October 24, 2023

Heroin Addiction: Signs, Effects, & Treatment

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In someone becomes addicted to heroin, their life often becomes centered around the drug. They may exhibit secretive behaviors, heightened concern about financial matters, and a willingness to neglect work and family responsibilities to obtain and use the drug. Additionally, there are distinct physical signs associated with heroin addiction, including the presence of track marks, frequent states of sedation, impaired cognitive function, and experiencing frequent flu-like symptoms. Read on to learn more about how to help someone addicted to heroin get the help they need.

How Addictive Is Heroin?

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Is heroin addictive, then? The semi-synthetic opioid is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance that has no medical utility and the potential to trigger both psychological and physical dependence.

Those who use heroin regularly often develop tolerance, meaning that they require increasingly higher doses to achieve the desired effects. This tolerance can lead to escalated drug use and is liable to accelerate the development of physical dependence. 

Heroin enters the brain rapidly, producing a euphoric rush followed by a prolonged twilight state. This quick onset of intense pleasure contributes to the drug’s high addiction potential.

Becoming addicted heroin – clinically described as opioid use disorder – can have devastating consequences, including health problems, inability to meet responsibilities, and disruptions in family, work, and social life.

Heroin use is associated with a high risk of overdose, which can be fatal. Mixing heroin with other substances like alcohol increases this risk.

When someone who is addicted to heroin tries to quit or reduce their use, they often experience severe withdrawal symptoms, reinforcing the cycle of addiction.

Signs of Heroin Addiction

Signs of heroin addiction can manifest in both physical and behavioral ways. Individuals addicted to heroin may exhibit the following signs:

Behavioral signs

If you are wondering how do people act on heroin, behavioral heroin addiction symptoms may include:

  • Secretive behavior to hide drug use.
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Changes in social circles, with a heroin addict often spending time with others who use drugs.
  • Engaging in illegal activities, including theft, to obtain heroin.
  • Rapid mood swings and irritability, especially when confronted about drug use.

Physical signs

Physical heroin addict signs can include:

  • Needle marks or track marks on the skin, indicating intravenous drug use.
  • Frequent sedation or nodding off.
  • Clouded thinking and poor decision-making.
  • Flu-like symptoms between drug doses.
image of man representing effects of heroin

Effects of Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction has a profound impact on a person’s life, health, and overall well-being. Heroin addict symptoms can be both short-term and long-term, leading to severe complications.

Short-Term Effects of Heroin

Short-term effects of heroin use usually manifest soon after taking the drug and can include the following:

  • Euphoria: People often report a rush of intense pleasure and euphoria, which is one of the immediate effects of heroin use. This intense high is the main reason why people are drawn to the drug.
  • Physical sensations: Heroin use can lead to flushed skin, a heavy feeling in the arms and legs, and a dry mouth. These physical sensations contribute to the overall experience of using the drug.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Some people may experience nausea and vomiting as a short-term effect of heroin use, especially upon initiation or when taking a higher dose than normal.
  • Severe itching: Heroin can cause severe itching, which can be uncomfortable. Itching often leads to excessive scratching and broken skin.
  • Clouded mental functioning: Some people may experience clouded mental functioning, which can impair their ability to think clearly and make rational decisions.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin

Long-term heroin use can have severe and lasting consequences on health and well-being:

  • Physical health deterioration: Prolonged heroin use can lead to deteriorated dental health, including damaged teeth and gum swelling. Individuals may also experience severe constipation, which can be both uncomfortable and harmful.
  • Weakened immune system: Heroin use can weaken the immune system, making people more susceptible to various diseases and infections. This increased vulnerability can have life-threatening implications.
  • Mental health effects: Long-term heroin use can have profound mental health effects, including severe depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. These mental health issues can persist even after someone stops using the drug.
  • Brain changes: Repeated heroin use can cause structural and physiological changes in the brain, leading to imbalances in neuronal and hormonal systems. Some studies suggest deterioration of the brain’s white matter, which can affect decision-making abilities and behavior regulation.
  • Social and legal consequences: Heroin addiction often leads to social isolation, strained relationships, legal problems, and financial difficulties, further deteriorating a person’s overall quality of life.

Heroin addiction is a serious medical condition that requires professional treatment and support to overcome. The long-term effects can be devastating, although they can be mitigated by early intervention and evidence-based treatment.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a complex and chronic condition, but effective treatments are available. Treatment for heroin addiction normally involves a combination of medications and behavioral therapy. 

Medications

There are three main types of medications used in the treatment of heroin addiction:

  1. Agonists: Opioid agonists are medications that activate the body’s opioid receptors and help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is an opioid agonist used in heroin addiction treatment.
  2. Partial agonists: Partial opioid agonists also activate opioid receptors but produce a milder response than agonists. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist often used in the treatment of opioid use disorder.
  3. Antagonists: Opioid antagonists block opioid receptors, disrupting the euphoric effects of opioids. Naltrexone is an antagonist used to treat heroin addiction.

Behavioral therapy

Counseling and behavioral therapy are essential components of heroin addiction treatment. Behavioral therapy helps people address the psychological aspects of addiction, learn coping strategies, and develop life skills to maintain recovery.

Support groups

Group therapy and support groups, such as NA (Narcotics Anonymous), provide individuals with a sense of community and peer support. These groups can be valuable in maintaining long-term recovery.

Medical management

Medical professionals monitor individuals throughout treatment to adjust medications and therapies as needed, ensuring the best possible outcome.

Holistic approaches

Some treatment programs incorporate holistic approaches, including mindfulness, yoga, and meditation, to promote overall well-being and stress management.

Long-term follow-Up

Long-term follow-up and aftercare can mitigate relapse. Ongoing support and monitoring help individuals maintain their heroin addiction recovery and address any challenges that may arise.

Heroin addiction treatment should be tailored to individual needs and may vary in intensity and duration. Seeking professional help and engaging in a comprehensive treatment program can significantly improve the chances of successful recovery from heroin addiction.

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Call Our Addiction Hotline Now to Get Help with Heroin Addiction

Whether you or a loved one requires assistance with heroin abuse and addiction, call our 24 hour addiction hotline for immediate assistance.

Making a call today is the first pivotal step toward long-term recovery, so reach out and consult our addiction specialists in complete confidence by calling 855-701-0479.

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