Heroin is a highly addictive drug, which means that even one use creates a change in the brain that can lead down a path of cravings, dependency, and addiction. Signs of heroin abuse vary and for some, it can creep up slowly and without notice. When using heroin in any form, there are noticeable signs of addiction, which occur once the drug has worn off. First, it produces a feeling of relaxation and happiness. Then, it puts you in a thick fog, alternating between alertness and disorientation.
However, it’s the aftermath that is indicative of how damaging the drug is to your system. If you’re wondering, am I addicted to heroin, consider any physical changes you’ve experienced and mood swings you’ve endured. As heroin begins to wear off, common side effects are:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle and bone pain
Other signs of heroin addiction often include problems with interpersonal relationships at home, work, and socially. When addiction settles in, it takes control over your normal behavior.
Dependence on heroin also puts you at risk for overdose, which has severe consequences, including:
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heart rate
- Cold, damp skin
- Inability to speak
Heroin overdose can lead to cardiovascular events like a stroke or heart attack and ultimately, can be fatal. However, one of the biggest indicators of heroin addiction is withdrawal symptoms. Once your body becomes accustomed to functioning with heroin in the system, it requires constant dosages to prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring. These are painful and uncomfortable, ranging in severity and length of time.
If you think you are addicted to heroin, it’s best to seek the help of a treatment facility to detox and rehabilitate safely. Abrupt withdrawal from heroin can be dangerous and additionally harmful to your health. Being part of a medically managed program ensures your well-being is monitored and taken care of as you go through the stages of long-term recovery.
Signs of Heroin Withdrawal
Signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal occur within hours of the last dosage and are at their worst within the first 24-48 hours. Their intensity often leads people to relapse. You may experience a combination of:
- Muscle aches
- Rapid heartbeat
- Excessive sweating
This recurrence of symptoms can last for several days. A complete withdrawal period often lasts up to a week, if not longer. The timeline depends on how long you’ve been abusing heroin and how much it’s affected your system. The cycle of heroin addiction and withdrawal symptoms take a toll both physically and mentally. And, there’s no way to predict how the body will react to either as they happen.
When receiving care from an addiction treatment facility, there are certain medications that may ease withdrawal symptoms, which can be administered by medical professionals onsite. They monitor your overall health and progress and offer support every step of the way. Detox is not a process to go through on your own. The unpredictability factor alone doesn’t put you in a safe space to fight your drug addiction. Lean on the support of others to begin your healing in a safe way.
How Heroin Addiction Starts
Heroin addiction can and does happen to anyone due to the strong nature of the drug itself. Addiction is caused by the physiological changes to your brain that makes you believe your body needs heroin in order to survive. The neurons that naturally produce endorphins and feelings of pleasure are replaced by the rush that comes from heroin. The result of not having it triggers the withdrawal symptoms mentioned before.
Many cases of heroin addiction start out as an addiction to prescribed pain medication. The rates have risen so dramatically that the Secretary of Health and Human Services announced an opioid initiative, which is aimed to reduce drug addiction and drug overdose. The reliance on pain medication, prescribed or not, is a key risk factor in future heroin use.
Heroin has a half-life of only a few minutes. Whether heroin is used to ease pain through the prescription of opioids or to chase a high, the more it’s used, the body begins to build a tolerance. To achieve the same euphoric effect as before, it takes more than the original dosage. Using a greater amount more frequently contributes to accidental heroin overdose and/or addiction.
Long-Term Effects of Heroin Addiction
The longer you decline to seek help for addiction, the greater damage it does to your organs. Many people with a history of heroin addiction develop liver, kidney, or heart disease. It also weakens the immune system, limiting or eliminating your ability to fend off bacteria. Additionally, heroin abuse can result in blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV, due to shared needles. These long-term effects on your health will eventually impact other areas of your life as well.
Heroin addiction is often linked to other dangerous behavior, since the drug changes the way you think and behave. Everyday activities like driving, taking care of yourself and others, and going to work can all lead to disastrous results when under the influence of heroin addiction. However, you don’t have to wait for the worst to happen before reaching out for help.
Seeking Help For Heroin Addiction
Recognizing the problem of addiction is the first step in seeking help. This may be difficult to see since it’s become a sense of normalcy in your day-to-day life. When experiencing symptoms of withdrawal or changes in behavior, it’s a good idea to turn to the assistance that’s available. If you’re a loved one concerned about a friend or family member, the tell-tale signs will be noticeable, although they may try to hide or deny there’s a problem.
Whether you’re experiencing heroin addiction firsthand or witnessing in the life of someone you care about, it’s important to remember that it’s a disease versus a decision. At the point of addiction, treatment and rehabilitation is needed to reach long-term sobriety. However, it doesn’t have to maintain its hold on you. The model of an addiction treatment program is set up for your success in achieving a sober, healthy life for the long-term. As part of a medically managed program, you can go through the heroin detox process in a safe, secure place with people and resources readily available to meet your needs.
The Importance of Residential Rehab
After the initial heroin detox phase, the next step is residential treatment. This requires a temporary stay at the treatment facility to truly focus on your healing process. A rehab center provides a schedule filled with activities that are beneficial to your wellness. Residential rehab involves individual counseling, group therapy, recreational activities, and educational classes, all designed to explore your addiction closely and understand what it takes to prevent it from happening in the future.
It often takes being removed from your current, toxic environment of addiction and settled into a place of calm and restoration in order to heal. The Northbound Treatment Program involves a team of up to six specialists and therapists who are dedicated to your care and health plan. Your team may include any combination of the following:
- ASAM certified addiction psychiatrist
- Nationally certified and licensed, masters-prepared primary therapist
- Licensed addictions counselor
- Masters-prepared trauma therapist
- Music therapist
- Academic advisor
Treatment is guided by the In Vivo® Model, which has been designed to help you learn, develop, and adapt to living life on life’s terms. This starts with the structured environment of residential treatment and progresses into the subsequent phases of outpatient care and addiction support services. Each phase is built to solidify a strong foundation and create a greater sense of independence and confidence so that you may maintain a sober lifestyle that is happy and balanced.
Creating a Fulfilling, Substance-Free Life
Addiction treatment involves much more than simply getting sober. That is the primary focus which everything is built around, but it’s important to plan for your life after the program is over. When heroin addiction has had such a commanding presence, it’s important to identify each area separately that needs repaired.
Through Northbound’s specialized programs, clients can visualize and work toward a promising future where they’re able to reach their goals. These programs involve mentorship for school enrollment, guidance to secure employment, specialized trauma programs, among other therapies and specialties that are focused on meeting individual needs.
The structure of the different phases of detox, residential rehab, and outpatient treatment are similar for every person, but the details are customized to make a difference based on where you are in life. To sustain your sobriety, it’s essential to find purpose behind what drives you and will keep you focused on your physical and mental health. After you’ve completed all phases of heroin addiction treatment and have returned back to real life, there is always support and resources available when you need it.
Heroin addiction doesn’t have to be your final act of life. There are people and programs ready to guide you on a new path. The important thing to remember is to keep moving forward and focus on creating the future you deserve.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Introduction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9 June 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-abuse-heroin-use/introduction
- “Signs of Heroin Use.” Easy Read, 5 Sept. 2019, easyread.drugabuse.gov/content/signs-heroin-use
- “Opiates.” Drug Testing: Opiates – Mayo Clinic Laboratories, www.mayocliniclabs.com/test-info/drug-book/opiates.html