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Heroin Addiction and Treatment: Signs, Symptoms & Solutions

Last Updated: November 3, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Treatment for heroin can help those showing signs of heroin addiction stop using the highly dangerous and addictive opioid and live drug-free.

Heroin is an illicit opioid and a Schedule I controlled substance responsible for almost 143,000 overdose deaths from 1999–2020. As a highly addictive opioid with no legitimate medical use, heroin can be incredibly dangerous. However, treatment can help you quit heroin and live drug-free.

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Understanding Heroin Addiction

Heroin is commonly snorted or smoked and is addictive because of the “rush” it provides as it quickly enters the brain, which makes it especially addictive among opioids. The drug triggers the brain’s reward system, causing you to continually seek the substance for the same euphoric feeling you had the first time. Repeated heroin use can lead to addiction.

Heroin Addiction Signs

Many heroin abuse and addiction signs exist. Experts have found that someone may be addicted to heroin if they display more than two symptoms of heroin addiction within a year, which can include:

  1. Taking more heroin than you meant to or taking it for longer than intended
  2. Unsuccessful prior attempts to cut down on or quit heroin
  3. Spending a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from heroin use
  4. Craving heroin
  5. Problems meeting obligations at school or work because of heroin
  6. Interpersonal issues due to heroin
  7. Quitting or cutting back on other activities because of heroin
  8. Using heroin even when it is dangerous
  9. Taking heroin even though you know it is harmful
  10. Needing increasing amounts of heroin to get the same effects you had at first
  11. Withdrawal symptoms if you try to cut back or quit heroin

If you are struggling with Heroin addiction, help is available. Call 833-939-0318 today to speak to a Recovery Advocate and learn more about your treatment options.

Effects of Heroin Addiction

Heroin can affect the body and mind. Some effects are short-term when a person is actively taking the drug. Others can persist long after a person has stopped using the substance.

Some short-term effects of heroin use include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Small pupils
  • Nausea
  • Warm or flushed skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Heavy arms and legs

Long-term heroin use can impact multiple areas of your health, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Lung diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis
  • Mental health disorders
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Nasal damage from snorting heroin
  • Scarred or collapsed veins from injecting heroin
  • Infections including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV
  • Immune system problems
  • Organ damage from contaminants in heroin

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

The first step in heroin addiction treatment is realizing you have a problem and need help. When you’ve decided to seek help for heroin addiction and make a change, a comprehensive treatment program at The Recovery Village Kansas City can be helpful. In our comprehensive treatment program, we help you stop heroin use in a medical detox and prepare for life in recovery through rehab treatment.

Heroin Detox

Detox is the first step in quitting heroin for good. In a medically supervised detox program, you can avoid or minimize withdrawal symptoms that might otherwise overwhelm your recovery. While under round-the-clock care from doctors and nurses who can treat your withdrawal symptoms, you may be a candidate for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine-containing drugs like Suboxone as medically appropriate. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose or eyes
  • Yawning
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea

Inpatient Rehab

Following detox, rehab helps you explore why you began to use heroin and learn coping strategies to avoid seeking the drug again. Generally, you begin rehab by living onsite as an inpatient and progress to outpatient therapy. Living onsite helps you focus entirely on your recovery without outside distractions or temptations. Options for inpatient rehab include:

  • Inpatient rehabIn inpatient rehab, you live on-site in a structured, sober living environment where you can focus all your time and efforts on your recovery from heroin.
  • Partial hospitalization: After completing inpatient rehab, partial hospitalization serves as a bridge to outpatient therapy. While in partial hospitalization, you attend at least 20 hours of treatment weekly but have more free time to build habits for recovery.
  • Intensive outpatient: This program is often still residential, but may involve staying at home in unique circumstances. You’ll attend treatment sessions from 9–19 hours a week.

Treating Heroin Addiction With Medication

Experts recommend medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help ease heroin withdrawal symptoms during medical detox and reduce the risk of cravings. If medically appropriate, MAT may continue long-term in those recovering from heroin addiction. MAT generally consists of buprenorphine-based products like Suboxone. At The Recovery Village Kansas City, we integrate MAT with buprenorphine as medically appropriate in our patients recovering from heroin use.

Heroin Addiction and Mental Health

Mental health disorders frequently co-occur with substance use disorders and can complicate recovery if left untreated. Overall, more than 25% of people who struggle with drugs like heroin have a mental health disorder such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorders

Because substance abuse and mental health are so interlinked, it is vital to treat heroin addiction and the underlying mental health disorder that may predispose you to addiction. Through dual diagnosis care, you can address your addiction and mental health and increase your chances of a successful recovery.

Aftercare and Relapse Prevention

Recovery doesn’t stop after rehab. Because addiction is lifelong, focusing on your long-term recovery is important. Aftercare programs help you maintain focus on your recovery and can include teletherapy through Nobu (our mental wellness app), medical referrals, 12-step programs and alumni groups.

Is Heroin Addiction Treatable?

Heroin addiction is a treatable condition. It is important to remember that addiction is lifelong, and recovery will be long-term. However, completing medical detox and professional rehab can help you quit heroin over the long term.

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