting the recovery process is getting the addict to even admit there is a problem. By discovering the root cause, a person is often more likely to admit to the underlying dependency. One of the most important shifts an addict can make is going from denial to admitting a willing to change.

2. Discovering Relevant Treatment Options

Many people develop an addiction due to stress. This can stem from work or from family. Either way, the person needs to recognize something is causing stress and make changes. This can involve altering the source of stress, such as finding another job that is not as demanding. However, the person may also need to find ways to better manage stress. Stress is unavoidable, but addicts can develop better habits for dealing with it.

3. Deciding Who to Let Stay in Life

Sometimes objects are not the triggers. Occasionally, it is people. When people get to the root cause of their dependencies, they realize certain individuals are more likely to cause them to engage in their vices. Realizing this can force a person to remove harmful people out of their lives permanently. It can be tough, but it is a necessary step.

4. Keeping Triggers in Check

Various triggers can result in a relapse. Common ones include:

As a person goes back and takes note of all the times he or she used, there may be realization the drug was used during certain emotional states. Being proactive about triggers can help a person avoid them going forward.

5. Finding an Addictive Personality

Many people have addictive personalities, which make them more prone to chronic drug use. If it is believed this is the source of a dependency, then more action can be done to help the person not swap out one dependency for another.

When there is a leak in a house, you have to address the broken pipe instead of just cleaning up puddles. The same idea holds true for an addiction. In order for there to be any chance for long-term success, the root causes need to be addressed.

Addiction is complex and there is no single approach or treatment that is right for everyone.  Every patient is an individual with unique circumstances, experience and needs.  But, one thing that all patients need as a component of their addiction recovery is counseling.  Though addiction recovery may begin with detox, true recovery goes far beyond that.  Navigating what triggers certain behaviors or the desire to use, potential past abuse, life circumstances, mental health issues and more are complex components of long-term addiction recovery.

Though it may feel like the “hard part” is over after detox, there are many triggers that could lead to an addiction relapse if the addict is not equipped with the proper tools and coping skills.  Once detox or rehab is complete, life’s stresses, work, family dynamics, problematic friendships or peer groups, and other hardships do not simply go away.  They are still there, day after day.  Some individuals benefit from group therapy while others need individual therapy or the combination of both.  It can be helpful to hear from other addicts about shared experiences or triggers and feel a sense of “me too.”  That feeling of not being alone in struggles and triggers can help the addict normalize their experience and understand that they are not fundamentally bad or broken.  Further, family counseling can be helpful as it can lead to restored relationships and enhanced understanding of the addict’s experience.  Often, family cannot understand why the addict makes the choices that they make or has the addiction that they have.  Family counseling led by an experienced behavioral counselor can help everyone be on the same page and begin to restore relationships so that the addict can have a better support team through recovery and in daily life.

Time after time, cognitive behavioral therapy has proven itself to be an important component of addiction recovery. WebMD explains why cognitive behavioral therapy can help support long-term, lasting addiction recovery, “Cognitive behavioral therapy — or CBT — teaches a person how to recognize moods, thoughts, and situations that stimulate drug craving. A therapist helps the person avoid these triggers, and replace negative thoughts and feelings with healthier ones that are more consistent with sobriety. The skills learned in cognitive behavioral therapy can last a lifetime, making it a potentially powerful method of drug abuse treatment. However, not all therapists are trained in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, which can be complex.”  If you or a loved one are experiencing addiction and trying to determine what the next step is for addiction recovery, seek the assistance of a trained and experienced behavioral counselor.  For the greater Phoenix and Scottsdale area, Diebold Behavioral Counseling can help get you on the right track to addiction recovery.

Drug addiction is difficult to overcome.  But, casual drug use and drug addiction are not just a problem from an addiction standpoint, drug use can actually change the chemistry of the brain.  Because drugs are a chemical, they create a chemical dependency in the brain when used regularly.  As the chemicals in the brain change, so does personality and behavior.  Changes in personality and behavior can often be one of the first signs of drug addiction or dependency so knowing what to watch for is important.

