Heroin Addiction

White House Recovery Treatment

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 80% of people diagnosed with a heroin addiction first abused prescription medication. Approximately 29% of people who take medicine for chronic pain will misuse their prescription. Four in six people who end up abusing their pain medication will transition to heroin addiction. The link between the two is clear. You can learn more by visiting our page on prescription addiction. 

Addiction treatment for heroin is essential because of the high death rate associated with this substance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a full third of all opioid deaths involve heroin, and relapse rates have gone up over 6% since 2018. The safest way to lower the risk of overdose injury or death is to undergo rehabilitation. 

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a drug derived from the opioid morphine. Doctors often prescribe opioids for pain relief. Heroin can come in several forms, including a thick black variety called “black tar heroin.” Another form is a white, off-white, or brown powder. A few other names for heroin include big H, horse, hell dust, and smack. Some people who abuse this substance may mix it with cocaine or other drugs. Heroin can be snorted, smoked, or injected. 


Signs of Heroin Addiction

Anyone taking a mind-altering substance will have changes to their thought patterns or behaviors that will be evident to the people around them. If you are worried that you or a loved one may have a substance use disorder (SUD), look for these symptoms and seek appropriate medical guidance. The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists the following as signs of heroin addiction:

  • Needle marks on the skin or scars on the arms, toes, legs, or fingers
  • Pinpoint pupils that stay small regardless of changes in surrounding light
  • Extreme and out of place lethargy and changes in sleep patterns
  • Unusual lack of interest in hygiene or personal grooming
  • Abrupt changes in mood or behavior, including a sudden desire for personal space and acting secretive 
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion and difficulty focusing
  • Lack of coordination and spatial awareness 
  • Memory issues

Long- and Short-Term Health Effects of Heroin

We already listed the grim statistics on heroin overdose rates; however, the long-term consequences that may leave individuals with mental or physical conditions lasting far after their period of substance abuse must also be considered. Below are some of the common physical and psychological health effects caused by using heroin. 

Short-term effects may begin within minutes. What makes heroin so dangerous is the immediate changes that can take place within various neurological systems and include the following symptoms. Unlike many other substances, heroin can be deadly the first time you take it due to the way it slows breathing. Additional short-term effects include:

  • Immediate euphoric rush caused by changes to the brain
  • Warmth and red flushing of the skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Limbs may feel heavy or uncoordinated
  • Flu-like symptoms like nausea and vomiting 
  • Extreme itchiness
  • Unusual and severe tiredness
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing which can lead to coma, brain damage, or death

Long-term effects of heroin can include those listed above and the following: 

  • Changes to the structure and physiology of the brain (some may be permanent)
  • Inability to properly regulate behavior, emotional responses, and mood 
  • Dangerous and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms will begin to occur within a few hours of the last dose
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Lung-related health issues
  • Sexual and reproductive system dysfunction
  • Possible exposure to pathogens
  • Higher risk of developing a mental health disorder


Available Therapy Options

Individuals can get successfully treated for heroin use disorder in a variety of ways. Most programs involve a combination of behavior therapy and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The two most valuable psychotherapies for individuals recovering from heroin use disorder are contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Common medications used in MAT are listed below:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone


What to Expect During Heroin Detox and Withdrawal 

Heroin withdrawal is incredibly uncomfortable and potentially lethal if you attempt to detox from the drug without the care of trained professionals. Several withdrawal side effects can cause you pain and significant discomfort. Many people end up relapsing during detox if they do not have support and medical assistance during that process. The safest way to detox and get through withdrawal from heroin is by attending a treatment facility where you will have access to 24/7 care from a trained medical team. 

Heroin is a short-acting opioid, so the detox period is short and ends quickly. Most people notice withdrawal symptoms within six hours of the last dose. Withdrawal can last for around ten days, with the worst symptoms peaking within the first three days. Depending on how long the person was addicted to heroin, they may have lingering or permanent health issues. The best way to lower the risk of developing these issues is by being treated in a rehabilitation facility.

We are here for you

Heroin is one of the most addictive substances on the planet, and every year, tens of thousands of people are diagnosed with heroin use disorder. People can use a variety of successful treatments to break the cycle of addiction. At White House Recovery and Detox, we offer a complete and comprehensive rehabilitation program to help anyone suffering from heroin use disorder. Resources are available to assist you or a loved one recover and heal from the devastating effects of this drug. You are not alone.