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Understanding Heroin Addiction

October 27, 2019

Heroin is an extremely addictive illicit opioid. At a chemical level, it is similar to morphine and other painkillers that many people get prescriptions for in a doctor’s office. Unfortunately, many people who become addicted to painkillers turn to heroin as their addiction progresses. The affordability, high potency, and lack of need for a prescription make heroin highly appealing to those suffering from opioid addiction. In addition, heroin is increasingly found being cut with fentanyl, an even more potent opioid. Since the drug is sold illegally on the streets, it is impossible to know exactly what is in the powdery substance. 


When heroin enters the brain, it rapidly binds to the opioid receptors. Not only is heroin known to alleviate pain, but it provides feelings of relaxation and euphoria as well. People who use heroin find these effects desirable and begin to crave them. However, being so addictive, heroin takes a serious toll on the mind and body. As a result, a person who is addicted to the drug will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not taken. In addition, people who use heroin will experience a psychological urge to use the drug, despite negative consequences. The worst part about heroin addiction is that it poses a serious risk of a fatal overdose.


Consequently, many people find it impossible to overcome heroin addiction without professional addiction treatment. 


Signs of Heroin Addiction

The first step to understanding heroin addiction is to learn about the signs of it. Similarly, detecting heroin addiction in its early stages can enable those suffering to get help before their addiction gets worse. 


Heroin is a powdery substance that is gray, white, brown, or even pink, depending on how it is manufactured and what it is cut with. Sometimes, it is sold as black tar heroin, which is a sticky substance appearing brown to dark brown or black in color. It can be smoked, injected, or snorted. Regardless of how a person is using the substance, signs of addiction include:

-Loss of interest in activities a person once enjoyed

-Changes in mood and behavior

-Financial troubles due to spending money on drugs

-Changes in appearance (ex. Weight loss, pale skin, lack of personal hygiene)

-Lying to friends and family to hide drug use

-Troubles at work, home, or school

-Engaging in risky behaviors like intoxicated driving or criminal activity


Other signs and symptoms that can be unique to heroin addiction include:

-Pinpoint pupils

-Itching face, arms, or neck

-Slow breathing and drowsiness

-Flushed or clammy skin

-Track marks on arms

-Watery eyes or runny nose

-Flu-like symptoms during withdrawal


Long Term Effects of Heroin Addiction

Long term heroin use can harm not only the body but the mind as well. As a result, the physical and mental health of heroin users declines. In addition, they will experience troubles in their relationships. Here are the physical, mental, and social long term effects of heroin addiction.[1][2]


Physical effects of heroin addiction:

-Development of tolerance and physical dependence

-Withdrawal symptoms when heroin is not taken

-Risk of heart and respiratory illnesses

-The decline of immune system functioning

-Risk of HIV and other blood-borne illnesses

-Increasing the risk of overdose

-Lack of natural dopamine production in the brain

-Skin infections (abscesses and cellulitis)

-Collapsed veins


Mental effects of heroin addiction:

-Increased risk of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder

-Strong urges to take more and more of the drug

-Denial that a person really has a problem

-Memory problems and confusion

-Feeling as though one needs the drug to function

-Impaired judgment


Social consequences of heroin addiction:

-Losing the trust of loved ones

-Inability to hold a job

-Failure to meet financial or social obligations

-Legal troubles

-Isolating from friends and family


It’s important to remember that each person’s addiction is different and will manifest in different ways. It can severely cause a person’s quality of life to decline as well as his or her mental state. Addiction is notorious for causing strained relationships and risky behaviors. However, many people find it difficult to stop using heroin without help from a drug rehab near them


Treating Heroin Addiction

Between 2010 and 2017, heroin overdose deaths increased five-fold. In 2015, nearly 81,326 emergency room visits occurred due to heroin-related poisoning. In addition, more than 15,000 people died from a fatal overdose in 2017.[3] With the heroin epidemic taking the lives of Americans at staggering rates, the need for effective heroin addiction treatment is dire. 


“At Truth Recovery Center, we provide drug and alcohol addiction treatment in the beautiful seaside towns of Palm Springs, Boynton Beach and Lake Worth, Florida. We support and guide our clients during their transition into a comfortable and confident sober lifestyle through our program options: residential, intensive outpatient and sober living.”


The first step of heroin addiction treatment is medical detox. After all, heroin withdrawal is extremely painful and unpleasant. Many people will choose to use simply to avoid flu-like withdrawal symptoms. During detox in Palm Beach, Florida, patients will be kept safe and comfortable until they are stable enough to begin heroin rehab. 


Drug rehab is necessary to help individuals heal from heroin addiction. Treatment consists of both behavioral and holistic therapies. These therapies will teach individuals how to cope in healthy ways, uncover the root causes of their addictions, and deal with emotional triggers that make them want to use. With different programs to choose from, from residential treatment and intensive outpatient to sober living, each individual can find a treatment plan that meets his or her unique needs. 


The sooner a person receives addiction treatment, the better off they will be. If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, contact the addiction specialists in Palm Beach, Florida today. 


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-long-term-effects-heroin-use
  2. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/heroin-use#1
  3. https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf