Overcoming Heroin Addiction

overcoming heroin addictionHeroin is an illicit narcotic that can cause tolerance, physical dependence, and heroin addiction to develop rapidly.

Otherwise known as heroin use disorder or opioid use disorder, heroin addiction can be debilitating and dangerous, and possibly life-threatening.

While addiction to heroin can manifest after sustained use, evidence-based treatment typically delivers favorable outcomes. Today’s guide will outline how you can overcome heroin addiction with the help of a specialized treatment center like Gratitude Lodge.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is classified as semi-synthetic opioid and is derived from morphine, an opiate found in the seed pods of the opium poppy.

You can find the following types of heroin:

  • Brown powder
  • White powder
  • Sticky black paste (Mexican tar)

Whether you smoke, snort, or inject heroin, the substance enters the brain almost immediately, binding to the opioid receptors that occur naturally.

The most recent data from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 690,000 U.S. adults were addicted to heroin in 2020.

A semi-synthetic opioid, the DEA classifies heroin as a schedule I controlled substance. Like all schedule I substances, heroin has no accepted medical utility and a strong potential for abuse and addiction.

As heroin interacts with the opioid receptors in the brain, it triggers rewarding and pain-relieving properties.

Sustained heroin use will cause tolerance to form quickly. As the effects of heroin diminish in potency, you will need to use more heroin or to use the drug more often. If this vicious cycle continues, physical dependence will soon develop.

Using heroin causes an increase in the production of endorphins in the brain, inducing a sense of euphoria and calm while at the same time reducing anxiety. These feel-good chemicals are normally delivered on demand by the brain’s neurotransmitters – chemical messengers.

Tolerance, dependence, and addiction to opioids like heroin is a response to the structural and functional brain changes provoked by sustained abuse of the drug.

If you become dependent on heroin, you will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the substance. Physical dependence on heroin often but not always leads to heroin addiction.

Heroin addiction symptoms are listed in DSM-5-TR, the fifth edition of APA’s benchmark diagnostic tool used by physicians and mental health specialists.

According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), heroin addiction is a chronic and incurable brain condition characterized by the compulsive use of heroin despite adverse outcomes, and patterns of abstinence and relapse.

Signs of Heroin Abuse

Injecting heroin intravenously is the most direct route of administration and delivers intensely rewarding effects near-instantly. Smoking heroin produces slower-acting and less dramatic effects as it takes the drug longer to reach the brain.

These are some of the most reported signs of heroin abuse:

  • Diminished self-control
  • Neglected personal hygiene
  • Persistently dry mouth
  • Suddenly losing consciousness (nodding off)
  • Pinprick pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slow breathing rate
  • Constipation
  • Memory loss
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Bruises and scabs on arms (track marks)
  • Neglecting personal and professional obligations
  • Itching the skin
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Problems with decision-making
  • Runny nose
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pneumonia
  • Damage to the kidneys or liver
  • Hepatitis C

Short-Term and Long-Term Health Effects of Heroin Abuse

The dangers of heroin abuse can be both physical and psychological, as well as short-term and long-term.

Regardless of the route of administration, heroin triggers these short-term effects:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Appetite loss
  • Impaired lung function
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Itchiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed skin

While most short-term effects induced by heroin are unpleasant, the intense feelings of euphoria delivered by the drug lead to the development of uncontrollable cravings for the substance in the face of obviously negative consequences.

Continuing to use heroin long-term will potentially cause the following complications:

These physical effects of heroin abuse can be dangerous and possibly even fatal. Using this illicit narcotic also tends to trigger psychological and emotional issues, though.

Long-term heroin addiction can permanently damage the brain’s gray matter. Additionally, chronic heroin abuse alters the structure of the brain, sometimes irreversibly.

Addiction to heroin is also frequently associated with mental health issues and impaired cognitive function.

When heroin co-occurs with a mental health disorder, coordinated dual diagnosis treatment usually produces the most favorable treatment outcomes.

Heroin abuse can be life-threatening in the event of overdose. Luckily, prompt administration of an opioid antagonist can reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

Heroin Overdose Potential

Data from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) shows that there was a 7% decrease in fatal overdoses involving heroin in the U.S. between 2019 and 2020. Still, over 13,000 people died after taking a lethal dose of this highly addictive opioid.

The most notable sign of heroin overdose is a complete unresponsiveness. Additional presentation of symptoms includes:

  • Discolored tongue
  • Pinprick pupuls
  • Weak pulse
  • Low blood pressure levels
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In the event of you or a loved one experiencing a heroin overdose:

  1. Call 911 immediately.
  2. Attempt to rouse the individual if they are unconscious.
  3. Turn the person on their side. This may revive regular breathing.

Administering the opioid antagonist Narcan (naloxone) can activate opioid receptors and reverse the effects of heroin overdose by preventing heroin from activating those receptors.

Heroin Detox and Withdrawal

man depressed from using demerolThe best heroin addiction treatment centers will offer access to a supervised medical detox before either an inpatient or outpatient program. The optimum route to recovery will hinge on the severity of your heroin addiction, your personal circumstances, and any co-occurring mental health conditions.

Heroin withdrawal unfolds over roughly one week, with the following uncomfortable symptoms manifesting:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Intense cravings
  • Muscle ache
  • Fever
  • Pain in the bones
  • Mood swings
  • Excessive sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia

The Best Treatment for Heroin Addiction

SAMHSA indicates that heroin use disorders respond well to MAT (medication-assisted treatment) delivered alongside behavioral interventions like counseling and psychotherapy.

These approaches to treating heroin addiction will help you to restructure your brain and to alter your behaviors.

Evidence shows that MAT combined with psychotherapy can:

  • Improve heroin addiction treatment retention.
  • Reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis.
  • Decrease heroin use.

MAT for heroin addiction can be beneficial both during detox and throughout ongoing recovery. We can help you kickstart your recovery here at Gratitude Lodge.

Heroin Addiction Treatment Center at Gratitude Lodge

If you need heroin addiction treatment, we can help you at our affordable Gratitude Lodge rehabs in Long Beach, San Diego, and Newport Beach.

The fiercely addictive nature of heroin means that inpatient treatment is typically advisable. By engaging with evidence-based treatment at one of our luxury residential rehabs, you can focus on beating the physical and psychological aspects of heroin use disorder with no triggers, temptations, or distractions.

In addition to MAT (medication-assisted treatment), you can also benefit from the following interventions:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Talk therapies like CBT and DBT
  • Holistic therapies
  • 12-step immersion program
  • Family therapy

If you need help for heroin addiction today, reach out to Gratitude Lodge by calling 888-861-1658.


Don’t Let Addiction Control You