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Heroin Addiction

Recognizing the signs of heroin addiction is the first step toward getting help.

1 Your Role
I want to learn about treatment options for:

2 Basic Information
The Person is:
years old

graduated high school

3 Condition Information
Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.
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.

Heroin Addiction

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.