To understand how drugs affect the brain and change personality and behavior, you have to first understand how the brain works.  The National Institute of Drug Abuse explains how the brain works and how drugs interfere with normal brain behavior, “The brain is a communications center consisting of billions of neurons, or nerve cells. Networks of neurons pass messages back and forth among different structures within the brain, the spinal cord, and nerves in the rest of the body (the peripheral nervous system). These nerve networks coordinate and regulate everything we feel, think, and do…Drugs are chemicals that affect the brain by tapping into its communication system and interfering with the way neurons normally send, receive, and process information. Some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, can activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter. This similarity in structure “fools” receptors and allows the drugs to attach onto and activate the neurons. Although these drugs mimic the brain’s own chemicals, they don’t activate neurons in the same way as a natural neurotransmitter, and they lead to abnormal messages being transmitted through the network. Other drugs, such as amphetamine or cocaine, can cause the neurons to release abnormally large amounts of natural neurotransmitters or prevent the normal recycling of these brain chemicals. This disruption produces a greatly amplified message, ultimately disrupting communication channels.”

Different drugs can cause different reactions in the brain and thus create unique personality and behavior changes.  First, cocaine users often experience severe mood swings, erratic behavior, impulsivity, manic behaviors, high energy, aggression, and dishonest/secretive behavior.  Meth users tend to exhibit behaviors such as agitation and aggression, lack of empathy, depression, avoidance of others, impulsivity, and selfish behavior.  Marijuana users tend to behave irresponsibly, have difficulty with short-term memory, and may have symptoms of depression occasionally.  It can be very hard and frustrating to deal with a changed personality and strange behaviors in a loved one or friend.  But, if you believe someone you know is exhibiting these behaviors, it may be the sign of a drug addiction or dependency.  Fortunately, while those chemical changes do affect personality and behavior, by seeking treatment and recovery, the personality of your friend or loved one can return as the brain heals.

Marijuana may be an illegal drug in many states but it is also a very commonly used drug in the United States.  While other drugs are known for their addictive properties and harsh side effects, marijuana is commonly thought to be a “harmless” recreational drug.  Further, because it has been legalized in many states, access and use has grown significantly.  Though many see marijuana use as harmless and having no long-term side-effects, the research says otherwise.

Though many people have their first experience with marijuana as a teenager, studies are now showing that marijuana can have lasting effects on the brain when used by teenagers.  The American Psychological Association points out how dramatic and lasting marijuana’s impact can be on the adolescent brain which is still growing and forming, “Heavy marijuana use in adolescence or early adulthood has been associated with a dismal set of life outcomes including poor school performance, higher dropout rates, increased welfare dependence, greater unemployment and lower life satisfaction… The team found that persistent marijuana use was linked to a decline in IQ, even after the researchers controlled for educational differences. The most persistent users — those who reported using the drug in three or more waves of the study — experienced a drop in neuropsychological functioning equivalent to about six IQ points (PNAS, 2012). “That’s in the same realm as what you’d see with lead exposure,” says Weiss. ‘It’s not a trifle.’”  The study notes that brains into their mid-20s could experience lasting effects from marijuana use.

Further, the THC that is in marijuana slows the communication between receptors in the brain which essentially and can cause short-term memory loss.  These side-effects can dramatically impact an individual’s ability to function in day to day life, maintain responsibilities such as a job, and can dramatically impact relationships.  Many studies are beginning to show that heavy marijuana use can also lead to long-term memory impairment.  To write off marijuana use and the effects of THC as being harmless is irresponsible and reductive.  If you are struggling with a drug addiction or marijuana dependency, seek help from an experienced addiction counselor who understands what you are going through.  At Diebold Behavioral Counseling, you will be met with a listening ear and absolutely no judgement.  We will help you address behavior patterns that may be impacting your marijuana dependency and help you find the support that you need to overcome your dependency. You can take the steps to stop using marijuana and optimize your long-term brain health.

