Who Answers?

Heroin Addiction

855 339 1112

How to Deal with Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a powerful and highly addictive opioid drug that is derived from the opium poppy plant. It is a semi-synthetic opioid, meaning that it is made from morphine, which is extracted from the opium poppy plant, and then further processed to create heroin.

Navigation: What is Heroin Addiction?, How Does Heroin Addiction Develop?, Why Are People Abusing Heroin?, Who Are Most Likely to Develop Heroin Addiction?, Effects of Heroin Abuse, What Are the Effects of Heroin Overdose?, Heroin Addiction Treatment, Rehab is Your Best Chance


Heroin abuse and addiction is a huge problem. In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2019, an estimated 745,000 people aged 12 or older in the United States had a heroin use disorder in the past year. This represents about 0.3% of the population aged 12 or older.

Heroin is a powerful and highly addictive opioid drug that is derived from the opium poppy plant. It is a semi-synthetic opioid, meaning that it is made from morphine, which is extracted from the opium poppy plant, and then further processed to create heroin.

Heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted, and it produces a powerful and immediate euphoric effect. However, it also has a high risk of addiction, overdose, and other serious health consequences, including respiratory depression, infections, and damage to the heart, liver, and brain.

Heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug in the United States, meaning that it is considered to have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and a lack of safety for use under medical supervision. Its use is illegal in most countries around the world.

Because drug abuse can have significant adverse effects on a person’s brain and body, it is important to understand exactly how addiction develops and how treatment usually works for someone with this condition. Let’s take a closer look.


What is Heroin Addiction?

Just like other forms of drug addiction, heroin addiction is a chronic and compulsive disorder. It is characterized by the continued use of heroin despite its negative consequences. Repeated use of heroin can lead to physical and psychological dependence, as the brain adapts to the drug and requires more of it to produce the same effects.

Contrary to popular belief, addiction is not a moral failing nor is it a sign of weakness. Addiction is a complex medical condition that involves changes in the brain and behavior that make it difficult for a person to control their substance use or engage in certain behaviors. It is not a matter of simply choosing to stop or having a lack of willpower. Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their moral character or values.

Like other diseases, substance use disorder requires medical treatment and support to overcome. Stigmatizing people with addiction as morally flawed only serves to reinforce negative stereotypes and make it more difficult for them to seek help and recover.

If you or someone you love is exhibiting the signs and symptoms of heroin abuse, start doing your research on nearby treatment facilities and the programs they offer. But before that, let’s take a closer look at how addiction develops and what you should look out for.


How Does Heroin Addiction Develop?

Just like other substances, there are multiple ways to take heroin, Some people snort heroin, while others smoke it. But even more people inject the drug directly into their veins. This is the most dangerous way to take it, but there is no safe way to take heroin anyway. In any case, injecting heroin is especially dangerous because it is the most likely method to cause an overdose. You may even catch a disease if you use a dirty needle.

Regardless of how you use it, the substance will get into your brain quickly. That’s why it’s so easy to get addicted. People can get hooked on heroin after the first few times using it. This is because heroin can give you a rush of happiness and euphoria that makes it feel like the world has slowed down. Some users say it feels like you are in a dream.

However, while this happens, your heart rate and breathing also slow down. If you overdose, it is very likely that you will stop breathing entirely.

Because people want to feel relaxed and euphoric, they start taking heroin. After their first use, they are immediately hooked. Some people try heroin for the first time out of curiosity or to cope with stress, pain, or other emotional issues.

Speaking of coping, there are people who use heroin to try and cope with their mental health disorders. They take heroin to deal with their anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc. A study found that 75% of heroin users had co-occurring mental health disorders.

With repeated use, the body can become tolerant to the effects of heroin. This means that higher doses are needed to achieve the same level of euphoria. Eventually, the body can become physically dependent on heroin. This means that withdrawal symptoms will occur if the drug is stopped abruptly. Withdrawal can occur even if you just try to reduce your dosage.

