Last Updated July 23, 2020

The economic and societal costs of heroin addiction are among the most significant of any drug. The high availability and low price of the substance – coupled with the euphoric feeling users report – helps explain why the heroin epidemic seems to be worsening in America. The high risk of overdose also makes this addiction particularly dangerous. 

If you or a loved one are dealing with a substance disorder related to heroin, it’s important to seek treatment immediately. The health risks of continued use are dire, and ceasing use on your own could lead to serious withdrawal symptoms. The following guide will help you better understand heroin addiction and how to get the help you need. 

The Underlying Problem of Heroin Addiction

America experienced a reduction in heroin abuse during the late ’70s, but this trend has reversed and reached epidemic levels in the country. If you or a loved one is addicted to this dangerous drug, it’s likely that the problem started with prescription opioid use. The majority of people addicted to heroin started out by abusing legally prescribed opioids. 

Moving from prescription medications to abuse and heroin addiction is a common pattern. This occurs when people become addicted to their prescribed opioids but then either lose access or need higher doses of the substance. Many individuals simply switch to heroin due to its wide availability, lower cost and ease of obtaining. 

Like other addictive drugs, heroin works by affecting the brain. Once inside the body, the drug attaches itself to brain receptors that natural neurotransmitters would typically attach to. Dopamine is released in this process when heroin stimulates these receptors. This is the same chemical released as when your brain feels rewarded and thus creates feelings of pleasure. 

Individuals dealing with heroin addiction take the drug in a variety of ways. It can be smoked, snorted, sniffed or injected. The most well-known method of using the drug – due to its quick effect and speed in reaching the brain – is injection. Regardless of the method, though, this is a serious health risk that must be attended to. 

At Transformations Treatment Center, we can help you or your loved one build a rehabilitation plan based on what’s best for their given situation. Contact us today to start the path to recovery. 

Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

One of the chief symptoms of heroin abuse is your brain adapting to the substance. As it finds its new “norm” in high levels of the drug, the brain will reduce or cease its own production of dopamine into your body. This is how dependence and addiction begin. This symptom becomes immediately recognizable to anyone attempting to cease use on their own. 

Once the brain becomes accustomed to higher levels of dopamine from heroin abuse, it must adapt to releasing the chemical on its own again. This is where heroin withdrawal can come into play. The breathing, heart rate and sleeping patterns of an individual are likely to be affected with continued abuse of the drug. 

The following are just a few of the other symptoms of heroin addiction:

  • Damaged nasal tissue. 
  • Collapsed veins from injection. 
  • Severe constipation. 
  • Infection of the heart valve or lining. 
  • Severe mood swings. 
  • Depression. 
  • Delusions, paranoia and hallucinations.
  • Frequent respiratory infections. 

These symptoms are common for long-term heroin addiction, but there are a variety of other symptoms that are experienced in the short term. These include reduced mental function, warm sensation on the skin, the feeling of heavy limbs, dry mouth and phasing in and out of consciousness. Vomiting, nausea, and extreme itchiness are also common. 

While heroin is made from morphine, there are many other additives used to “cut” the drug. These substances could be something as simple as starch, but additional opioids could also be included. Heroin cut with fentanyl, for instance, has become a serious public health concern due to the potential for overdose. Symptoms could vary dependent on these additives.

The symptoms of heroin addiction can prove fatal, so there’s no safe level for use of the drug. Contact us at Transformations Treatment Center to learn more about how you can face and overcome this addiction successfully. 

Signs of Heroin Addiction

One of the main signs of heroin abuse is lying to friends and family members about it. This can make it extremely difficult for loved ones to know for sure whether someone has a substance abuse disorder. There are several signs that cannot be hidden, however, that friends and family should take note of. 

If you notice any of the following behaviors, your loved one may have a heroin addiction: 

  • Reduced involvement in activities they once enjoyed. 
  • Unexplained and uncharacteristic hostility toward others. 
  • Extreme irritability and agitation. 
  • Spending less times with loved ones. 
  • Weight loss. 
  • Bruises and scabs from picking their skin. 
  • Allowing personal hygiene to suffer. 
  • Possession of glass pipes, syringes, burned spoons or missing shoelaces. 
  • Lack of motivation and increased sleeping. 
  • Slurred speech.
  • Academic and occupational performance decline. 
  • Track marks on legs and arms. 
  • Wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants in warm weather. 

