Heroin addiction can feel like a prison. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize this when they begin using. They may try the drug once or twice just to experience its effects. More often than not, however, this leads to the development of a life-changing addiction.
It’s so important to get the right information when trying to understand the dangers of heroin addiction. Getting the answer to any questions you might have is crucial.
The good news is that we’ve outlined the heroin addiction information you need to know. This article will give you some facts about addiction and abuse and offer some information about detox, rehab and other treatment options.
If you’re a heroin addict yourself, worry that you might be, or know someone who is, this is probably an overwhelming time in your life. You may have a lot of questions like:
We hope that this resource might answer any questions you have so that you or your loved one can get the necessary treatment.
Heroin is a popular opioid drug. It is made by extracting seeds from the opium plant, native to parts of Asia and South America. The drug often comes in a white, off-white or brown power form that people will snort, smoke or inject into their bodies.
The drug is highly addictive and very dangerous, responsible for tens of thousands of overdose deaths every year.
These statistics are quite shocking, and they certainly point to a need for better education and treatment options for heroin addicts and abusers.
If you live in America today, you can’t go very far without running into someone whose life has been impacted by heroin addiction. We are, after all, in the midst of what the United States government has deemed an “opioid crisis”.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a report on opioid overdoses by state. The report shows that the following states had the most overdose deaths related to heroin and other opioids:
Each of these averages represented a drastic increase from previous years. Other states that saw a significant rise in the amount of heroin overdose deaths included Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.
Most often, heroin comes in a white powder form. It looks similar to cocaine but might have a different tone to it. When the drug is cut with other chemicals, it can become an off-white or brown color. Usually, the powder is fine like chalk. However, the texture may change when other substances are added to the mix.
Some addicts prefer the drug in its “black tar” form. Black tar heroin usually comes in the form of a dark, sticky substance similar to hash. In some cases, it may be hard like a lump of charcoal. Although it is called black tar, the drug can have an orange or brown tint to it. Black tar heroin carries a number of additional risks, including an increased risk of developing sclerosis.
Heroin addicts usually require tools to use the drug. If you’re worried that someone you know might be abusing the drug, look for the following paraphernalia:
If you’re not a user yourself, it can be tough to put yourself in the shoes of the heroin addict. Why would someone want to use a drug that is so addictive ruins so many lives each year?
The reality of the situation is that no one chooses to develop a heroin addiction. The drug is just so addictive that some people who use it end up becoming chemically dependent on it before they realize what’s actually going on.
In order to understand how and why someone develops a heroin addiction, it helps to understand what effects the drug has on the brain.
Like all opiates, heroin’s effects on the brain are tied closely to the opioid receptors that our brain contains. The opioid receptors are tiny little sites inside our brain where pleasure is produced. When we do something like pet a dog, eat some tasty snacks or watch a funny movie, our body sends a rush of dopamine and serotonin to those receptors as a “reward”. These chemicals cause us to feel happy and remind us that we should be doing things that make us happy. Our reward system is actually a mechanism that is intended to keep us alive.
Heroin and other opiate drugs essentially target these opioid receptors in the brain. When we consume these drugs, they actually block out the opioid receptors and prevent them from functioning properly. When the opioid receptors are no longer able to regulate our dopamine levels, we experience a huge rush of the chemical all at once.
The rush of serotonin and dopamine that your brain receives after just one hit of heroin is around 10x as large as the amount that you’d get from any other activity. This rush, unmatched by other activities, can cause the brain to crave the drug and cause the user to begin abusing the drug. Abusing the drug can evolve into a heroin addiction very quickly.
It’s important not to confuse heroin addiction with abuse. Abuse refers to the use of the drug in any capacity. Just because an individual is using the drug, however, doesn’t mean that they’re addicted to it.
It is also important to note that it’s possible to develop a heroin addiction after just one use. Every year, thousands of people do exactly that. The line between abuse and chemical dependency is fine one when it comes to dope and that’s just one of the reasons why it’s so dangerous.
The biggest risk of using heroin, even casually, is developing an addiction. After abusing the drug for a while, users can become chemically dependent on the substance. They may not be able to function without the drug in their system which can lead to all kinds of physical, mental and social consequences.
There are a number of short and long-term effects of heroin abuse.
Some short-term effects include:
Some long-term side effects of heroin abuse can include:
Are you afraid that you might be abusing dope? Worried that a family member is using H? How do you know if someone is on heroin? Here are some common signs of heroin use:
In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of heroin addictions that started out as prescription opioid addictions. There is a close relationship between the drug and prescription painkillers like oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin, etc) and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco, etc).
Many heroin addicts start using the drug after developing an addiction to prescription opioids. They may have been prescribed the drugs for medical purposes but started abusing their prescription. Prescription opioids carry a high risk of abuse and patients often find themselves dependent on the substance. They may take more than prescribed or even crush the drug up and snort it to achieve heightened effects.
Once their prescription runs out or they are unable to obtain a higher dose, many prescription opioid addicts turn to heroin in order to keep getting high.
Polling data shows that people who abuse prescription pain medication are almost 20x more likely to develop a heroin addiction than other people. One survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug abuse reported that more than 8% of people who began using heroin in the 2000s took prescription painkillers first.
Are you or a family member currently abusing prescription opioids? You could be at risk of developing a heroin addiction. If that’s the case, it’s important for you to get proper treatment as soon as possible. Contact us today if you want to discuss your opioid habit.
Don’t let your prescription drug habit develop into a heroin addiction. Take our free online assessment to find out if you’re abusing your prescription: Am I Addicted to Prescription Drugs?
With any drug, there’s a thin line between abuse and addiction. When it comes heroin, however, that line gets blurry.
Because the drug is so powerful and fast-acting, heroin addiction can take hold of your life fast. Even if you’ve only been using the drug for a few weeks, you could already be showing some of the signs of symptoms of addiction.
If you’ve been using the drug for an extended period of time, it’s nearly certain that you’ve developed a heroin addiction by this point. At the same time, however, it can be difficult to admit that you have a problem. As a result, many people who struggle with addiction put off seeking treatment because they believe that they have their drug habit under control.
It’s important for you to know that when you’re struggling with heroin addiction, treatment is always available. Professional detox and rehabilitation could help you to overcome your habit and avoid some of the risk side effects that the addiction carries.
It can be tough to come to terms with the fact that you might be an addict. Many heroin users maintain the idea that they have their drug habit under control. This can be a dangerous way to think.
If you’re worried that you might be a heroin addict, ask yourself the following questions:
This is particularly true if your life has been affected negatively and you are still unable to quit. If heroin is causing personal, professional, legal or financial problems for you and you still continue to use the drug, you may want to look for help with recovery.
Do you or a loved one show symptoms of heroin addiction? Take our free online addiction assessment:
One of the main symptoms of heroin addiction is a slowed central nervous system. The drug targets the opioid receptors which trigger some of the body’s key functions to slow down. The user’s heart rate, blood pressure, metabolic rate and cognitive processing can all decrease, resulting in some very negative side effects.
If you use it habitually for long periods of time, you could be facing some serious consequences. Common long-term symptoms of heroin addiction include:
If you struggle with heroin addiction, it’s important to understand the risks of overdosing.
It’s entirely possible and quite common to use too much of the drug. When you overdose on heroin, you essentially use so much that your central nervous system comes to a halt. At that point, your brain stops sending signals to your heart and lungs. As a result, your heart can stop beating and your lungs can stop breathing. As you can imagine, an overdose can result in a coma or death if not treated promptly.
Heroin overdoses are most commonly experienced by people who tried to quit using and then relapsed. During the time that they weren’t using, their tolerance for the drug dropped. Upon picking up the needle after trying to quit, addicts will often attempt to use as much as they were accustomed to before. Because their body wasn’t prepared to handle such a high dose, the individual can end up overdosing.
Heroin addiction is a dangerous condition in itself. However, abusing the drug can lead to other severe health problems. Specifically, the drug is commonly associated with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
Users contract these viruses through the practice of sharing needles with infected people. Because HIV/AIDS and hepatitis both live in the bloodstream, these viruses can be transmitted through infected needles.
Hepatitis C can also be transmitted through means other than needles. It can be spread orally, so users who share cigarettes, straws or other smoking tools can pass the disease onto one another.
Has your heroin addiction become so overwhelming that you know it’s time to quit? Detox is your first step!
Heroin detox will enable you to flush the drug and all remaining traces of it out of your body. This is the first major milestone on the road to recovery. Once the drug has left your body, you’ll be able to start living life as a drug-free person.
Unfortunately, detoxing from heroin can be somewhat uncomfortable. If you’ve been putting the drug into your system consistently for a while, your body may not respond kindly when you attempt to stop using. Luckily, there are a number of professional detox centers that can help to make the process a bit easier. These facilities are staffed with doctors can ease your heroin withdrawal symptoms and make sure that you’re safe as you work through the detox process.
The symptoms of heroin withdrawal can be pretty painful. These symptoms are the result of your body trying to cope without the drug inside it. As unpleasant as they are, the symptoms of withdrawal are a sign that you’re cleansing your body and making big strides toward recovery.
Some common physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
Some common psychological symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
The length of detox will differ for every individual depending on their circumstance. Generally, heroin detox lasts for 7-10 days. There are several factors that can affect this timeframe including the addict’s age, the severity of their addiction and where they choose to detox.
Compared to other drugs, heroin has a relatively short half-life. Whereas drugs like marijuana and methamphetamine can stay in your system for days even when you’re using small amounts, heroin exists your body pretty quickly.
The half-life of heroin is actually around 5 minutes. This means that after only 5 minutes of consuming the drug, your body will have metabolized 50% of the total quantity you ingested. It would seem that the drug’s short half-life would enable addicts to detox from heroin pretty quickly. This isn’t the case, though.
The problem is that when someone is suffering from heroin addiction, they tend to use the drug in large quantities. As the body breaks these large quantities down, there are all kinds of chemical byproducts produced by the breakdown process. The byproducts are called metabolites. These metabolites accumulate in the liver and other organs.
It is these chemical byproducts that cause heroin withdrawal symptoms to last so long. Until the metabolites have been flushed out of the addict’s system, they’ll continue to feel the effects of withdrawal.
While heroin withdrawal symptoms last for longer or shorter periods in some people, a general withdrawal timeline looks something like this:
First 48 hours: The first 48 hours of heroin detox might be the hardest time in the process. Withdrawals generally start around 12 hours after the addict has taken their last dose. During this period, the addict will start to experience severe withdrawal symptoms. They are likely to get nauseous and will probably vomit as their body tries to expel the leftover toxins. Their bones and muscles may hurt severely which can make it difficult for the addict to get any sleep.
48 to 120 hours: By the 48-hour mark, the addict’s withdrawal symptoms will have peaked. However, it is likely that they will still be in pain. If they’ve gone a few hours without vomiting, they should make sure to eat nutritious food in order to replenish their body. The body loses massive amounts of nutrients during withdrawal and eating will help to boost the immune system.
120 hours+: After 120 hours of detox, most addicts will have finished going through withdrawals. Physical symptoms will have subsided. During this time, the addict may still have difficulty sleeping and eating without throwing up. It is common for addicts in recovery to get anxious or depressed after their physical withdrawal symptoms go away. If you are going through heroin withdrawals and made it past the 120-hour mark, you should remain optimistic. You’ve survived detox and can begin focusing more on recovery.
There are a few factors that can increase or decrease the heroin withdrawal timeline. The factors include:
Physical health: Physical health is very important in the process of metabolizing drugs. Your digestive system and other organs need to be in good shape in order to eliminate toxins. If you have an unhealthy liver from years of heroin abuse, your body may have a more difficult time processing drugs. This can cause your withdrawal timeline to last longer.
Age: While age isn’t always a factor in the length of the withdrawal timeline, it certainly can be. Older addicts who have struggled with heroin addiction for a long time are likely to have unhealthy organs. If your organs are damaged from years of drug abuse, it can take longer for you to complete withdrawals.
How often you use heroin: When you use dope frequently, you’re much more likely to have leftover byproducts in your system. Your organs will need to work longer and harder to metabolize the total quantity in your body. This can increase the length of the withdrawal timeline.
How much heroin you use: Larger quantities will increase the half-life of the drug and make the detox process last longer. Particularly if the last few doses were larger than normal, you could be looking at an additional day of detox.
Purity of substances used: Today, batches of heroin are “cut” will all kinds of chemicals. Dealers will often take the pure batch and mix some other materials into it in order to increase their profits. Some of these chemicals can increase the total half-life of the drug.
Where detox occurs: Where you choose to detox can have a huge impact on the withdrawal timeline. In a professional detox center, doctors and addiction professionals will assess your circumstances and develop a course of action for expediting the detox process. Your heroin withdrawal symptoms are likely to be less severe and last for a shorter period of time.
Many addicts don’t want to attend a professional detox program. They might think that the cost of detox is too high or believe that professional treatment just isn’t necessary.
In reality, going through withdrawals in a professional treatment center offers a number of benefits that a home detox from heroin doesn’t. These benefits include:
No access to drugs: By choosing to check in to a hospital or treatment center to go through detox, you essentially cut yourself off from all access to drugs. This is a huge advantage as you won’t be tempted to relapse when the withdrawal symptoms kick in.
A new environment: When you maintain a heroin addiction for a long period of time, you become accustomed to using in certain situations. Specific people, locations and even times of day can trigger you to want to use. If you attend detox somewhere outside of your normal environment, you’ll limit the number of triggers and make the process much easier for yourself.
Time to relax: For many people who struggle with heroin addiction, stress can be a huge trigger. Family life, work or school can all cause you to start craving the drug. By taking yourself out of your normal environment, you’ll be far away from everything that causes you stress. This will enable you to focus on getting through detox.
Medical supervision: The biggest benefit to detoxing off heroin in a professional recovery center is that you’ll have access to doctors and other addiction specialists. These individuals will monitor the progress of your detox process and administer any medications that can limit your cravings.
Recovering from heroin addiction is one of the more difficult tasks a person can undertake. Luckily, there are plenty of addiction treatment centers out there that want to help you on your journey.
It is important to remember that heroin addiction is a two-part condition. Like any other addiction, it has a physical side and a psychological side. Whereas detox targets the physical aspects of addiction by helping the user to get the drug out of their system. Rehab, on the other hand, addresses the more emotional and psychological aspects of recovery.
Addiction rehabilitation centers, also known as “rehab programs”, are facilities that offer the emotional support you need when going through heroin addiction recovery. These facilities provide counseling, therapy, housing and other services to help you get clean and stay sober.
You have several different types of rehab to choose from when undergoing treatment for heroin addiction. Each type of rehab is intended to suit your unique needs. The most common forms of addiction rehabilitation are:
Inpatient rehab: Inpatient heroin recovery programs are a great option for addicts who want to spend time living in a treatment facility during the early stages of their recovery process. In an inpatient treatment program, addicts live on-site at the recovery center for several weeks after they’ve detoxed from their drug of choice.
Every day, the patient will attend individual counseling sessions, group therapy meetings, and check-ups with doctors. During these appointments, the addict will work on addressing the roots of their condition as well as the effects that it has on themselves and their loved ones. Ideally, the addict will be prepared to live a clean and sober life once they exit the program.
Outpatient rehab: Outpatient heroin treatment is somewhat similar to inpatient rehab except for the fact that it is non-residential. Instead of living on-campus at the recovery center, the patient will report to the facility on a regular basis. There, they’ll go through meetings and work to overcome the psychological aspects of their addiction.
IOPs: Intensive outpatient rehab programs, or IOPs, provide the benefits of both inpatient and outpatient heroin treatment. Much like inpatient residents, outpatient residents will receive extensive support from doctors and addiction professionals during the earliest stages of sobriety. They’ll go through therapy and counseling and meet with other recovering addicts to share experiences.
The main difference between an intensive outpatient rehab program and an inpatient program is that outpatient addicts will go home at the end of the day. Once they’ve completed their scheduled meetings and therapy sessions, they’ll be permitted to leave to attend work, go to school or go home with family.
The best rehab program will depend entirely on the individual and their needs. Some heroin addicts find that inpatient rehab works best for them because it eliminates the risk of relapsing. When you’re living in a treatment facility, after all, there is no temptation to call up a drug dealer to get a quick fix. By checking in to an inpatient program, then, addicts give themselves some time to focus on recovery without any distractions.
At the same time, many addicts aren’t able to leave their obligations in order to attend rehab. They might have a job that they need to report to or children that need to be taken care of. For these folks, an outpatient heroin rehab is a fantastic option. Intensive outpatient rehab, in particular, allows the addict to receive extensive support while giving them the freedom to attend to their responsibilities.
Whether you choose to check in to an inpatient program or attend outpatient heroin rehab, you’ll go through a series of therapy sessions, addiction consultations, and group support meetings. You’ll also meet regularly with a medical doctor who will monitor the progress of your recovery and administer any medications that you might require.
When attending rehab for heroin addiction, you can expect to experience some of the following forms of treatment:
Psychological therapy: Heroin addiction is a two-part condition. There are the physical aspects of addiction that are tackled during detox and check-ups. There is also a psychological and emotional side of addiction that needs to be addressed if you want to stay off drugs.
