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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction?

Read on to help identify some of the most common signs and symptoms of heroin addiction and what help is available.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is one of the most addictive illegal drugs. It is both the most commonly abused and the most rapidly acting of the opiates. Heroin is a substance taken from the naturally occurring seedpod of poppy plants.

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Methods of Heroin Use

The most common methods of taking heroin include injecting it, inhaling it, sniffing it, or snorting the drug. These methods of administration direct the drug very rapidly to the brain. This contributes to the health risks of heroin, as well as to how quickly the body becomes reliant on it after just a few uses.

People who are addicted to heroin cannot control their use of the drug and are unable to stop using it even if it might be causing other issues in their lives.

What is Heroin Addiction Like?

Heroin addiction is a chronic disease, which means that even after people have gone through treatment and stopped using the drug for a period of time, they are at risk for relapse.

Heroin addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and use, even in the face of devastating consequences. These consequences can be physical, mental, social, or psychological.

Heroin Addiction Statistics

According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, more than three million people in the United States aged twelve or older reported using heroin at some point in their lifetimes. A reported 2% of high school seniors have admitted to using heroin, and approximately 1% admit to having injected the drug at some point.1

The number of people dying from heroin overdoses has also been increasing in recent years. In 2020, over thirteen thousand people died from heroin overdoses, which is a 7% increase compared to the overdose deaths reported the previous year.2

Heroin Addiction Causes and Risk Factors

There is no one single cause of heroin addiction. Rather, it is the result of a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Some other addiction risk factors include family history, personal experience, and physical factors.

When considering
treatment options for heroin addiction, it is important to note the relevant root of the issue, isolate the triggering risk factors, and designate a tactful route to recovery without judgment.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction?

There are many different types of signs and symptoms of you or a loved one potentially developing a heroin substance abuse disorder.

Physical Signs

The physical signs of heroin addiction include:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Slowed breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired physical coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed reaction time

Behavioral Signs

The behavioral signs of heroin addiction include:

  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Losing interest in hobbies and other activities that were once enjoyed
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in mood and behavior

Behavioral signs are often drastic and happen quicker than one might think.

Psychological Signs

The psychological signs of heroin addiction include:

  • Feeling restless or anxious
  • Being depressed or feeling overly hopeless
  • Feeling irritable or agitated
  • Experiencing mood swings
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having memory and verbal problems3
  • Losing interest in life and other things that once brought joy

Side Effects and Health Consequences of Heroin Addiction

There are many side effects and potential health consequences of heroin addiction that one needs to be aware of.

Short-Term Effects

The short-term effects of heroin addiction include:

  • Feeling a rush of pleasure (euphoria)
  • Feeling relaxed and calm
  • Feeling drowsy and sedated
  • Slowed breathing
  • Impaired mental function
  • Impaired physical coordination

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of heroin addiction can be lengthy and impact you or a loved one in more ways than you might have previously thought. These can include:

  • Damaged blood vessels
  • Infection of heart lining or valves
  • Collapsed veins
  • Abscesses
  • Cellulitis
  • Pulmonary complications, including pneumonia and tuberculosis
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Impaired mental function
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Miscarriages
  • Premature births
  • Low birth weight babies
  • Increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), for babies born with heroin addiction at birth
  • Risk of HIV and other diseases transmitted through sharing needles

Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

Co-occurring mental disorders are often seen in people who suffer from heroin addiction. The heroin substance abuse disorder can impact these co-occurring disorders, or vice versa. These disorders can include:

Heroin Overdose

Heroin overdoses are often fatal, and it’s important to get the help one needs as soon as signs and symptoms are noticed. Signs and symptoms of a heroin overdose include:4

  • Shallow breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Slow heart rate
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Feeling drowsy or sedated
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired mental function
  • Coma

Treatment for Heroin Addiction and Abuse

heroin addiction recovery group

Treatment for heroin addiction

There are a number of different treatment options available for people who suffer from heroin addiction. The treatment options for heroin addiction include:

  • Heroin detox under medical supervision: The first step in treating heroin addiction is to undergo a detox under medical supervision. This will help to rid the body of the drug and any other toxins that have built up in a safe manner.
  • Behavioral and motivational therapies: After detox, the next step in treating heroin addiction is to participate in behavioral and motivational therapies. These therapies can help to change the way you think and feel about drug use and can also help to motivate you to stay sober.
  • Family therapy: Family therapy can also be an important part of treatment for heroin addiction for some patients. This type of therapy can help to repair damaged relationships and to support you in your recovery.
  • 12-step programs: 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, can also be helpful in treating heroin addiction. These programs provide support and fellowship and can help you to stay on the path to recovery.

Get Help at Boardwalk Recovery

Boardwalk Recovery is a leading provider of treatment for heroin addiction. We offer a comprehensive range of treatment services that are designed with successful recovery in mind. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment program and how we can help you or your loved one to overcome heroin addiction.
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