In life, we all go through periods of emotional highs and lows.  During the winter, life tends to naturally slow down.  The days get shorter, the weather gets cold and sometimes dreary, and it makes you just want to curly up under the covers and stay there.  Though it is normal to go through peaks and valleys emotionally and mentally, if you experience symptoms of depression seasonally, you may have what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that has the same symptoms as those of major depression:  reduced energy/low energy, weight gain, difficulty sleeping, desire to be alone, feeling agitated, increased appetite, thoughts of death or suicide, feeling hopeless or worthless, loss of interest in activities you enjoy.  Though it is unknown exactly what causes SAD, it is believed to be the result of a lack of access to bright light during the winter.  There is also a higher incidence of SAD the further you move away from the equator.  Also, although it occurs in both males and females, females are at a significantly increased risk of developing SAD.  One of the key contributors to SAD is serotonin.  In those diagnosed with SAD, it has often been observed that they have difficulty regulating serotonin levels and may have decreased levels of serotonin in winter months.  They may also have increased melatonin (regulates sleep patterns) and decreased Vitamin D.

If you have been experiencing symptoms of depression and are concerned you have SAD, or if you have recently been diagnosed with SAD, there are a variety of treatment options available.  Prescription medication and vitamin supplements may be prescribed as needed to help regulate serotonin and Vitamin D levels.  Additionally, many SAD patients have found that light therapy (increased exposure to bright light) has been helpful in alleviating symptoms of SAD.  And, one of the most important things that anyone should do when diagnosed with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  Therapy is an important part of relieving symptoms and finding healing from SAD.  PsychCentral reports on the research that supports the use of a combination of these treatments or CBT alone in combating SAD, “Early research has shown that CBT for seasonal affective disorder may be even more effective than light therapy (and doesn’t require the extensive time commitment as light boxes do). In this 2009 study, Rohan and colleagues compared SAD-tailored CBT to light therapy (along with a combination of both treatments and a wait-list condition). They found that CBT, light therapy and both CBT and light therapy were all effective in treating SAD. However, at the one-year followup, participants treated with CBT were doing much better than individuals in the light therapy condition. In secondary analyses, Rohan also controlled for ongoing treatment, and the CBT participants still fared better.”   Seek help to overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder from a trained and experienced CBT therapist, such as Diebold Behavioral Counseling.

Many people joke that when they become fixated on something they have “OCD.”  It is a fairly common “joke,” and yet, anyone that has OCD knows it is no laughing matter.  OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as follows, “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.”  Obsessive compulsive disorder may be something that is frustrating or it may be something that is incredibly disabling, there is a wide range.

OCD is not something that will show up in any biological tests, it is something that must be evaluated by a physician and a counselor.  A qualified mental health professional will look at common symptoms and how it impacts daily life to make a diagnosis.  Common symptoms include:

These are an assortment of potential symptoms but may include other symptoms as well.  There does appear to be a genetic link with OCD so if you know of a family member that has had OCD, you may be at a higher risk of the disorder.  Additionally, individuals that have experienced abuse or other trauma may be at an increased risk of OCD.

If you are diagnosed with OCD, you are not alone and you are not out of options or hope.  There are many ways to treat OCD as well as coping mechanisms to help you manage symptoms.  Typically, OCD is treated with prescription medication, counseling, or a combination of both.  Cognitive behavioral therapy that includes expose and response prevention can help dramatically improve the daily life of someone with OCD.  Don’t let self-doubt, guilt, or shame of your symptoms hold you back from getting the counseling that you need.  There is a difference between a “perfectionist” and someone with obsessive or excessive thoughts and behaviors. At Diebold Behavioral Counseling, you will be met with acceptance and be equipped with the tools necessary to overcome your OCD.