Finally, addiction develops. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior. The addicted person will lose interest in things they used to enjoy, and they will also begin to neglect their responsibilities.

Why Are People Abusing Heroin?

Addiction is thought to be caused by changes in the brain’s reward and motivation systems, which make the drug’s effects more rewarding and reinforce drug-seeking behavior. In fact, it looks like more and more people are abusing heroin in recent years along with the rise of prescription drug abuse. But why are people abusing it in the first place?

Heroin is a powerful opioid drug that creates intense pleasurable feelings and euphoria. However, these effects are short-lived, so users are encouraged to keep taking it. Repeated use of heroin can lead to physical and psychological dependence, which can make it difficult for people to stop using the drug.

Here are other reasons why people may start using heroin:

Pain relief: Heroin is often used as a painkiller, especially for chronic pain conditions that do not respond well to other treatments.

Recreation: Some people use heroin to experience the intense euphoria and relaxation it produces.

Self-medication: Heroin is sometimes used as a way to cope with emotional or psychological pain, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma.

Peer pressure: People may start using heroin because their friends or acquaintances are using it.

Regardless of the reason people start using heroin, it can quickly lead to addiction and severe health consequences, including overdose, infectious diseases, and damage to vital organs like the liver and brain.

Who Are Most Likely to Develop Heroin Addiction?

Anyone can develop a heroin addiction. However, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing heroin addiction, including genetics, history of trauma or abuse, mental health conditions, and social factors such as peer pressure or availability of the drug.

These risk factors do not mean that a person is guaranteed to become addicted at some point in the future. It only means they have a higher risk of trying heroin and getting addicted. The more risk factors you are exposed to, the bigger the chance of developing an addiction.

Research has shown that genetic factors can contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to addiction. Having a family member with a history of addiction can increase an individual’s risk of developing an addiction themselves.

The person’s childhood experiences can also have an impact on their relationship with drugs. Experiencing trauma, neglect, or abuse during childhood can increase the risk of addiction later in life.

People with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of developing heroin addiction. It is worth noting that addiction and mental health disorders commonly co-occur.

There are also several social factors that play a role in the development of addiction. Growing up or living in an environment where drug use is normalized or common can increase the risk of addiction.

Peer pressure is another social factor. Being pressured by friends or peers to use drugs can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction. Teenagers and young adults who are still forming their social connections are most vulnerable to peer pressure. They may try illicit drugs out of their desire to fit in with their peers. Having easy access to heroin, whether through friends or dealers, can also increase the risk of addiction. 

It’s important to note that not everyone who uses heroin will become addicted, but the risk is significant, and the consequences of addiction can be severe. If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, seek professional help from a qualified healthcare provider.

Effects of Heroin Abuse

Heroin abuse can cause a variety of adverse physical and mental health effects.

The short-term effects of heroin use include: flushed skin, heaviness in the arms and legs, euphoria, upset stomach, vomiting, itching, and a fuzzy brain. Some people also experience switching in and out of drowsiness.

Heroin can cause physical changes in the body, including slowed breathing, constipation, and dry mouth. It can also lead to decreased appetite and sexual dysfunction.

Heroin use can also cause significant mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and paranoia. In severe cases, it can even lead to psychosis, which is a serious mental disorder characterized by delusions and hallucinations.

Heroin abuse also has long-term effects such as insomnia, collapsed veins, skin infections, liver disease, heart disease, kidney disease, mental health disorders, lung diseases, menstrual problems, miscarriage, and withdrawal.

Heroin is very addictive. Taking a lot of heroin will get your body to build up a tolerance to it. Eventually, whenever you try to lower your intake or quit heroin, you will instead experience intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include: jitters, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, bone pain, muscle pain, insomnia, cold flashes, and leg movements you can’t control.

Beyond these physical and mental health effects, heroin use can also cause problems at work, home, and school. Addicted individuals struggle with strained relationships, difficulties at work, and even problems with the law as they engage in risky behaviors.

By far one of the most dangerous effects of heroin abuse is the risk of overdose. Heroin overdoses can be fatal and are often caused by the drug’s ability to depress the central nervous system and slow down breathing.