When attending heroin rehab, you’ll meet with a number of different therapists. Each of these doctors will help you to identify the psychological causes of your addiction. They’ll discuss what kinds of effects your addiction had on your life and help you to develop techniques for coping with situations that trigger drug use.
Group support sessions: An important component of heroin rehab is the group sessions. When you’re going through heroin addiction, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. These sessions will give you the opportunity to meet with other addicts, share your story and lend support to other people who need it.
Nutrition therapy: Making healthy choices can help you to stay clean in the long-run. In a rehab program for heroin addiction, you’ll meet with nutrition specialists that can help you to repair any damage that your habit has caused. According to many doctors, maintaining a healthy diet can also help to reduce your drug cravings in the future. You’ll leave rehab feeling great and ready to take on the world.
Treatment for co-occurring disorders: For many heroin addicts, the habit is closely tied to a mental disorder. Addicts may have started using the drug in order to deal with anxiety, depression, trauma or another condition. These individuals tend to need a special course of treatment. The doctors and specialists on-staff will work to treat both conditions, the addiction, and the co-occurring illness, simultaneously.
For many people, family therapy is an important component of the heroin addiction recovery process. After all, drug abuse can have a profound effect on the lives of people other than just the addict themselves. Oftentimes, the addict’s children, parents, spouse, siblings, and friends will feel that the addict’s behavior has impacted their life in a negative way. Family therapy gives everyone involved the chance to discuss their feelings and share how the addiction has affected them.
Are you the family member of a heroin addict? Here are some resources that might be useful for you:
The timeline of heroin addiction treatment will vary depending on your specific needs. If you choose to attend an inpatient program, for example, you could be there for as long as 6 weeks. For some addicts, rehab will be even longer.
When talking about heroin rehab, it’s important to remember that the detox period alone can take up to a week. After that, you’ll need to attend several weeks of counseling, group support meetings, and therapy sessions. All in all, you should expect the entire process to take at least 28 days.
It’s important to remember that recovery from heroin addiction is a lifelong process. Many addicts continue to seek treatment and support for years after they’ve had their last dose.
After you finish heroin rehab, you might feel that you need continued support. If that’s your case, Narcotics Anonymous could be a great resource for you.
Narcotics Anonymous, also known as “NA” is an organization of individuals who have struggled with drug addiction. The group holds meetings all over the world on a daily basis. At each meeting, people who suffer from heroin addiction and other drug abuse habits gather to discuss their experiences. Each member of the group takes turns sharing their story and offering an update on the state of their recovery process.
There is no requirement for NA membership except for a commitment to recovery. As the organization says in their mission statement, “We are no interested in what or how much you used, who your connections were, what you have done in the past, how much or how little you have, but only in what you want to do about your problem and how we can help”.
Looking to find an NA group to discuss your heroin addiction with?
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Many people who struggle with heroin addiction avoid rehab because they believe that it’s too expensive. In reality, rehabilitation programs are very affordable.
Most insurance providers also cover the costs associated with heroin addiction treatment. It is a medical condition that insurance providers take very seriously and want to help you overcome.
Wondering if your insurance provider covers the cost of heroin rehab?VERIFY YOUR INSURANCE
Additionally, heroin rehab facilities like Northpoint Recovery offer payment plans that enable you to pay for addiction treatment slowly over time. We believe that no one should be turned away from rehab simply because they can’t afford it at the moment. We’ll work with you to develop a course of payment that enables you to get treatment right now when you need it most.
Want to discuss payment options for heroin rehab? Give us a call.
There are very few people who realize the risks of using heroin when they begin taking it. These risks are real and can have a profound effect on your life. If you continue using an don’t get the help you need, your habit can lead to all kinds of physical, psychological and legal problems.
Fortunately, there is hope for those who struggle with heroin addiction. If you truly want to stop using, help is available.
Getting the professional treatment can make such a big difference in your recovery process. At Northpoint Washington, we’ve been able to work with so many people who suffer from heroin addiction. Many of them developed an addiction after just a single use and came to us believing that it would be impossible for them to ever recover. It’s been our pleasure to watch so many addicts overcome their drug addictions.
Northpoint Washington is a drug and alcohol detox and treatment center located in Washington state. We provide outpatient rehab services to addicts from Washington and other regions around the country.