Heroin Addiction

Heroin is an opioid deriving from morphine, which comes from the poppy plant. Like other opioids, heroin is highly addictive, and its use can result in fatalities. Heroin is used recreationally and is most commonly ingested in several ways, among them insufflation, injection, and inhalation. Heroin addiction is one of the culprits of the growing opioid epidemic that has plagued the United States in recent years. Also, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths occur as a result of heroin addiction.

Heroin is becoming less pure, especially when it is in powder form. A lot of the heroin nowadays is being cut with potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil, which are not intended for human consumption at all.



What Is Heroin?

Heroin (chemical name diacetylmorphine) is a habit-forming narcotic analgesic. Repeated heroin use changes the physical structure of the brain, meaning it causes both neurological and hormonal disparity. Long-term heroin effects are not easily reversible; however, many tools are available to overcome heroin addiction.

Heroin addiction is the result of an increase in tolerance and dependence of heroin, or other opioids which lead the individual to use heroin. Either way, heroin use is dangerous, and it can lead to severe consequences in the blink of an eye.

This drug immediately attaches itself to the opioid receptors in the brain and activates them, causing an influx of pleasure, relief, and suppression of all functioning in the body.

Heroin is both physically and psychologically addictive. Most of the time, heroin use causes an intense rush, which is often the feeling sought after the initial use of heroin and even after continuous use.

Although heroin use might initially be pleasant, the long-term consequences of heroin addiction on the brain alone can be alarming. The prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobe of the brain are highly affected by long-term heroin use. The effects of heroin on these parts of the brain consist of:

  • A poor ability to recognize the extent of one’s behavior
  • Lack of emotions
  • Impaired memory
  • Inability to make rational decisions
  • Inability to effectively reason, make plans, or problem solve
  • Decrease in the ability to see beyond the present
  • Inability to complete tasks or create new ones
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Heroin also comes in numerous forms—powder or black tar. One is no different from the other; they are both highly addictive and dangerous. A number of names are associated with the word “heroin,” and a few alternative names for the substance are:

  • Smack
  • H
  • Boy
  • Horse
  • Tar
  • Dope
  • Junk
  • Scag
  • D
  • Mexican mud

What Are the Signs of Heroin Addiction?

Heroin addiction is relatively easy to spot, especially if you or someone you know has been using for an extended period. However, if you or someone you suspect is addicted to heroin is just beginning to show signs, it might be challenging, but it is possible to recognize before it is too late.

Every individual suffering from heroin addiction will show similar signs, all of which can lead to various negative consequences. If you or someone you know might be struggling with heroin addiction, you may notice signs such as:

  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea
  • Less active and alert
  • Delayed reaction
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Nodding out (intervals of being asleep and awake)
  • Needle marks or bruising on the skin
  • Infections
  • Skin that appears gray
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sunken eyes
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Inability to keep up with responsibilities
  • Financial issues
  • Legal Troubles
  • Collapsed veins / Abscess
  • Diseases such as Hepatitis C or HIV
  • Paraphernalia
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom or isolated areas
  • Increase depression
  • Isolation
  • Unreliability
  • Stealing (missing items)
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Red nose

Heroin is known to cause physical withdrawal symptoms that can help you determine if someone you know is using heroin. Heroin withdrawal signs include:

  • Agitation
  • Edginess
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Increased joints and/or muscle pain
  • Cravings
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Depression
  • A runny nose
  • Excessive yawning

If you are actively using heroin, the risks are much higher if you are undergoing heroin withdrawal. Withdrawal is not deadly; however, using increases the chance of experiencing an overdose due to the cutting agents that are in circulation in the illicit heroin market.

What Is Involved in Heroin Addiction Treatment?

Heroin addiction is treated in various ways. The most effective is the treatment process. It consists of medical detox, inpatient (residential), and outpatient programs. There also are other forms of heroin addiction treatment such as the use of buprenorphine along with therapy or 12-step support groups. However, since heroin withdrawal is both physically and psychologically severe, the beginning stage of treatment should consist of detox.

A detoxification program lasts anywhere from 3 to 10 days. During this process, you will be given a buprenorphine (Suboxone) taper along with other medications to ease symptoms of withdrawal. You also will be surrounded by medical professionals and other individuals undergoing similar struggles.

Detox is beneficial because you are in a safe environment. This is particularly important in case an emergency arises during the withdrawal period. In the detox setting, you or your loved one will be surrounded by constant support to help suppress the psychological aspect of heroin addiction and withdrawal. You can detox from heroin “cold-turkey” although it is strongly discouraged, and it might not be as pleasant as detoxing in a medical facility. Also, the success rate of detox and following through with an inpatient program is much higher the Suboxone maintenance and 12-step meetings, especially in early recovery.

The next step in the treatment process is attending a residential program. Residential treatment programs give you an opportunity to treat the underlying issues associated with heroin addiction. Residential programs can last anywhere from 30 days to 90 days, and they consist of:

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  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Constant surveillance
  • Separation from drugs or dangerous environments
  • Surrounded by support at all times
  • Relapse prevention
  • Addiction or mental health education

The success rates of attending an inpatient program in a residential setting after detox is high and the tools obtained from participating in this kind of program are everlasting.

After a residential treatment stay, it is recommended that people in recovery continue treatment with an outpatient program in conjunction with attending 12-step meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous. Outpatient treatment usually lasts up to eight weeks. Participants typically are required to attend one to three days of therapy a week for a couple of hours. This can help you stay accountable while adjusting to life in sobriety outside of a treatment center.

How Dangerous Is Heroin?

Heroin addiction is highly dangerous and can result in negative consequences, including overdose and death. This drug is extremely potent, especially when it is being cut with agents that are much more potent than morphine and not intended for human consumption.

Tolerance and dependence develop quickly when it comes to heroin use, resulting in the need for more of the drug to achieve the desired effects. This becomes dangerous when fentanyl or carfentanil are involved; in many cases, users may not realize the substance they are buying is cut, and they also may use more of the drug than they would if they had no tolerance. Since not many heroin addicts test their drugs, they end up overdosing or dying from using too much heroin that has been cut.

Although there are overdose reversal drugs such as Narcan, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reverse an overdose caused by powerful synthetic opioids.

Heroin has a strong physical and psychological hold on all who use it. It consumes you and eventually strips you of everything you have known to be true. It is also common for people with heroin addiction to get caught up with the law due to the need for more money to support their habit, leading to one or more criminal charges due to heroin addiction.

Heroin is also used in conjunction with other drugs, like cocaine. This leads to an increase in risks associated with the use of heroin along with having to deal with the symptoms of multiple drug addiction. Also, the use of heroin and other substances take a major toll on the brain and body, which make take a long time to recover from.

Heroin Abuse Statistics

The opioid epidemic is sweeping the United States with no end in sight. The alarmingly high numbers of overdose deaths, money spent on treatment, and the rising number of individuals using heroin or other opioids are far beyond what the U.S. has ever seen.

The number of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2015 totaled to more than 52,000 people; more than 12,000 involved heroin, and that number is rising.

The availability of heroin is also at an all-time high in the United States. More people seek treatment for heroin addiction more than any other illicit drug.

Start Your Journey to Recovery Today

Heroin addiction affects thousands of people in the United States alone. It is also one of the leading causes of death today. Don’t become another statistic—there is help available.

Pathway to Hope can help you find the right treatment program to suit your individual needs. Our trained professional staff is available 24/7 to assist you with any questions or concerns about addiction and where to find help. It’s never too late to regain control of your life—why wait?

If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, call (844) 557-8575 now.