Everything About Heroin Addiction
and its Treatment

Get The Help You Need

Heroin addiction is a severe and life-threatening disease that affects thousands of lives every year. Those who struggle in social settings or show signs of depression are more inclined to resort to heroin as a coping mechanism. The use of heroin is banned worldwide, but unfortunately, this drug is still accessible. Before explaining the full extent of heroin abuse and its adverse effects, let’s understand what heroin is.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from a flower in Mexico and South Asia called Opium Poppy. It causes a sensation of “feeling high” and can drift a person into a hallucination. Its use has been banned in the United States since 1924. However, illegal markets have their ways of selling it to addicts who feel they can’t live without it. Heroin addiction affects its user’s mind, rendering them with impaired judgment and blurry vision.

Heroin is sold in the form of white or brownish powder cut with sugar, starch, and quinine. Pure heroin is a white powder that is predominantly sold in the USA and produced in Mexico. Its adverse effects are injurious to health, and there is no moderate amount recommended for this drug’s consumption. Many teenagers fall victim to this heroin addiction and start injecting it into their bodies. The infusion of heroin into the bloodstream gives a much stronger reaction than consuming it orally or snorting it, which leads to a long-lasting sensation of “feeling high.”

Why Do People Become Addicted to Heroin?

People who consume heroin describe a feeling of warmth, relaxation, and detachment. It drifts the mind of its user into an imaginary world where all stressors are suppressed. However, it completely obliterates the body and leaves long term effects on the mind.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug and those who consume heroin typically become addicted to the high they receive which can be used as a temporary relief from the anxieties and stress they are experiencing in their lives. The path leading to heroin consumption is mostly depression, and soon people latch onto it for their emotional support.

Heroin addiction has increased dramatically over the past decade. This is due to the misuse of prescribing opioid pain reliever. This medicine has similar effects to that of heroin and promotes warmth and detached feeling. Many heroin users have reported their first interaction with the drug after consuming pain killers.

According to the CDC, nearly 15,000 people died in 2018 due to drug overdose involving heroin abuse. This rate is almost five deaths per 100,000 Americans, and an immense death toll was in Vermont, standing at 12.5 deaths per 100,000 Americans in 2018. However, the use of heroin has seen a slight decrease over the past few years, but this does not mitigate the dangers associated with heroin.

5 Health Effects of Heroin Addiction

A single dose of heroin can change the structure of a user’s brain. Since heroin weakens the brain’s neurotransmitters, the mind is no longer capable of feeling pain or any emotions. Heroin weakens the brain’s neurotransmitters and amplifies dopamine secretion, a hormone naturally found in the brain that governs our happiness, causing the mind to lose the capability of feeling pain or emotions.

Aside from rewiring the brain, heroin damages the brain tissue. This causes an overall change in the structure of one’s human anatomy. Addiction to heroin forces the brain to become dependent on this drug to secrete essential enzymes. When heroin is not administered into the body, the brain withdraws its standard functionality.

Moreover, heroin abuse affects other parts of the body and alters their muscular structure. Here are some serious health effects of using heroin.

1. Liver Failure

Heroin addiction is a severe and life-threatening disease that affects thousands of lives every year. Those who struggle in social settings or show signs of depression are more inclined to resort to heroin as a coping mechanism. The use of heroin is banned worldwide, but unfortunately, this drug is still accessible. Before explaining the full extent of heroin abuse and its adverse effects, let’s understand what heroin is.

The research also showed degenerative vesicular and fat changes. Moreover, the glycogen levels in the liver were reduced in heroin abusers. This proves that heroin consumption results in loss of energy when the brain is addicted to it. In an average person, energy levels depend on glycogen, a form of sugar like substance in the body that stores energy. When a healthy person drains all their energy, the glycogen in the liver breaks down to rejuvenate them. However, with heroin dependency, the brain shuts down its regular routine and waits for heroin for replenishment.

