Heroin Addiction and Treatment: Signs, Symptoms & Solutions
Last Updated: November 3, 2023
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.
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:
- Taking more heroin than you meant to or taking it for longer than intended
- Unsuccessful prior attempts to cut down on or quit heroin
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from heroin use
- Craving heroin
- Problems meeting obligations at school or work because of heroin
- Interpersonal issues due to heroin
- Quitting or cutting back on other activities because of heroin
- Using heroin even when it is dangerous
- Taking heroin even though you know it is harmful
- Needing increasing amounts of heroin to get the same effects you had at first
- 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:
- Slowed breathing
- Small pupils
- Warm or flushed skin
- Dry mouth
- Heavy arms and legs
- 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.
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
- Runny nose or eyes
- Enlarged pupils
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
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 rehab: In 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:
- 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.
Explore Our Levels of Care
Our full continuum of customizable treatment plans ensure each patient gets professional care that meets their needs.
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- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are the medical complications of chronic heroin use?“>What are[…]c heroin use?” June 2018. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drugs of Abuse“>Drugs of Abuse.” December 2022. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Heroin“>Heroin.” May 23, 2022. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- PsychDB. “Opioid Use Disorder“>Opioid Use Disorder.” May 3, 2021. Accessed January 16, 2023.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment and Recovery“>Treatmen[…] and Recovery.” July 2020. Accessed January 16, 2023.