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Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a “street drug” made from morphine a natural substance derived from the opium poppy plant. Legal prescription opioids are also made from this plant. The drug is a highly addictive opioid and is classified by the federal government as a Schedule I narcotic which has no legal use.

The drug is responsible for a high rate of addiction and drug overdose. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NS-DUH), heroin use is widespread among millions of American men and women between ages 18-25. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that heroin use disorder increased by over 100% between 2002 and 2012. Between 2001 and 2013 deaths involving heroin addiction increased by 500%.

This information is significant for individuals struggling to overcome heroin addiction. The details provided here can help you determine if you or a loved one is addicted to this illicit drug. It is the first step to seeking professional treatment and regaining control of your life.

More About Heroin

Heroin is produced in different grades and potency and is supplied to drugs pushers and users. It looks like a white or brown powdery substance. Black tar heroin is another variation of the substance and appears black and sticky. The strength and grade of heroin determine the level of euphoria derived from “use” and the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.

The quality of the drug is also linked to the difference in the level of addiction between one person and another. Some varieties of heroin are mixed with other substances, e.g., starch, to enhance its potency but can increase the risk of addiction, or can even be life-threatening when mixed with poisonous substances such as strychnine.

What Causes Heroin Addiction

Heroin Addiction is described as an irresistible and compulsive urge to seek and use this illicit substance. Addiction to any type of drug, illegal or prescription, is considered a complex disease. Long-term use and abuse often lead to what NIDA calls a “brain disorder.” The disorder occurs in stages, beginning with experimentation before leading up to chronic addiction and dependency.

Heroin use provides a rush of euphoria that “hooks” you and keeps you coming back for more. Some say it makes them feel powerful or invincible. When heroin is abused, it causes chemical changes to the neurotransmitters in the brain. It binds the brain’s natural opioid receptors causing you to perpetually crave the drug to get that pleasurable “high.”

Why Some People Are More Addicted to Heroin than Others

Some people are more vulnerable to becoming addicted to heroin for a number of reasons. Notably, the risk of addiction and overdose increases when the drug is taken through a vein and directly into the bloodstream. Factors affecting the level of addiction include:

  • Type of heroin abused
  • Frequency of use
  • Dose sizes
  • How developed the brain is
  • Presence of mental health conditions
  • Personal tolerance level
  • Method of use (smoke, snort, sniff, inject)
  • Simultaneous use of other drugs, e.g., crack cocaine, or medications

Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Some telltale signs of addiction include the following physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms:

Physical Symptoms

  • Dry mouth
  • Damage to the nose tissue from snorting
  • Appearing drowsy or sedated
  • Contracted or pinpoint pupils
  • Needle marks where the drug is injected (“track marks”)
  • Collapsed veins
  • Fevers or chills
  • Respiratory problems, .e.g, shallow breathing
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Digestive problems. e.g., nausea or constipation
  • Presence of drug use paraphernalia, e.g., needles, glass pipes, or nasal spray bottles

Psychological Symptoms

  • Severe mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Poor decision-making
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suppressed emotion
  • Distorted view of reality

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Loss of interest in social activities
  • Acting hostile or aggressive
  • Excessive sleeping
  • The habit of borrowing money from family or friends
  • Repeated stealing
  • A decline in school or work performance
  • Poor hygiene
  • Lying or being deceptive about activities or whereabouts

Heroin Addiction Treatment

The uncontrolled search for and use of this illegal drug has destroyed families, careers, and taken lives. However, successful recovery is possible when treatment is done professionally at an inpatient or outpatient rehab. Heroin treatment is an effective and comprehensive plan involving detoxification and therapy, combined with other therapies to help you “kick the habit.”

Heroin Detoxification

Detoxification for addiction to heroin is a process of cleansing the body of the drug and toxins and should never be attempted at home. Severe, painful, or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms may develop during detox. The withdrawal timeline differs based on the severity of the addiction and underlying mental health problems but can last for several weeks or several months. During this time, a team of medical and psychological professionals will help you manage the symptoms

In severe cases of addiction, opioid medications may be administered by your physician to help reduce cravings as you taper off the drug and become stabilized. Opioid medication may also be administered during maintenance.

Buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone are three prescription strength opioids used in medically-supervised detox. Their usefulness stems from their ability to bind the same opioid receptors in the brain affected by heroin use. They effectively block these receptors causing heroin and other illicitly used opioids to lose their effects on the brain.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms usually begin about 6 to 8 hours after the last dose and may include:

  • Painful muscle spasms
  • Troubled breathing
  • Bone or joint pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Overpowering heroin cravings
  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Uncontrollable kicking of the legs (“kicking the habit”)

Therapy for Heroin Abuse

Underlying mental disorders such as anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, depression, or PTSD are sometimes linked to heroin abuse. Addiction therapy typically involves mental health treatment by a therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a primary tool used to help you understand why addiction occurred and what you can do to prevent recurrence. You will learn how to identify and manage substance use triggers such as negative thoughts and other temptations in your home, school, work, or social environments.

Recovery is a lifetime process which requires a daily commitment to avoid drug abuse urges. Managing drug abuse triggers calls for developing a relapse prevention plan which encourages you to have a support network of people you can turn to whenever the urge to use heroin arises. Your spouse, family member, friends, sober group peers, therapist, and counselor can all be a part of the network. People with a relapse prevention plan tend to stay sober longer.

The Detox Center of L.A. Heroin Treatment Programs Can Assist In Your Recovery

Being addicted to heroin can make you, or your loved one, feel helpless or hopeless as you struggle to end this cycle. The professional addiction treatment staff at The Detox Center of L.A. is here to help and support you through the recovery process. You will undergo a complete physical and mental health evaluation, or dual diagnosis, to determine your needs and tailor a treatment plan that is ideal for you. Medically-assisted detox (MAT) and therapy are done in a safe environment by a compassionate staff of doctors, nurses, therapists, counselors, and case managers

Our auxiliary programs such as family, occupational, holistic, and group therapies, and post-treatment support are designed to give you the best chance at recovery and prevent relapse. Give us a call today to find out more.

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Residential Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation

The Detox Center of LA Residential facility in Los Angeles, California offers an in-house detox programs and rehabilitation programs for those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Out patients reside at the facility full-time in a highly structured environment with knowledgeable, experienced staff that can relate to each resident. Individuals can expect personalized care and programming throughout each day of the week.
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