What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a powerful and highly addictive opioid drug. Heroin is made from seeds that are found in the opium poppy plant. Heroin usually comes in a white or brown powder, or a sticky black substance known as black tar heroin. Heroin addiction is very dangerous and can have many adverse effects on someone’s life. 1
What Is Heroin Addiction?
Heroin addiction is characterized by frequent abuse of heroin, usually when someone takes it in high doses. Someone who is addicted to heroin will continue using the drug despite the negative consequences it might be having in their life.
Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
It isn’t always easy to spot addiction signs or know if someone is struggling. Oftentimes, those who are addicted to heroin may try to cover up the fact that they are struggling. However, there are some common heroin addiction signs and symptoms that you can look for to get them the necessary help needed to recover. Signs of heroin use may be psychological, physical, or social.
Psychological Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
The mental and emotional effects of heroin can create many hardships for those who struggle with heroin substance abuse. This is due to the psychological effects of heroin and how it affects the mind and brain chemistry. Common psychological effects of heroin addiction include:
- Feelings of shame, guilt, and depression
- Hopelessness and despair
- Poor judgment
- Confusion and disorientation
Physical Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
Heroin’s effects on the body can also impact someone’s life greatly. Common physical heroin effects on the body include:
- Significant and unintentional weight loss
- Exhaustion and lethargy
- Bruising or scabbing of the skin
- Sleep problems
Social Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
Heroin addiction can also significantly impact someone’s social life. Common social effects of heroin include:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Unprovoked outbursts of anger
- Strained or ruined relationships
Why Are More People Using Heroin?
There are many reasons why more people are using heroin. The opioid epidemic has been an ongoing problem in the United States for many decades now. Many people who develop an opioid substance abuse disorder start with prescription opioid painkillers and then transition into using heroin because heroin is cheaper to purchase recreationally.
Abuse of other drugs can also make someone more likely to abuse heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who struggle with an alcohol use disorder are twice as likely to abuse heroin as well, and people who struggle with marijuana abuse are three times as likely to abuse heroin.2
What Happens to Your Brain When You Use Heroin?
When you use heroin, it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. Due to the high potency of heroin, when it enters the brain, it releases high amounts of dopamine and other chemicals in the brain that create feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief.3
What Happens to Your Body When You Use Heroin?
When heroin is used, it quickly creates reactions throughout the body. Within seven to eight minutes of using heroin, there will be a rush of euphoric sensations throughout the body. Heroin may also cause relaxation of the limbs and pain relief. Many negative and uncomfortable symptoms can occur immediately from heroin use, including:4
- Constricted pupils
- Decreased heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Flushing of the skin
- Intense itching
- Limbs feeling heavy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Significantly slowed breathing
- Slurred speech
Some of these risks of heroin use can be dangerous and may lead to further health complications or fatalities if an overdose occurs.
How is Heroin Addiction Diagnosed?
When you receive a heroin addiction diagnosis from a doctor or drug treatment provider, they will typically use the DSM-5 criteria to determine if you are struggling with a substance use disorder. The DSM-5 has eleven criteria that can be used as heroin addiction signs or signs of other substance abuse. If someone is addicted to heroin, they will likely meet two or more of the criteria under the DSM-5.
Risk Factors of Heroin Addiction
Many risk factors can make someone more likely to develop an addiction to heroin. If someone falls under any of these risk factors, it’s important to look for the warning signs of heroin abuse if you think they may be struggling with an addiction. Common heroin addiction or abuse risk factors include:
- Family history of addiction
- Mental health issues
- Exposure to trauma
- Growing up in an environment surrounded by drug use
- Peer pressure
Heroin Addiction Effects
Heroin addiction can have many short and long-term effects on someone’s health and well-being. If someone is showing signs of heroin use, it’s important to get them immediate help to avoid any negative long-term effects of heroin addiction.
Short-Term Effects of Heroin
Common short-term effects of heroin include:
- Arms and legs that feel heavy
- Upset stomach and vomiting
- A fuzzy brain
Long-Term Effects of Heroin
Common long-term effects of heroin addiction include:
- Collapsed veins
- Infections of your heart lining and valves
- Liver and kidney disease
- Mental disorders
Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal
Heroin addiction and withdrawal symptoms can have many adverse effects if someone doesn’t receive the proper treatment. Help for heroin addiction is available, and proper heroin addiction treatment can help you avoid many of these negative symptoms.
Those who struggle with heroin addiction will likely take high doses of the drug on a frequent basis. Taking high doses of heroin is dangerous and can lead to overdose. Symptoms of a heroin overdose include5 :
- A blue tint on lips and fingertips
- Constricted pupils
- Pale skin
- Shallow breathing
- Trouble speaking
If someone is experiencing any of these overdose symptoms, they must get immediate medical attention. You should call 911 immediately at the first sign of overdose and inform paramedics that a heroin overdose may have occurred so they can provide the right treatment for the individual’s needs.
When someone has a heroin substance abuse disorder and suddenly stops taking it, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal are:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Bone and muscle pain
- Trouble sleeping
Heroin withdrawal help is available, and you don’t have to go through it alone. Drug treatment centers can provide you with heroin withdrawal help and help you every step of the way as you work toward recovery from heroin addiction.
Heroin Addiction Treatment at Great Oaks Recovery Center
If you or someone you care about is struggling with heroin addiction, Great Oaks Recovery Center can help. Heroin addiction treatment programs at Great Oaks will help you every step of the way as you work towards recovery. Knowledgeable and friendly staff members know how to provide guidance throughout the treatment process to get you the best possible results.
Pharmacological treatment may be used during heroin addiction treatment. Certain medications have been proven to be effective during heroin addiction treatment and can help prevent or ease withdrawal symptoms. Common medications used during heroin addiction treatment are methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine.
Behavioral health treatment is also an important part of the addiction treatment process so you can build life skills and create more positive behavioral patterns that lead to long-term sobriety.
Individual therapy involves working one on one with a behavioral therapist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most common therapeutic treatment used for addiction recovery. Cognitive-behavioral treatment will help you learn how your thoughts affect your behaviors. Over time, you can learn how to manage your thoughts and behaviors on your own, creating more positive behavioral patterns.
Group therapy may also be used during the addiction treatment program. Group therapy activities allow you to work with others and build a sense of community during treatment. Group therapy will help you share and learn from others who have similar experiences as you work together toward a common goal.
During treatment, contingency management may also be used to provide incentives or goals for reaching certain milestones. This makes the treatment process feel more rewarding and gives clients a sense of continued progress along the way.