2. Brain Abnormalities

Aside from its neurological functions, the brain is also responsible for several other essential things. These include decision making, physical response, storing memory, and much more. When a person snorts heroin, it goes directly to the brain. This is a less dangerous method than injecting it into the blood; however, it has tremendous harmful effects on the brain. For starters, the brain stops collecting memories. Studies have shown that heroin affects the white matter of the brain, which regulates the ability to respond in a stressful situation and govern our everyday behavior.

On repeated use, the body becomes tolerant of heroin, and a higher dosage is required to achieve euphoria. This increases heroin consumption in repeated users, which turns into an endless cycle that leads to death. The tolerance for heroin starts building from the first dose because not all chemicals react entirely with the body. With each new dose, the heroin addict has to resort to more consumption to achieve a sensation of “feeling high.” Lastly, heroin abuse changes the brain’s physiology and causes a long-term imbalance of hormones that affect the overall appearance.

3. Skin Diseases

Heroin can be consumed in numerous ways, from snorting to smoking and injecting it in the bloodstream. All of these methods are incredibly harmful to the body. However, injecting it through a needle is the most dangerous of all. When heroin enters the bloodstream, its first action is to eliminate the blood cells that prevent it from reaching the brain’s neural pathways. This battle with the body’s defense mechanism can malnourish the skin and deprive it of water and other elements. Moreover, it also suppresses the immune system, and heroin addicts become prone to common diseases.

When consuming heroin, the needle itself is also highly dangerous. Multiple incisions on the body cause venous sclerosis, which is scarring of the veins or scar tracks. Venous sclerosis can lead to many skin problems, including infection, abscesses, itching, and cellulitis. These diseases are challenging to cure and can take six months or a year for complete recovery.

4. Exposed to HIV

Heroin abuse is directly linked to HIV. When the needle is passed around in groups, it is not adequately sterilized. The spread of one person’s skin cells to another is the main reason HIV thrives in heroin abusers. Moreover, not all heroin addicts are on the streets. Someone Heroin addicts might look fresh and sober thanks to detoxifying liquids. However, this does not mitigate the chances of Hepatitis C (HIV). Each person who injects a drug is likely to spread it among 20 other people. Making sexual contact with heroin addicts causes HIV to spread and escalates its epidemic. Shockingly, out of 30,500 cases of HIV in 2014, the majority were people who inject drugs.

5. Increase Depression

While most people use heroin as their retreat from depression and anxiety, they don’t realize that heroin is causing a spike in abnormality. The addiction to heroin causes the brain to stop secreting emotional hormones because it goes into a suspended state. After the dosing period ends, the brain has trouble getting back on track. During the recovery period, the bloodstream craves for another hit of heroin, which results in further consumption before the brain gets a chance to recover. When this cycle continues for more extended periods, the brain completely stops secreting dopamine and oxytocin. Resulting in complete surrender to heroin abuse to maintain sanity.

a needle injecting heroin on a spoon as one battles heroin addiction and seeks help at an addiction rehab center

How to Treat Heroin Addiction?

Along with an addiction treatment program such as a partial hospitalization program, there are a variety of treatments for heroin addiction, including psychological and medicinal approaches. Both approaches show positive results in the recovery of heroin addicts and restore brain levels to normalcy. Although psychological and restorative addiction treatments can be useful when administered separately, trial and error prove that simultaneous treatment is most beneficial for heroin addicts.

1. Psychological Treatment of Heroin Addiction

Many psychological or behavioral treatments are available for heroin addicts and can be administered in residential settings. The purpose of the psychological treatment of heroin addicts is to help their brain restore standard functionality. Here are a few ways psychology works its magic in helping heroin addicts recover.

  • Reviving the Reward System of the Brain: The best treatment for heroin addiction is reviving the reward system of the brain. In an average person, the brain secretes hormones based on emotions. When we perform an activity in our favor, the brain releases positive hormones. However, this mechanism is suspended in heroin addicts. The reward system therapy or contingency management relies on a point system approach. When a patient is tested negative for a drug, they are allocated specific points. Each drug test that comes negative adds to their scorecard. These points can be utilized in buying things that encourage healthy living. This technique keeps the patient motivated for good behavior and quick recovery.

