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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction?

Heroin addiction is a severe and life-threatening condition. Learn the signs and symptoms of heroin addiction here.

What Is Heroin Addiction?

Heroin addiction is a severe and life-threatening condition that occurs when someone compulsively uses the drug despite the harmful consequences. Heroin addiction is characterized by intense cravings and an uncontrollable need to keep using it to avoid withdrawal symptoms. As of 2020, around 691,000 people aged twelve or older have a heroin use disorder.1

Heroin addiction

Overview of Heroin

Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the opium poppy plant. Initially, heroin was marketed as a safe, non-addictive alternative to morphine. However, it soon became apparent that heroin was even more addictive than its predecessor. 

In the early 1900s, heroin addiction was epidemic in the United States, and the drug was responsible for a wave of crime and overdoses. Today, heroin addiction remains a serious problem, with an estimated 902,000 people in the U.S. using heroin, and it should not be handled with levity.2

If you think someone you know is addicted to heroin, it is essential to look for signs and symptoms of abuse.

How Does Addiction Happen?

People can become addicted to heroin after just one use. Nonetheless, most people who try it don’t go on to develop an addiction right away. Heroin addiction occurs more often in people with a history of substance abuse or mental health disorders.

Addiction develops as a result of changes in the brain that occur from repeated use of a substance. Many addictive drugs, especially heroin, affect the brain’s reward system, altering how it perceives pleasure. Through consistent use, the brain begins to rely on the substance to feel pleasure, resulting in dependence and addiction.

Risk Factors of Heroin Addiction

Several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing a heroin addiction. These will be detailed below.

Genetics

People with close relatives with addiction are more likely to develop a habit. This may be due to genetic factors or because they learn addictive behaviors from their family members.

In addition, specific genes make people more susceptible to developing an addiction. One study examining gene expression in participants with heroin use disorder found four gene signatures, JUN, CEBPB, ENO2, and PRKCB, that can predict heroin addiction diagnosis with 85% accuracy.3

Thrill-Seeking Behavior

One of the risk factors associated with heroin addiction is thrill-seeking behavior, so people who are more likely to take risks and seek new experiences are more likely to abuse drugs. Heroin can produce high levels of pleasure and a rush of euphoria, making it a desirable substance to heighten experiences and make them even more exciting.

Mental Health Disorders

Mental health and substance use disorders often co-occur. People may self-medicate with drugs like heroin to cope with mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia, and attempt to alleviate distressing symptoms. One study found that of 1167 adolescents receiving treatment for addiction, 63% of them met the criteria for a mental health disorder.4

Stressful Life Events

Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or losing a job, can trigger heroin addiction. People may use drugs to cope with these events and try to manage their pain and stress.

Family History of Addiction

Family history is another risk factor for developing a heroin addiction because addiction can be passed down from generation to generation. If you have a family member addicted to drugs, you are more likely to develop a substance use disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Symptoms of heroin can be categorized into physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

The common physical symptoms of heroin addiction include:

  • Sleep problems
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Chest infections
  • Seizures
  • Malnutrition
  • Tuberculosis
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Weight loss

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms of heroin addiction can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Shame and guilt
  • Angry outbursts
  • Poor judgment
  • Hopelessness
  • Confusion
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Poor judgment

Behavioral Symptoms

Common behavioral signs and symptoms of heroin addiction include:

  • Poor performance at work
  • Financial difficulties
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Ruined relationships
  • Lack of interest in routine activities 
  • Evidence of heroin paraphernalia
  • Poor hygiene
  • Job loss

Remaining Cognizant of Potential Symptoms

It is important to remember that everyone experiences the symptoms of addiction differently. Thus, not everyone will experience the above symptoms; some may experience them more severely than others.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, it is essential to seek help as soon as possible. Heroin addiction is a serious condition that can lead to death if left untreated.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Withdrawal symptoms play a significant role in the repeated use of heroin. They can start as early as a few hours after the last dose and peak within a few days. Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin addiction is a severe and life-threatening condition with devastating consequences. Fortunately, there is hope for those struggling with this debilitating disease. There are a variety of treatment options available that can help people to overcome their addiction and start living a sober, productive life.

The following includes the various treatment methods for heroin addiction:

Pharmacological Treatment

Pharmacological treatment, also known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), uses FDA-approved medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy helps people identify and change the behaviors that led to their addiction. Therapy sessions can take place in an individual or group setting. Common and effective types of behavioral therapy for addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

Symptoms of heroines use

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient treatment programs provide twenty-four-hour care and support at a recovery center. Patients are required to live at the facility receiving their treatment.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient treatment allows people to live at home while attending therapy sessions during the day. This program is a less intensive option than inpatient rehab.

How Alta Centers Can Help You

At Alta Centers, we provide premier substance abuse treatment to help individuals achieve long-lasting recovery and a higher quality of life. We are here to help you every step of the way, providing compassionate care and treatment tailored to your individual needs. Our experienced team of doctors, therapists, and counselors will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan to help you achieve your goals. We offer various services, including detoxification, medication-assisted treatment, individual therapy, group counseling, and more.

We also provide twenty-four-seven support, so you can always reach us when needed. If you are struggling with heroin addiction, we encourage you to reach out to us today to begin your journey towards a better future.  

The Bottom Line

Heroin addiction is a severe condition that can lead to overdose and death. Therefore, if you or someone you know is displaying any signs or symptoms of heroin addiction, get help as soon as possible. 

There are many resources available to help people struggling with addiction. With the proper treatment, recovery is possible.

Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.

Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.