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Heroin Addiction Treatment

What is Heroin Addiction?

It is not rare to have heard of someone who uses heroin or is addicted to this substance. In fact, heroin addiction affects all the country. Heroin is an opioid, which means that it is a drug made from opium poppy plants. A substance called morphine, which is also used as a painkiller in hospitals, is extracted from the opium and used to create the drug. Heroin can be sniffed, injected or smoked. Some people even mix it with other substances, which can be very dangerous.

About 652,000 people age 12 and older had a heroin use disorder in 2017.

As soon as the drug is used, its effects will be felt shortly, especially if injected, as heroin affects the opioid receptors of the brain. The result is that the user will probably feel very well for a while.The main problem, though, is that the feeling does not last for too long. As soon as it passes, the user will eventually start craving for more. With extended usage, the body will become more resistant to the effects of the drug.

Heroin is highly addictive, so it is extremely easy to abuse it. This will quickly escalate to dependency and, after some time, the body of the user will crave for more of it all the time. This is when someone can be considered addicted to heroin.

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What Are the Symptoms of Heroin Addiction?

It can be very hard to see a loved one getting addicted to a harmful substance. Fortunately, there are symptoms which can indicate that someone is getting addicted to heroin. These are important indicators for the family and the loved ones of the user, as they will be able to discover the problem and, possibly, help.

Most of these symptoms are generally developed over time. Some of them come earlier while others take some time to occur. While the feeling of using the drug is good until the person is addicted, as soon as the addiction phase begins, the negative effects will be more prominent.

Short-Term Heroin Addiction Symptoms

Euphoria: possibly, the most famous short-term symptom. It is the “rush” that is felt as soon as the drug is used.

Dry mouth, itching and a warm flushing of the skin: these three symptoms are the most common ones and can happen together or in separate during the initial euphoria phase.

Heavy arms and legs: another very characteristic feeling. The person feels its arms and legs as if they are heavier than they used to be, following a sensation of “laziness”.

Mental drowsiness: it follows the euphoria and it is generally felt by almost all users. Sometime after the drug is taken, the person goes into a state of alternating between conscious and semi-conscious, often called as going “on the nod”.

Nausea and vomiting: some people feel nauseated after using the drug. While not all users suffer from that, the reaction is considered somewhat common.

Downtown Wilmington along the banks of the Cape Fear River.
Male therapist talks to his young male patient

Long-Term Heroin Addiction Symptoms

Constipation: the heavy usage of heroin can make become constipated.

Sexual dysfunction for men, irregular menstrual cycles for women: Men can suffer from difficulties to maintain an erection during intercourse, while women can start to have irregular menstrual cycles.

Insomnia: the drug affects the brain and the user is generally more relaxed after using it. This can cause insomnia, as the body will crave for the relaxed sensation when the drug is not being used.

Weight loss: it is also common to lose weight after using it. This is partly because most users are not going to feed well during the time in which they are getting addicted.

Memory issues: the brain is heavily affected by the drug, so difficulty to remember things is a very common long-term effect.

What Are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?

When someone stops using heroin, withdrawal symptoms will appear very quickly. They often peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose. The initial period is the hardest because the symptoms will be considerably stronger.

Restlessness: a very common withdrawal syndrome from most drugs. The user feels as if he needs something and this keeps him agitated. People can become very nervous at this phase of the withdrawal. This is generally one of the first symptoms to appear.

Sleep problems: insomnia doesn’t stop when someone stops using heroin. Most of the time, sleep will only get worse initially.

The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, an iconic arch bridge crossing the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, NC, during a partly cloudy day.

Muscle and bone pain: heroin eases the pain, so the user will feel a lot more of it. This problem comes mostly from the fact that the new sensations will be stronger as usual.

Hot flashes and goosebumps: together with the restlessness and the anxiety, comes the hot flashes. The user in withdrawal is very likely to experience this in the first days.

Craving: when the user is feeling all the effects of stopping the drug, an obvious thought will emerge: it’s easier to just use it again. The drug is associated with good feelings and with the ending of all the pain. This craving is possibly the most powerful of all the symptoms.

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What Are the Dangers of Heroin Addiction?

There are several dangers in using heroin. They range from social ones like losing control of your own actions and harming other people due to the need for using the substance from several physical ones.

Collapsed Veins and Damaged Tissue in the Nose

The way that the drug is used can harm the user. Injecting a substance over a long period of time can cause the veins to collapse. People who snort heroin can suffer from damage to their nose tissues.

Lung, Liver, and Kidney Complications

Organs can be affected by the use of the drug. As heroin is not a legal drug, it often contains additives such as sugar, powdered milk or starch. None of these should be injected directly into your system and they may harm several vital organs.

Heart Infection

Heroin will enter the bloodstream upon use and travel to the brain. Because of this, it will be pumped through the heart, causing cardiac disease.

HIV, Hepatitis B and C

Intravenous users are more at risk for blood born diseases due to sharing dirty needles. These diseases are fatal if not treated, and can cause lifelong problems.

Social Damage

Heroin is not only bad for health, but it can also put a severe strain on someone’s relationships. The behavior of the user can interfere with work, friends and family relations.


Overdoses are generally caused by using too much of the substance in a short period. This causes respiratory arrest, in which the user will stop breathing, and will cause death if not treated immediately.

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Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Partial Hospitalization Treatment

A person who attends a Partial Hospitalization Program will receive daily care, including individual and group therapy. The individual will attend treatment for around 8 hours per day, in addition to participating in other forms of therapeutic activity, such as yoga. Partial Hospitalization Treatment allows the person to learn skills and coping mechanisms which will help them to stay sober from heroin.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

In an Intensive Outpatient program, the individual will attend treatment for a few hours a day, usually 5 days a week. Intensive Outpatient Treatment is an ideal treatment choice for individuals who have completed a higher level of care and wish to transition back to their day to day lives. During treatment the person can with live at home, or at a sober living facility for extra accountability.

Sober Living

Sober Living facilities are homes for people in recovery. In a Sober Living environment, the person will receive regular drug testing, as well as be required to attend outside recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART recovery. This environments provide support for the person as the learn to re-acclimate to life by finding a job, starting school, or navigation roles in family responsibilities.