  • Coping with Stress: Psychological treatment of heroin addiction is designed to attack the root cause of addiction. Most people fall into heroin addiction because of stress and depression. This occurs when patients don’t have the necessary training for stress management. Coping with stress or cognitive behavioral therapy trains patients to deal with everyday stress and keep their emotions under control. This helps in eliminating depression and anxiety and helps patients recover from heroin addiction.

2. Medicinal Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Heroin recovery comes with withdrawal symptoms. When a heroin addict is removed from administering drugs, the body reacts in rebellion. The brain starts to lose all control over the body, and limbs begin to shiver, causing panic attacks, vomiting, diarrhea, and other medical problems. These symptoms are hard to diminish without proper medication. Therefore medicinal care and behavioral treatments go hand in hand.

Medicines developed for the treatment of heroin addiction work in the same way as the drug. However, they don’t attack the brain. Instead, these medications help in reducing the withdrawal symptoms of heroin addiction. Medicines that treat heroin addiction are.

  • Methadone: Methadone is a slow-acting opioid consumed orally so that it slowly reaches the brain. A strong dose of methadone can be fatal as the brain is in a recovery stage. Methadone has been used since 1960 as a treatment for heroin addiction, and it’s as excellent as ever, especially for patients who do not react well to other medication. Methadone relaxes the brain and reduces withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and shivering.

  • Buprenorphine: Unlike Methadone treatment, Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that simmers down cravings for heroin. It is consumed orally or sublingually to prevent the attempts of injecting drugs. Buprenorphine treatment administered through a needle can significantly reduce Heroin withdrawal symptoms and was approved by the FDA in 2002.
heroin addiction drugs on a pink background to represent the ways to help one battling heroin addiction and substance abuse in Ohio

How to Help Someone with Heroin Addiction?

Helping someone with a heroin addiction can be a daunting task for many people. The repulsive and aggressive nature of heroin addicts can cause physical and emotional damage. On the other hand, cravings for heroin are hard to prevent as well. In this situation, it is best to consult recovery institutes for professional help. However, there are some ways you can avoid danger and help your loved one with heroin addiction recovery.

1. Emotional Support

If your loved ones have not drifted far into the sea of addiction, there is a way for you to help them back to shore. Mostly, heroin addicts are deprived of emotional support. These people resort to artificial happiness by administering drugs in their system. If you have someone suffering from heroin addiction, you can chat with them about it. Confronting their problems and understanding why they chose this path is the first step to breaking their defense. Keeping up strong emotional support and helping such people get back to their feet through constant appraisal is your best option.

2. Motivate Them to Quit

Not all heroin addicts are emotionally deprived. Some fall into heroin addiction by drawing influence from the wrong company. In this situation, being harsh or strict with them can cause even more addiction. The best approach for such cases is to calmly handle the situation and motivate them to a sober life.

3. Fill Up Their Schedule with Responsibilities

If you doubt that your loved ones are using heroin or any other drug, you should monitor their expenses. Heroin addiction starts at the age of 12, which is extremely dangerous as the body and mind have not developed completely. The best treatment for heroin addiction in teenagers is to fill up their schedule with responsibilities. Don’t confront them about their addiction just yet. Simply add more accountability and work in their life and remove leisure time. This will keep your loved ones busy and leave no time for bad company.

4. Encourage Them to Get Help

When things go out of hand, it’s time to let professionals take care of your loved one. Heroin addiction can be troublesome for the addict and the people around them. These people tend to drag others along with their addiction. The best course of action in this situation is to encourage these people to get help. Usually, heroin addicts have a relapse during which they want to be free from the slavery of this substance. This is the best time to have them admitted to a rehabilitation center.

5. Establish Trust

An essential step in helping someone recover from heroin is establishing trust with them. Heroin addicts have a hard time trusting people for several reasons. One of them being, they were introduced to this drug by the ones they trusted. As we mentioned above, heroin addicts seek freedom from this slavery. They are subconsciously trying to break from their addiction. However, trusting once again might seem impossible for these people, but you have to try everything in your power to win them over.

