Signs And Symptoms Of Heroin Addiction

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Heroin is a powerful opioid that can cause physical, mental, and psychological symptoms. Knowing common symptoms of heroin abuse and addiction can help people identify heroin use and begin the process of seeking addiction treatment.

Heroin Signs and Symptoms

Heroin is an illicit drug that can cause rapid, euphoric effects, including a powerful rush of pleasure, relaxation, and drowsiness.

Heroin is chemically similar to drugs such as morphine, codeine, and prescription opioids like oxycodone (OxyContin), methadone, and hydrocodone (Vicodin).

Use of heroin can be very dangerous. Heroin is highly addictive and is often mixed with other drugs and additives that can have toxic effects on the mind and body.

Signs Of Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a physical and psychological condition that can develop as a result of repeated heroin use. Chronic heroin use can affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.

People who are addicted to heroin may:

  • have heroin paraphernalia (e.g. syringes, needles, spoons, lighters)
  • act secretive
  • hide or lie about their drug use
  • withdraw socially from friends and family members
  • neglect their personal hygiene
  • show less interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • become irritable or hostile when questioned about their drug use

How Heroin Use Causes Addiction

Heroin belongs to a class of drugs known as opioids, or opiates. It comes from the seeds of opium poppy plants. It is illegal to possess, purchase, and sell in the United States.

Heroin is a central nervous system depressant and works in the body by slowing down brain activity and binding to the body’s opioid receptors.

These feelings change the body’s response to pain and pleasure, which can quickly result in a drug addiction.

This can cause a range of effects physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Symptoms Of Heroin Addiction

Heroin use can cause a range of side effects and symptoms. In the short-term and long-term, heroin can affect the body, brain, and mental health.

Chronic heroin use and abuse can lead to addiction.

Addiction is characterized by physical dependence and a compulsive need to continue using drugs despite negative consequences on health, relationships, work, and way of life.

Physical Symptoms Of Heroin Use

Heroin is known for its quick effects. Within seconds to minutes of use, depending on the route of administration, heroin can have physical effects.

Physical symptoms of heroin use and addiction can include:

  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • tiny pupils
  • dry mouth
  • flushed skin
  • severe itching
  • decreased blood pressure
  • nosebleeds
  • track marks (needle marks) and heroin injection abscesses
  • cracked or burned lips
  • heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • changes in weight
  • reduced coordination
  • “nodding out”, or going in and out of consciousness
  • physical dependence

Mental And Psychological Symptoms Of Heroin Use

By acting on chemicals in the brain, heroin can cause a number of effects on cognition, mental health, and mood.

People with a family history of drug abuse, or personal history of abusing other substances, can be particularly susceptible to the effects of heroin use.

Chronic heroin abuse may cause:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • foggy thinking
  • poor judgment
  • reduced appetite
  • lack of empathy
  • heroin cravings

Generally, symptoms become more severe the longer you use heroin and the more often you use it.

Symptoms of heroin addiction can also be influenced by the dose, whether it’s mixed with other drugs (including alcohol), drug purity, and co-occurring disorders.

Health Risks Of Heroin Use

Heroin poses a number of critical health risks. First, heroin is addictive. This can make it difficult to stop using it.

Once addicted, people can behave in ways they normally wouldn’t, such as acting recklessly and impulsively. This alone can put a person at high risk for certain health risks, as can the actual use of heroin itself.

These health risks include:

  • infectious diseases: Injection drug use and effects of heroin can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.
  • organ damage: heroin abuse can negatively affect liver function, kidney function, exacerbate respiratory issues, and cause brain damage.
  • heroin overdose: Overdose is a life-threatening condition that can be caused by taking too much heroin or taking heroin with multiple drugs at once.
  • heroin withdrawal: People who become addicted to heroin may experience symptoms of withdrawal within hours after last use, including strong drug cravings.

Treatment For Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a complicated and dangerous struggle that can be treated through detox, medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, and mental health counseling.

Treatment programs for heroin addiction include:

  • inpatient rehab programs
  • residential rehab
  • outpatient rehab
  • medication assisted therapy
  • aftercare programs

Having a strong support system in early recovery is crucial. Beginning a drug addiction program through a treatment center can offer this support system.

Reach Out For Help With A Heroin Addiction

Trying to quit heroin alone can be dangerous. This carries a high risk for relapse, chronic addiction, and overdose.

If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, call our helpline today to find substance abuse treatment options near you.


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