Heroin Abuse and Addiction: Signs & Symptoms - Addiction Answers

The United States is in the midst of an ongoing narcotics crisis. In 2018 alone, opioid overdoses were responsible for the deaths of almost 47,000 people, 2/3 of all overdose deaths that year.

While many people associate opioid and narcotic abuse with prescription painkillers, there’s an even more addictive drug in this category to be wary of. Heroin overdoses were behind a staggering 15,000 of the 47,000 deaths mentioned above, and the drug sadly continues to claim more lives every day.

What is heroin, why is it so addictive, and is there hope for people who use it? Read on to learn more.

Heroin: A Dangerous and Highly Addictive Substance

Heroin is a derivative of opium, which comes from poppy flowers. It’s also known as China White, smack, brown sugar, and H. It’s often sniffed, snorted, smoked, injected, or combined with cocaine in what’s known as a speedball.

When taken, heroin produces a fast and intense euphoric high. The drug binds to opioid receptors in your brain, reducing pain and slowing your heart rate and breathing. You may feel calm, happy, and relaxed—until the high wears off after an hour or two.

After the drug exits your system, you’ll feel a sudden crash in mood and energy, leaving you with cravings. The more you take, the more you develop a tolerance, meaning you need increasing amounts of the drug to get high. Your brain quickly becomes dependent on heroin to produce any good feelings, making it one of the most addictive drugs around.

What Is Black Tar Heroin?

Heroin comes in more than the pure, white, powdered form most people associate with it. Another variety, black tar heroin, is a version of the drug derived from morphine and other additives. It’s so named because users often inject the thick, black, tar-like liquid.

Black tar heroin is the type most associated with “track marks”, the telltale sign of long-term IV drug abuse. Most users don’t begin using heroin in this form, though, opting to smoke or snort the powdered variety.

Signs of Heroin Abuse

Because the drug is so addictive, “casual” heroin users are few and far between. It isn’t a drug people do once at a party and never again; it’s habit-forming from the start.

As such, many people who use heroin find all too quickly that it’s taken over their lives. Despite that, it’s possible to hide the existence—or at least the extent—of addiction from colleagues and loved ones for quite a while. That makes it even more important to learn the early signs of heroin dependency so you can get help before it’s too late.

Many people’s addiction begins after they’ve already become dependent on opioid painkillers. They may seem tired or fatigued all the time, lose their motivation and drive, or start engaging in secretive activities.

A bit later you may start to notice changes in their appearance. They may not keep themselves looking as nice as they once did, lose a lot of weight suddenly, or have constant bloodshot eyes and constricted pupils.

A heroin addict may lose control of their personal finances, instead funneling all their income into their drug habit. They may even borrow money from friends and family, never to pay it back. They may also start to isolate themselves from loved ones.

Physical Side Effects of Heroin

Aside from the euphoria that keeps users hooked, heroin has a number of detrimental effects on your health.

At first, users may experience constipation, fatigue, and itchiness. Paranoia and depression are also common.

If a user injects the drug intravenously, they’re at risk of contracting bloodborne diseases like Hepatitis or HIV. They can also suffer from collapsed veins and bacterial infections at the injection site. Pregnant women are at a high risk of spontaneous abortion and infant fatality.

Over time, heroin weakens your immune system, leaving you weaker to diseases of all kinds. It can also lead to permanent heart, lung, and brain damage, as well as liver disease.

Signs of Heroin Overdose

Because heroin slows down and can even stop your breathing and heart rate, someone who’s overdosed on the drug will likely be cold, clammy, and unresponsive. Their pupils will constrict into “pinpoints” that don’t respond to changes in light. You may also see drug paraphernalia nearby, such as spoons, lighters, pipes, or syringes.

If you think you or someone you know has overdosed on heroin, call an ambulance immediately. Heroin overdoses are often fatal and a fast medical response is essential. Even overdoses that don’t result in death can lead to coma or brain damage.

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

When you quit taking heroin, it takes your body a while to readjust to life without the drug. This leads to a host of withdrawal symptoms that are often compared to a severe case of the flu. Someone who quits heroin may experience any or all of the following:

  • Sudden depression and mood swings
  • Nervousness, anxiety, and tension
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Aching whole-body pain
  • Fever and cold sweats
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions
  • Insomnia
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS)

The worst heroin withdrawal symptoms end within a week for most users but can be longer or shorter based on the level of use.

While these symptoms aren’t often fatal, they’re horrible to go through and not many can get clean on their own. It’s best to go through a medical detox program or similar rehabilitation to get much-needed support through the process.

Recovery From Heroin Addiction

Once heroin has you in its grasp, it won’t let go on its own. Even so, recovery from addiction is possible with a lot of willpower and the right support system.

Heavy users or those without strong support at home will benefit most from an inpatient rehab program. People who want to tackle mental health issues along with substance abuse should look into dual diagnosis programs. Those who are lighter users and have family and friends to help them stay on track may be able to attend group therapy or an intensive outpatient program.

There isn’t one right way to recover from heroin addiction. The rehab facility you choose should be based on a combination of your needs, your budget, and where it’s located.

Finding the Best Heroin Rehab Center

If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin abuse, don’t wait any longer to get help. The journey to sobriety isn’t one you can tackle alone.

If you have questions about how to find a rehab center, how to pay for treatment, or how to take the first step, you’re in the right place. Give us a call today at (877)-555-6050 or keep reading through our website for more answers.

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