Understanding and communicating with your teenager can feel like a veritable minefield.  Teens are frequently closed off and moody so determining what is normal teen behavior and what could be signs of depression can be challenging.  It may be easy to dismiss certain behaviors as “typical teen behavior” but the startling reality is that depression is prevalent among teenagers and should be vigilantly watched for by parents.  The National Institute of Mental Health elaborates on just how prevalent depression amongst teenagers is, “In 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 12.5% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17.”

Everyone can experience symptoms of depression from time to time but one of the best ways that you can spot symptoms of depression is through open communication with your child.  However, we fully recognize that many teens do not know how to or want to express their emotions and feelings, particularly with their parents.  Though your teen may not want to have a long conversation about emotions and feelings (but never underestimate that they might want to!), there are other symptoms to watch for:


These are many but not all of the symptoms of depression but it clearly shows that many common symptoms could be depression or some other health concern.  It is for this reason that if you are noticing your teen is experiencing these symptoms, you should take them to see their physician right away. It will allow you to rule out whether or not something else is going on with their health.  Once you know this, you can begin to examine and discuss why your teen might be experiencing these symptoms and whether or not they are depressed.  It is important to not just see their physician but a certified behavioral counselor as well.  Seek a behavioral counselor, such as Diebold Behavioral Counseling, that is experienced in teenager depression counseling.  Potential treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy, learning of coping techniques, and prescription medication. An experienced depression counselor will be able to assist you and your teen in becoming equipped with the tools you need to overcome teenager depression.

Chest pain, sweating, pounding heart, inability to catch your breath – sounds like the symptoms of a heart attack, right?  If you are experiencing these symptoms you may not realize that you are actually having a panic attack.  Everyone experiences fear, stress, and anxiety in life.  But even intense moments of fear, stress and anxiety may look and be different than a panic attack.  When people hear about panic attacks, they think they have to arise for a specific reason.  The reality is, if you are suffering from panic attacks, they could arise for no reason at all.  They could even arise while you are asleep!  For those that suffer from panic attacks, you may know exactly what could trigger a panic attack or have absolutely no idea.  If you are unsure whether or not you are suffering from panic attacks, here are 10 common symptoms:

1. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

2. Trembling or shaking

3. Heart palpitations/racing heart

4. Feeling weak, faint or dizzy

5. Feeling of terror/sense of doom or death

6. Feeling out of control

7. Chest pain

8. Lightheadedness

9. Tingling or numbness in hands and/or feet

10. Difficulty concentrating

As you can see, the symptoms really do mirror a heart attack.  And, if you have had a panic attack you may have actually wondered if you were having a heart attack, it is truly frightening.  Not all anxiety or panic attacks will feel the same but you may experience a variety of these symptoms.  If you think you are experiencing a panic attack, or may have experienced one but aren’t sure, they typically last less than 10 minutes.  If you are or have experienced an anxiety attack, it is important to call your doctor and be evaluated to ensure nothing else is going on with your overall health.

Once you are sure that it was a panic attack, it is time to determine how to move forward with treatment and prevention to minimize or eliminate anxiety attacks.  Many people mistakenly think they can just ignore the panic attack and handle symptoms on their own.  Unfortunately, a panic disorder is not something you can just control – without the right help, attacks can intensify/worsen and increase in frequency. Treatment for panic disorder includes professional counseling with cognitive behavioral therapy.  It is important to learn what potential triggers may be leading to your anxiety attacks as well as relaxation techniques.  It can be hard to understand that anxiety attacks and panic disorder manifest like a disease.  While you may feel fear that they will keep happening, you should not feel shame. When you are experiencing anxiety attacks you have no control over the cause, frequency, intensity or anything else.  But, with proper treatment, the attacks can be reduced or even completely eliminated.  In addition to professional counseling, you may benefit from prescription medication to help you don’t allow fear and anxiety to control your life, seek counseling from a qualified and experienced professional, such as Diebold Behavioral Counseling, so that you can begin to take the steps to fully enjoying your life.