While these are all common signs of heroin addiction, many of these could have other explanations. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to not be accusatory. This can be used as an opportunity to begin a serious conversation. Take a look at our Family Member Support Guide for guidance on your next steps. 

Heroin Addiction Statistics

The addiction statistics related to heroin showcase the severity of this public health emergency. Even though the number of deaths linked to the drug has seen a decrease in recent years, there are still around 15,000 annual fatalities related to heroin abuse. And while a reduction in deaths is a positive step, overdose mortality is still around seven times higher than in 1999. 

One of the biggest problems with heroin addiction is that countless factors can affect its prevalence. During the coronavirus pandemic, for instance, physicians and researches saw spikes in overdose emergency calls and deaths. The depression, stress and isolation brought on by social distancing was a big part of this increase. 

Even before a pandemic led to spikes in substance abuse, the amount of Americans using the drug was already on the rise. The number of people trying heroin for the first time in a year nearly doubled between 2006 and 2016, and close to 1 million individuals admitted to using the drug within the past year. 

Heroin addiction also has more than just an individual cost. It’s estimated that abuse of the drug costs America over $50 billion yearly. This shows that substance abuse involving heroin isn’t some faraway problem confined to an unlucky few. If heroin use is destroying your life or family, contact us today at Transformations Treatment Center for guidance moving forward. 

Heroin Addiction Treatment

The number of people who die from heroin is a public health nightmare, but no individual has to become part of this statistic. The first step in treatment is going through a detoxification program. Many people avoid quitting because they fear withdrawal, but you’re more likely to die from an overdose than from withdrawal symptoms. 

This should alleviate some of your nervousness, but it’s important to realize that withdrawal symptoms are still likely to occur. These could include convulsions, hallucinations, seizures and dehydration. You could also experience yawning, muscle aches, restlessness, sweating and extra tears. Mental symptoms such as aggression and irritability are also common. 

Finding the right detox program can help you manage withdrawal symptoms. Going through this process in a controlled setting – such as a treatment center – will ensure that professionals can monitor your detox program for increased safety. This increases your likelihood of overcoming heroin addiction, and once the drug is out of your body, you can start the recovery process. 

Heroin Addiction Recovery

Detoxification isn’t enough when it comes to recovering from heroin dependence. You must be able to address the factors that led to the problem in the first place, and identifying triggers that can lead to abuse becomes an essential step towards sobriety. The right treatment program can help you identify co-occurring mental health disorders that may contribute to the issue. 

Focusing on recovery is especially important when ceasing heroin use. This is because your body will no longer have a tolerance to the drug once you detox. Individuals who use their typical amount after quitting are more likely to overdose. This makes an aftercare program necessary to ensure your safety. 

Once heroin detox is complete, rehab treatment programs can help you stay on the path to recovery. At Transformations Treatment Center, you’ll find options such as partial hospitalization, outpatient programs, group therapy and intensive outpatient programs. The effectiveness of recovery plans can differ by individual, so finding the route that works best for you is imperative. 

Once rehab treatment has concluded, ongoing support is provided via aftercare. In fact, the Transformations Alumni Services team stays in contact with all former clients indefinitely. This helps to ensure open lines of communication while helping those in recovery maintain their strength in overcoming heroin addiction. 

Don’t Let Heroin Addiction Rule Your Life

Detoxifying and recovering from heroin abuse is not an easy road to travel, but doing so is essential for overall health, close relationships, and upholding your responsibilities. The prescription opioid problem in America is only worsening the reality of this addiction, and if you’ve fallen victim to its use, seeking treatment is the only way to get your life back. 

At Transformations Treatment Center, our goal is empowering you to achieve ongoing rehabilitation from your addiction to heroin. Our trained staff can help you detox safely and find a recovery plan suited to your specific needs. Heroin addiction doesn’t have to hold a place in your life, but starting the process is up to you. Contact us today to take the first step.

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