Start by building a conversation with them before confronting their addiction. Slowly make your way up to this topic and then inquire why they chose this path without being harsh. Once your loved ones start explaining their side of the story, you have to start trusting them. In time, your loved ones will open up to you and seek refuge from this villainous addiction.

A heroin addict consuming drugs as he struggles with heroin addiction and seeks addiction treatment at Recovery Institute of Ohio

What are the Symptoms of Heroin Addiction?

In the early stages of heroin addiction, there might be no symptoms of it. However, it becomes hard to disguise heroin abuse as visible signs show up on the body and face with time. Moreover, health deterioration starts after a week of continuous abuse of heroin. Many rehabilitation centers are available to help individuals overcome heroin addiction, but even with robust treatment programs and caring staff, getting addicts to quit is not easy.

Here are some early symptoms of heroin abuse that might help you spot a drug abuser. These will help you understand what’s wrong with your loved one, and you can get them the proper medical attention in time.

  • Agitation or drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Constricted (smaller) pupils
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Needle marks (if injecting the drug)
  • Runny nose or nose sores (if snorting the drug)
  • Constipation
  • Reduced sense of pain

Other hidden signs of heroin abuse include.

  • Changes in appearance or decline in personal hygiene
  • Changes in behavior, like sudden secrecy or aggression
  • Money issues, such as missing money or needing more and more money without any logical reason
  • Problems at school or work
  • Risky or dangerous behavior

One of the hallmarks of heroin addiction is that the person starts to consume it more and more. Since the body develops an immunity to this drug, the feeling of euphoria is hard to achieve. Therefore, heroin addicts fall deeper into this pit of disaster and destroy themselves over time.

How is Heroin Drug Addiction Diagnosed?

There are no one-size-fits-all methods for heroin addiction diagnosis. Multiple lab tests of urine and blood samples are conducted to find traces of opioids in the blood. Sometimes, opioid is found in sleep medicines and other pharmaceutical drugs. In this case, the lab relies on the abundance of this chemical in the bloodstream.

If the tests are still ambiguous, the patient’s case is forwarded to a psychiatrist and psychologist for behavioral evaluation. Since heroin addicts have slurred speed, blurry vision, and other visible symptoms, it’s easier for trained professionals to point out the abuse.

Furthermore, a toxicology test can put forward all drugs consumed by the person during their lifetime. This is because any harmful drug that makes its way inside the body tends to leave traces. The toxicology test picks up these traces, and the screening process can put forward up to 30 different drugs in the blood. However, in a rehabilitation center, the patient must fill out a form asking about all sorts of drugs they have used.

Trained and experienced rehabilitation centers in Ohio have unique methods of overcoming drug addiction. These methods are different for each drug. Therefore, a heroin addiction diagnosis is relevant before admission.

A table with muffins, fruits, and vegetables on it at Recovery Institute of Ohio for those battling heroin addiction and substance abuse

Foods that Help with Recovery from Heroin Addiction

Heroin is present in the body for longer than you think. Despite rehabilitation treatment, there are chances of an addict relapsing. To prevent heroin addiction from destroying your life again, you can resort to a healthy diet. Food is the best medicine for all problems. The right amount of calories, proteins, and other minerals can reduce any addiction. Here is a diet you can follow to reduce your chances of relapse.

1. Poultry and Fish

Poultry and fish contain an amino acid known as tyrosine. Heroin abuse prevents your body from digesting tyrosine properly, which causes depression and anxiety issues. Tyrosine is a vital amino acid that aids in the creation of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Once you recover from a rehabilitation center, you need your brain to start making dopamine to naturally avoid falling into depression. Tyrosine can help you do that by boosting your brain performance and promoting mental clarity.

2. Tofu

Tofu is easy to digest liver healing food that you must eat while recovering from heroin addiction. Since heroin abuse destroys the liver tissues and alters its structure, tofu can help recuperate the damages. While all proteins are beneficial to the liver, tofu relaxes the liver muscles and does not require bile secretion for digestion.

