Heroin Addiction and Abuse

Heroin is one of the most dangerous and addictive substances known to man. It’s a relatively inexpensive drug, but those who become addicted can spend hundreds of dollars a day on the habit.

Understanding Heroin

Heroin is a highly addictive painkiller synthesized from morphine, which comes from the seeds of the poppy plant. Because poppy plants are used to make opium, any drugs derived from them are considered opiates. Heroin and morphine are both opiates.

Approximately four million Americans have tried heroin at least once in their lifetime. Symptoms of prolonged heroin use can include severe itchiness, depression and collapsed veins.

Addiction to Heroin

Needing larger doses of heroin to get high, or starting to inject the drug, are strong indications of an addiction. Once addicted, what may have once seemed like a cheap way to have fun, becomes a necessary habit to function in day-to-day activities.

Some signs that an addiction has formed include:

  • Continuing use despite heroin-related problems
  • Trying and failing to quit or cut down use
  • Having persistent cravings
  • Building a tolerance to heroin
  • Experiencing withdrawal or feeling “junk sick”

“I ended up using heroin for about 5 years, sniffing it. But I was seeing all the people I was hanging out with who shot it totally jammed, and I was basically feeling normal [because] I now built a tolerance. I was now using heroin, a $150 a day habit, to feel normal.” – Michael D., in recovery from heroin and other drugs

What Does Heroin Look Like?

Not all heroin looks the same. It comes in several different forms and can be abused in several different ways, including snorting, smoking, and injecting.

Fine white powder

This is the purest form of heroin.

Brown or black powder

This form of heroin gets its color from additives and is more common than pure heroin.

Black tar heroin

This form of heroin comes as a black sticky gel.

Heroin Effects

Heroin users have described the drug’s high as an intense feeling of well-being. Injecting heroin causes the user to experience a rush from the drug reaching the brain quickly.

The rush from intravenous heroin use lasts about two minutes. Intravenous users have likened the rush to an orgasm in terms of pleasure. As heroin travels through the bloodstream, the high lasts for four to five hours.

The general effects of using heroin include:

  • Contentment
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Relieved tension
  • Drowsiness
  • Apathy

The effects of heroin can seem harmless to those who are experimenting with the drug. What may seem like harmless or occasional heroin use often turns into an addiction because tolerance builds quickly. As the user increases their doses, they are at a greater risk of fatal heroin overdose.

Signs of a heroin overdose include:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Tongue discoloration

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Heroin is one of the most addictive substances in existence, and an addiction to this drug is hard to overcome without help. If you or someone you care about is suffering from a heroin addiction, find treatment and support that can help.

Signs of Heroin Use

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs available. No one intends on becoming addicted to heroin. It can be hard to detect when someone is using heroin because many users are good at hiding it.

Signs of heroin use include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Constricted “pinpoint” pupils
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Secretive behavior
  • Changes in appearance
  • Lack of motivation
  • Extreme drowsiness or nodding off
  • Financial problems, borrowing money
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The Dangers of Heroin

Most people know that heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs because of its addictive potential. There are many short- and long-term effects of the drug with indirect risks that can be life-threatening. One such risk is contracting the HIV or hepatitis viruses.

Other symptoms of heroin addition include:

  • Anxiety
  • Blackouts
  • Jaundice
  • Mood swings
  • Shallow breath
  • Liver dysfunction

If you or someone you love is struggling with a heroin problem, get in touch with us now for help.

Questions about treatment?

Call now to be connected with a compassionate treatment specialist.

Recognizing a Heroin Addiction

Due to its physically and psychologically addictive qualities, experimenting with heroin can quickly lead to addiction. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual outlines 11 signs that are indicative of an addiction to heroin. These include using more heroin than intended, developing a tolerance to it and using it despite known negative consequences. The more symptoms of heroin abuse a person exhibits, the more severe their addiction is considered to be.

Withdrawal and Treatment

Withdrawal symptoms from heroin generally last about one week after the last time of use, but residual symptoms may last for several months. Heroin withdrawal often requires the help of a professional treatment center and medication to safely manage. Treatment centers can also offer therapy and support groups in a distraction-free environment. Find a treatment center for heroin addiction near you now.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Users begin experiencing withdrawal within twelve hours of their last heroin dose. Withdrawal from heroin may resemble those of prescription opioids. Because heroin leaves the user’s system faster than painkillers do, withdrawal comes about more quickly.

Common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Muscle aches
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Duration of Withdrawal

The length of withdrawal from heroin depends on several factors. Factors include amount of the drug and period of time the drug was used. Recovering heroin addicts may suffer post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).

The amount of the drug and period of time over which it was taken can impact how long withdrawal lasts.

Questions about treatment?

Call now to be connected with a compassionate treatment specialist.

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Days 1-2 Symptoms may begin as soon as 6 hours after the last dose. Pain will start to develop in the first day, typically muscle aches. These will intensify over the first 48 hours. Other symptoms during this period include anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, shaking and diarrhea.
Days 3-5 By the third or fourth day, withdrawal is in full swing. Symptoms during this time often include abdominal cramping, sweating, shivers and nausea/vomiting.
Days 6-7 A week is typically the end of what’s known as acute withdrawal. During this time, the common muscle aches and nausea will taper off. Physically, former users will start to feel more normal though still worn down and tired.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) Symptoms of withdrawal may continue inconsistently for months after acute withdrawal. These are caused by the neurological changes from heroin use. Common long-lasting symptoms include anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia and irritability.


Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Inpatient detoxification involves 24-hour attention from medical professionals at an addiction treatment center, increasing the odds of recovery from moderate-to-severe heroin addiction.

Whether you’ve chose an inpatient or outpatient drug rehabilitation center, tackling your heroin addiction is a great first step forward. Addiction treatment specialists are available to treat withdrawals and help you avoid relapse. Get help now finding treatment near you.

Questions about treatment?

Call now to be connected with a compassionate treatment specialist.

Get Help Now

Heroin addiction treatment is out there now. The first step is outlining your specific needs, whether it’s counseling for anxiety or other mental disorders, or treatment for a co-occurring addiction. There are also resources and rehabilitation treatments that can help you work with your budget to help pay for treatment. If you’re not sure where to start, call one of our addiction specialists now.