Drug Use

What is heroin?


Heroin is a powerful pain-killing illicit drug derived from the opium poppy plant. It is produced from morphine, one of the biologically active components of opium.

Heroin is administered in three ways: smoking, snorting, or shooting (injecting). Because it enters the brain quickly, heroin addiction develops rapidly, often within a few uses.

How heroin addiction develops.

Repeated heroin use leads to tolerance, or the need to use larger amounts to obtain the same effects. Heroin addiction occurs when users require regular and increasing doses in order to function normally in daily life.

Signs of heroin use.

Heroin abuse invariably leads to serious drug problems. At first, using heroin induces feelings of euphoria followed by pleasant drowsiness. Initial highs lasts about four to six hours. Once a heroin user develops a tolerance, however, highs last only two to four hours. After that, the heroin user needs another “fix” to maintain the desired effect.

Immediate signs of heroin use high include warm, flushed skin, dry mouth, heavy limbs, and euphoria. With time, heroin causes abusers to alternates between wakeful and drowsy states, at which point nausea and constipation may occur. Occasionally, when consumed in large doses, heroin can suppress breathing to the point of death.

Long-term health risks associated with heroin abuse include:

  • collapsed veins
  • infection of the heart lining and valves
  • abscesses
  • cellulitis
  • liver disease
  • pulmonary conditions, including various types of pneumonia, arising from poor health and suppressed respiration

Other dangers of heroin abuse.

Street heroin may contain additives or contaminants that clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys or brain. This can cause infection or even the death of small patches of cells in vital organs. Other infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, may also result from taking heroin intravenously. Finally, mixing opiates and heroin with other central nervous system depressants—like alcohol, sedatives and antihistamines—increases one’s risk of respiratory failure.

Heroin Withdrawal.

Over time, heroin users will develop withdrawal symptoms, which occur the drug is suddenly discontinued. Heroin withdrawal symptoms include loss of appetite, irritability and anxiety, insomnia, vomiting and nausea. Because heroin withdrawal can be a difficult and lengthy process, it is highly recommended that doctors who specialize in addiction treatment supervise medical detoxification from heroin.

Treating heroin addiction.

Heroin addiction treatment usually begins with medically assisted detoxification and includes pharmacological treatments (like methadone or buprenorphrine) that help prevent relapse and ease withdrawal symptoms. Holistic heroin addiction treatment plans, such as Caron’s, also involve addiction counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, drug rehab and heroin support groups.

For more information on treating heroin addiction, please continue reading.

The typical course of heroin rehabilitation.


After a customized heroin rehabilitation plan has been established, the patient usually begins heroin detox, the process of ridding the body of drugs. Because detoxing from heroin can involve severe withdrawal symptoms and complications, medical management is recommended.

Behavioral health treatment.

Heroin rehabilitation usually involves one or more forms of behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, addiction counseling, individual or group therapy and psychotherapy. These treatments address the root causes of addiction and teach patients various coping techniques for preventing relapse.

Pharmaceutical therapy.

Some heroin rehab programs involve pharmaceutical interventions. Medications such as methadone, buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone (Vivitrol) help patients recover by easing withdrawal symptoms, reducing heroin cravings and helping prevent relapse.


Once heroin rehab is complete, a long-term care plan should be established to prevent relapse. This might include continued addiction counseling, continued participation in support groups for patients and continued development of healthy coping behaviors. By this stage, it’s essential that addicts understand the power of heroin addiction and the value of recovery.

Dealing with heroin addiction? Help is here.

Caron’s highly trained clinical professionals are well equipped to help people beat severe opiate and heroin addictions.

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