3. Bananas

Bananas are good for sleep. During your recovery from heroin addiction, you might face a lack of sleep. This is because heroin prevents the digestion of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps sleep. During your battle with your addiction, ample banana consumption will help you sleep and mitigate heroin cravings at night.

4. Vegetables

In general, vegetables contain numerous minerals that are good for health. During heroin addiction, an improper diet and messy chemicals in the blood cause malnourishment. Vegetables such as carrots, apricot, tomatoes, beans, and spinach can help skin recover from heroin abuse. Consuming these vegetables in the right amount will rebuild your skin cells and bring back your glowing face.

5. Blueberries

Blueberries are excellent in recovering from heroin addiction. This fruit is loaded with antioxidants that can clean your blood from traces of heroin. As heroin weakens the immune system by creating free radicals, blueberries produce tons of white blood cells that can rebuild your immune system.

Concluding Thoughts

Heroin addiction is a severe disease that dramatically and negatively affects an abuser’s life from the inside out. Heroin is the 14th most dangerous drug in the world and its use is related to numerous health issues. Furthermore, heroin addiction affects one’s social life as people tend to keep away from heroin addicts as this habit not only affects the user but those surrounding them as well. If you or a loved one have fallen victim to this heinous drug and become dependent on it, please know that there is help just a call away. With state of the art technology and an environment that prospers healthy living, Recovery Institute of Ohio makes life-long recovery possible. Rest assured that your loved one will be in safe hands.

Are You Ready to Start a Better Way of Life?

Reviewed by Jessica Kitchen

Jessica Kitchin is the Clinical Program Manager/Primary Therapist at Recovery Institute of Ohio. She received her Master’s Degree in Addiction Counseling from Grand Canyon University. Jessica believes that the best part of her job is knowing that she is apart of creating a safe, healthy, nonjudgmental environment where people can come and better their lives. "There is nothing more satisfying than helping others learn to live again and piece their lives back together as they become strong, productive members of society. Together, we can bring families back together and promote healing and wellbeing.

Start your recovery today with Recovery Institute of Ohio

Recovery Institute of Ohio Treatment Programs

Drug Rehab Blogs

What Is Drug Rehab

What Is Drug Rehab? A look at a typical day inside a drug rehabilitation center.Get The Help You NeedA drug rehab center is a facility that specializes in the treatment of substance abuse. A drug rehab can offer various treatment options including inpatient and...

OCD and Addiction

Obsessive thoughts and worries happen to everyone at some point or another. For example, most people will experience the sudden feeling that we’ve left the stove on or that the front door is unlocked.

Adderall Addiction Treatment in Toledo Ohio

Adderall addiction is a common problem that affects millions of Americans and even more people across the globe. Interestingly, Adderall misuse is particularly prevalent among young adults.

Opioid Addiction Treatment Center

Opioid addiction is a common drug abuse problem affecting more than 2 million Americans and many more individuals all over the globe. People who suffer from this addiction find themselves with strong cravings for opioids and a lack of control over how and when they use these drugs.

Substance Abuse Treatment Columbus Ohio

Substance use habits affect individuals in unique ways. A weakness for some may present as a strength for others. A severe trigger for one person might be little more than an afterthought for another.

CBT for Addiction: Does It Work?

Detox is generally the first part of the addiction treatment process. Through medical care and supervision, withdrawal symptoms are monitored as the patient stops the use of addictive substances.

Stages of Addiction Recovery

Recovery Institute of Ohio provides helpful resources about addiction recovery to help you or a loved one understand how to overcome substance abuse.

Xanax Addiction Symptoms

Get The Help You Need Addiction of any kind can have adverse effects on a person’s professional, social and personal life. Substance abuse and addiction can cause deterioration of the mental and physical health of the user. Families of…

Addiction Relapse

As individuals recover from any form of addiction, they have the possibility of experiencing an addiction relapse along the way. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA),…

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

A severe substance addiction to drugs, such as oxycodone or heroin, is typically best treated through an inpatient program to manage withdrawal and detoxification….

Today is a Great Day
to Be Clean and Sober.

Request Information