Heroin Addiction

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants.

Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants.

Heroin is a very addictive drug made from morphine, a psychoactive (mind-altering) substance taken from the resin of the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Heroin’s color and look depend on how it is made and what else it may be mixed with. It can be white or brown powder, or a black, sticky substance called “black tar heroin.”

It can be mixed with water and injected with a needle. Heroin can also be smoked or snorted up the nose. All of these ways of taking heroin send it to the brain very quickly. This makes it very addictive.

Is Heroin Addictive?

Yes, Heroin is very addictive.

Heroin enters the brain quickly, causing a fast, intense high. Using heroin repeatedly can cause people to develop tolerance to the drug, this means they need to take more and more of it to get the same effect. Eventually, they may need to keep taking the drug just to feel normal. For those who use heroin over and over again, addiction is more likely. Once a person becomes addicted to heroin, seeking and using the drug often becomes the main goal guiding their daily behaviour.

Is It Possible To Overdose On Heroin?

Every single use of heroin carries the risk of overdose, either as the dose was too strong or taken too soon after the last fix. Symptoms include loss of consciousness, a weakened pulse, shallow breaths, spasms or twitching, and a blue tinge to the mouth and/or fingertips.  A large dose of heroin depresses heart rate and breathing to such an extent that a user cannot survive without medical help.

Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

The following are among the most common psychological, physical  and social signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person has been abusing or has become dependent upon heroin:

Man with his head in his hands

Psychological symptoms of heroin addiction:

  • Feelings of shame, guilt and depression
  • Hopelessness and despair
  • Impaired ability to concentrate or focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Extremely low self-esteem and sense of self-worth
  • Mood swings
  • Angry outbursts
  • Inability to stop thinking about when, where and how you will be able to obtain your next ‘fix’
  • Suicidal thoughts

Physical symptoms of heroin addiction:

  • Significant unintentional weight loss
  • Exhaustion and lethargy
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Persistent flu-like symptoms
  • Constipation
  • Bruising or scabbing of the skin
  • Itchiness
  • Sleep problems
  • Damage to the kidneys and liver
  • Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS
  • Pneumonia and tuberculosis

Social symptoms of heroin addiction:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Associating with a new peer group
  • Drastic mood swings and unprovoked outbursts of anger
  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Legal problems including arrest and imprisonment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Social isolation

Heroin Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone is addicted to heroin and stops using it, he or she may experience extremely uncomfortable and painful withdrawal symptoms, which is why it is so hard to quit.

Those who are addicted to heroin not only become physically dependent on the substance but are also afraid to stop using for fear of the symptoms they may experience when they stop using. Withdrawal symptoms from heroin can develop as soon as a few hours after sustained use.

Someone who is withdrawing from long-term heroin abuse and dependence on the drug is at high risk of serious medical complications and should seek professional medical professionals for help where they may be admitted to a drug rehab to receive the right treatment safely.

Woman lying on the bed curled up upset

Withdrawal symptoms of heroin addiction typically include:

  • muscle and bone pain
  • cold flashes with chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • insomnia
  • restlessness
  • strong craving for the drug
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety

The symptoms of withdrawal from heroin typically start within the first four to 24 hours and peak within 36 to 72 hours.  The amount of time withdrawal symptoms last depends on the frequency of use and severity of the addiction, as well as individual factors like your overall health.

Treatment Options For Heroin Addiction

A range of treatments including medicines and behavioural therapies are effective in helping people stop heroin use. It’s important to match the best treatment approach to meet the particular needs of each individual patient.

There are 3 different approaches to helping you stop and recover from a heroin addiction these include maintenance therapy or detox and rehab

Maintenance therapy is where you will switch from heroin to a heroin substitute such as methadone and then stay on a stable dose of the substitute.

Detox is where you will switch from heroin to a heroin substitute before gradually withdrawing from the substitute through a detox process so that you are completely free from both.

Rehab is where you will attend an inpatient or outpatient facility and follow a specialist treatment plan tailored to your specific needs to address the triggers of your heroin addiction and work on coping mechanisms to combat your addiction.

Heroin Detox

Detox is the first step towards overcoming heroin and is highly recommended to detox under the supervision of professionals who are trained and can monitor you through the process of a heroin detox.  A drug detox is designed to remove all traces of heroin from your body, whilst managing the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that you will likely experience when you no longer have heroin in your system.  Once the physical side of your heroin addiction has been managed you will then be ready to commence with a rehab programme that will tackle the underlying psychological issues that fuelled your addiction.

Inpatient Rehab

Private inpatient rehab includes counselling and evaluation with the added benefit of aftercare once you have completed your treatment plan.  During inpatient treatment, you will experience rehab in an accommodated facility that protects you from the triggers and distractions of the outside world whilst accessing intensive professional therapy which addresses the underlying causes that led to your addiction.  While a heroin drug detox addresses your body's dependence on heroin, inpatient rehab will address the mental and emotional side of your addiction and is statisitcally the best long-term treatment option available.  Each individual treatment plan is designed to help modify the patient’s expectations and behaviours related to heroin use and to increase skills in coping with various life stressors.