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Heroin Addiction

What is Heroin? How does Heroin Addiction work?

Heroin is a lethal, commonly abused, illegal drug in the United States. A member of the opiate family, it’s derived from the opium poppy plant and made from morphine. Heroin addiction has become an epidemic that claims thousands of lives every year, and it’s only getting worse, as many people use heroin as a last resort drug to feed their prescription painkiller addiction. In the past few years, nearly 80 percent of people attributed their heroin use to prescription opioid use.

Therefore, prescription opioid use is one of the greatest risk factors for heroin use. This is known as dope, smack, horse, and junk. Heroin can appear as a white or brown powder or a sticky substance called black tar heroin. Heroin is an opiate, a natural derivative of the opium poppy plant seed pod, and it elicits feelings of elation and pleasure that people get addicted to. However, the adverse effects of use and abuse are too serious and harmful to ignore.

In addition, heroin addiction is the inability to stop using heroin despite suffering a range of negative consequences from using the drug. Sadly, this compulsion to use heroin leads to chaos in life, financial and social problems, physical and psychological dangers, and a world of other consequences. Faster acting than morphine and highly addictive, heroin can result in physical dependence after a single use for some people. As the drug begins to wear off, the user immediately feels a range of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that typically lead to subsequent use.

Heroin Use Statistics

The following heroin use statistics were reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [1]: 

  • About 800,000 Americans engaged in heroin use in 2018. 
  • From 1999-2018, heroin use was responsible for more than 115,000 deaths in the United States. 
  • In 2018, more than 14,000 people in the U.S. died from heroin overdose. 
  • From 1999-2008, the annual number of deaths related to heroin use increased by more than 700%.
Heroin Addiction
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Furthermore, based on the statistics it is a dangerous narcotic that is highly addictive. Typically, it is injected, snorted, or smoked to produce a euphoric state. Regardless of the method of ingestion, repeated use of heroin can lead to extreme physical and psychological dependence. Fortunately, although the road to recovery may be long and painful, there is help for heroin addiction.

Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a powerful opiate painkiller that is derived from morphine. It quickly enters the brain where it disrupts the reception of communication signals, particularly in the areas of the brain associated with pain, pleasure, heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. Long-term use of heroin can cause permanent changes in brain function.

The effects of heroin take place very shortly after the use and tend to persist for a period of a few hours. Heroin has the following effects on the user: 

  • Labored breathing
  • Lowered ability to a cough
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Heaviness in the limbs
  • Itching
  • Constricted pupils
  • Euphoria

Signs of Heroin Addiction

After continued use of heroin, tolerance begins to develop, and physical dependence sets in. The result is that if a user tries to reduce their dosage or stop using altogether, withdrawal symptoms set in, making them more likely to use again to remove the symptoms. If you or a loved one are at the point of withdrawal, and cannot or will not stop using, you are likely suffering from heroin addiction.

Users may feel the following symptoms of heroin withdrawal hours or days after their last use:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Bone pain
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • Insomnia
  • A runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 

Some Physical and Emotional Signs of Addiction

If you suspect that a friend or family member may be using heroin. Individuals who are addicted to heroin are likely to show some or even all of the following signs:

  • Fatigue followed by patterns of alertness
  • Shallow or labored breathing
  • Injection wounds, track marks, needle marks
  • Infections on the skin from injections, boils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Small, constricted pupils
  • The appearance of “distant” gazing eyes (some say heroin steals the soul)
  • Lack of motivation
  • Disorientation or poor motor function
  • Placing distance from friends and family members or hanging out with a new group of people
  • Communication flaws, difficulty speaking, slurring speech
  • Lack of memory, forgetting things or not remembering important events or matters
  • Long, droopy, heavy extremities
  • Itching
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained Weight loss

In addition, many signs of heroin addiction listed above, there can also be behavioral changes, such as social isolation, neglected responsibilities, unkempt appearance, poor hygiene, and disinterest in the hobbies and activities the user once enjoyed.

Effects of Heroin Use

There is no such thing as safe heroin use. In fact, every time a woman or girl uses heroin, she risks significant harm, including death.  People who do not get appropriate heroin addiction treatment can experience many negative effects of heroin use, such as the following: 

  • Heroin use will undermine your ability to do well in school or at work. This can lead to job loss, unemployment, and financial difficulties. 
  • Physical health effects of heroin use include bacterial infections, sexual dysfunction, and damage to the liver, kidneys, and lungs. 
  • Its use involves syringes that can put you at risk for hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and other bloodborne diseases. 
  • Heroin abuse can lead to unsafe behaviors such as unprotected sex, which can further increase your risk for certain diseases. 
  • Heroin addiction has been linked to the onset or worsening of certain mental health disorders. 
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that women may have a higher risk for death from heroin overdose than men do. 

Getting heroin addiction treatment is the best way to protect yourself from the effects of heroin use. When you choose an effective heroin addiction treatment center, you limit your risk for continued harm, and you can begin to repair any damage you’ve already experienced.

Treatment of Heroin Addiction

Effective heroin addiction treatment consists of detox, medications, therapy, and support groups. It also involves social and behavioral counseling that will guide the individual through the process of building a stronger, happier and more stable lifestyle. Each of these methods comes together to provide the recovering addict with a foundation for staying sober, saying no to heroin and other drugs, and taking back control of his or her life.

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  • Heroin Detox – This process can be quite dangerous if the user attempts to stop using heroin and overcome physical dependence on their own.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment – Recovery from heroin addiction may begin with around-the-clock monitoring to ensure the safety of the patient while they undergo detox.
  • Counseling & Therapy for Heroin Addiction – It is provided by a therapist or licensed counselor who works with the patient to help them learn more about themselves and what they need to do to stay sober. However, group counseling can allow the patient to connect with other people in a similar situation, learn from the experiences of their peers, and benefit from a sense of community and acceptance.

At We Level Up Treatment Center, we provide world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We all work as an integrated team providing Heroin Addiction Treatment for successful recovery. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential and there is never any obligation.


[1] U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) –

[2] National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)