What Are the Effects of Heroin Overdose?

Between 2010 and 2017, the opioid overdose death rate rose nearly 400%. Some of these deaths had something to do with the fact that heroin is being laced with other drugs like Fentanyl, which is itself a powerful painkiller.

An overdose of heroin can have serious and potentially fatal consequences. Here are some of the effects of heroin overdose:

Depressed respiration: Heroin can slow down breathing, and an overdose can cause breathing to become shallow or stop altogether.

Coma: In severe cases of heroin overdose, the person may slip into a coma.

Pinpoint pupils: Heroin can cause the pupils to constrict, and an overdose can cause them to become very small or pinpoint in size.

Bluish skin: An overdose of heroin can cause the skin to turn blue due to lack of oxygen.

Nausea and vomiting: Heroin overdose can cause the person to feel nauseous and vomit.

Convulsions: In rare cases, heroin overdose can cause seizures or convulsions.

Death: In severe cases, heroin overdose can lead to death.

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect someone has overdosed on heroin. Timely treatment can save a life.

Naloxone is a medication that is used to block the effects of a heroin overdose. It is administered by paramedics and health care providers to save the lives of people experiencing an overdose. It also comes in measured doses as an auto-pen, or as a nasal spray.

In any case, you need to seek treatment right away if someone is exhibiting the symptoms of heroin overdose. Call 911 or get them to the ER right away.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Treatment for heroin addiction typically involves a combination of behavioral therapies, medications, and support from family and friends. It can be a difficult process, but recovery from heroin addiction is possible with the right treatment and support.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a treatment approach that involves using medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Medications may be used to slowly wean your body off heroin and reduce your cravings. Methadone and buprenorphine work in a similar way to heroin, binding to cells in your brain called opioid receptors. They can block these receptors so that heroin does not have any effect. These drugs are also safer and longer-lasting than heroin.

MAT is often combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.

There are also many different types of behavioral therapies that can help people with heroin addiction modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use. These therapies help them identify toxic behaviors and recognize the root causes of their addiction. During treatment, they learn healthy coping skills that they can use to maintain their sobriety.

Examples of behavioral therapies for heroin addiction include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, and motivational interviewing. Most patients need the help of a mental health professional to deal with co-occurring mental illnesses.

Additionally, support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide a supportive community of people in recovery who share their experiences, struggles, and successes.

Heroin addiction treatment may be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting. In some cases, people with heroin addiction may benefit from inpatient or residential treatment, where they can receive intensive treatment in a controlled environment. Meanwhile, some people benefit more from an outpatient approach where they can still keep up with their responsibilities outside of rehab while receiving treatment.

Inpatient treatment is more intensive and structured while outpatient treatment is more flexible. This is why the latter is recommended for people with mild to moderate addiction.

Here are other important considerations when choosing an addiction treatment program for your loved one:

Medical monitoring: Individuals undergoing MAT require regular medical monitoring to ensure that the medication is effective and not causing any adverse effects.

Peer support: Peer support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can provide a supportive environment and a sense of community for individuals in recovery.

Holistic approaches: Holistic approaches such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices can help individuals manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues that may contribute to their addiction.

Aftercare support: After completing a heroin addiction treatment program, individuals often need ongoing support to maintain their recovery. This can include ongoing therapy, support groups, and other resources to help them avoid relapse.

It’s important to note that the most effective treatment approach will vary from person to person. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to heroin addiction treatment, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Treatment should be tailored to the individual’s specific needs, and ongoing support and monitoring are essential for long-term success.

A combination of different approaches may be necessary for successful recovery. A healthcare professional can help determine the best treatment plan for an individual based on their specific needs and circumstances.

Look for an addiction treatment facility near you today and find the treatment plan that works best for you and your specific needs. Get started on your recovery journey today.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



author avatar
Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

Addiction Treatment Centers For
Drugs, Alcohol and Prescription Drug Abuse

Call Now