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What are the Symptoms and Treatment for Heroin Addiction?

Facts About Heroin

  • Heroin is an illegal depressant drug synthesized from morphine that binds to opioid receptors in the brain.
  • The most abused and the most fast-acting of all the opiate drugs.
  • A white or brown powder or a black sticky substance that can be injected, snorted or smoked.
  • Sold on the street under the names Dope, Junk, Horse, Smac, Big H, Blacktar, Brown Sugar, Muc or Skag.
  • Often mixed with other drugs or materials such as powdered milk, sugar, starch, quinine or certain poisons.

Heroin Side Effects

Within seconds or minutes of using heroin, people report feeling euphoria, warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, heavy arms and legs, and blurred mental functioning. These effects are followed for several hours by alternating states of feeling awake and then drowsy.

Serious health problems can result from heroin abuse, including:

  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Bacterial infections
  • Collapsed veins
  • Pneumonia
  • Abscesses
  • Organ damage (often caused by toxic additives in street heroin)
  • Infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV

Fatal overdose is of particular concern for users of street heroin because it is impossible to know the purity of the drug or whether dangerous substances have been “cut” with heroin.

Heroin Withdrawal

With regular use, heroin users develop a tolerance to the drug and begin taking larger doses of the drug to feel high. Over time, the body gets used to the drug. If a heroin addict stops using, they can experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia or restlessness
  • Cold flashes
  • Kicking movements

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours of the last dose and typically continue for about one week. However, some heroin addicts report withdrawal symptoms that last for months and drug cravings that can be triggered by certain people, places or things even years after stopping heroin use.

Heroin Detox

Intense heroin cravings during withdrawal are often the cause of relapse when someone is trying to quit using heroin. To minimize heroin cravings and the pain of withdrawal, heroin detox programs administer medications such as methadone and Suboxone.

Medically supervised heroin detox programs are designed to help heroin addicts gradually wean off drugs and prepare to work a program of addiction recovery. Going through detox without any follow-up care is a recipe for relapse. Heroin detox is just the first step in a longer process of learning new skills and addressing the issues underlying the heroin addiction.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Heroin is highly addictive. Nearly one-quarter of people who use heroin become dependent on it. Once addicted, users will stop at nothing to get more of the drug even it means losing their job, their loved ones and everything they care about.

In most cases, outpatient or preferably residential heroin rehab is necessary to quit using heroin. Some of the most common types of treatments for heroin addiction include:

  • Medically Assisted Heroin Detox
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  • 12-Step Programs
  • Educational Lectures
  • Individual and Group Counseling
  • Family Therapy

If you or someone you know is wrestling with heroin abuse, call our free helpline today at 1-877-562-2565.

Information used with permission from CRC Health Group.