Understanding Heroin Addiction and Treatment

Much of the information that the general public knows about addiction comes from television, movies, and news outlets resulting in unfair stigmas due to inaccurate portrayals. This leads to those struggling with addictions finding themselves experiencing prejudice and unfair stereotypes, causing more harm to individuals and the population. Heroin addiction specifically is often portrayed in a significantly negative light. This portrayal causes individuals that are currently struggling with heroin addiction to be misunderstood, treated adversely, and often shunned from general society. 

By learning about heroin addiction, you can help end the stigma, identify signs of heroin addiction in yourself, or recognize a struggling loved one. This can result in more people getting the help they need, and the stigma to be slowly decreased. 

What Is Heroin?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine.” It usually looks like a white or brown powder, but black tar heroin appears black and sticky. The drug is generally sniffed, injected, snorted, or smoked, producing a sensation of pleasure that is often described as a “high” or “rush.” Street names used for heroin include “horse,” big H,” “smack,” and “hell dust.” 

Heroin is a highly addictive substance that can result in an altered brain structure due to repeated use. Withdrawal symptoms can be highly unpleasant due to dependence and often include intense cravings, insomnia, cold flashes, involuntary leg movements, diarrhea, muscle aches, and bone pain. Intensive care is recommended in an accredited treatment facility to set the patient up for long-term recovery.

Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

Understanding the symptoms of heroin abuse can help you recognize it in yourself or others. As stated previously, heroin use often results in what people describe as a “high,” a euphoric state with high amounts of pleasure. However, other symptoms accompany this feeling as well, such as flushing of the skin, clouded thinking, dry mouth, nausea, itching, heaviness of the arms and legs, and coming in and out of consciousness. 

Dangers of Heroin Addiction

Because of the intense effects that heroin has on its users and the dangerous methods of administering the drug, heroin can have numerous negative consequences on a person’s health, general life goals, and wellbeing. There are multiple impacts that long-term heroin use can have on a person. One of the most common and fatal results of long-term use is an overdose, which occurs when a lethal amount of the drug is used, producing a life-threatening reaction or even death. It is possible to treat overdoses, but emergency help must get to the person in time to administer naloxone before the person succumbs to hypoxia, where the brain is starved of oxygen.

Other dangers of long-term heroin addiction include:

  • Collapsed veins due to repeated injection
  • Damaged nostril tissue due to repeated snorting 
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Abscesses (swollen tissues full of pus)
  • Lung problems such as pneumonia
  • Infection of heart valves and lining
  • Constipation
  • HIV or hepatitis from sharing needles
  • Mental health symptoms (depression, antisocial personality disorder, etc.)
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Sexual dysfunction (in males)

Signs of Heroin Addiction

Unlike symptoms, signs point to the possibility that someone is addicted to heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has indicated that marks on the skin indicating the repeated injection of heroin, dilated pupils, a person’s behaviors being slower than usual, drug paraphernalia, and sleepiness as typical signs of heroin use. Recognizing these signs in another person can be the difference between life and death, as you can get them the help they need by identifying the signs.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Treating heroin addiction typically follows the same path from facility to facility. The treatment period usually lasts between three to twelve months, depending on the individual’s specific recovery needs. The journey usually begins with medical detox to flush the toxins out of the person’s body and allow withdrawal symptoms to run their course. The person will usually be in the detox period for two to seven days. 

After detox, the person usually transfers to an inpatient treatment program where they will undergo assessments by a team of addiction treatment specialists, counselors, and physicians to ensure they are on the right path towards recovery. The person will typically receive a mixture of traditional and holistic treatment modalities to give them the best chance at maintaining long-term sobriety. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may also be used, depending on the facility. All of this is to ensure the patient is ready for recovery outside of treatment. From here, patients can work towards lifelong sobriety.

Heroin addiction is often severely misunderstood due to inaccurate portrayals on television and movies, resulting in building stigma against those that struggle with the disorder. By educating individuals on the realities of heroin addiction, NorthStar Transitions hopes to reduce stigma and help those struggling seek treatment. If you or someone you know is currently going through heroin addiction, our team is here to help. Utilizing both traditional and holistic treatment modalities, we tailor our programs to fit your recovery needs to set you up for lifelong recovery. We understand how difficult it can be to live in a world of addiction, so we have built our facility on successful treatment approaches that not only help you achieve sobriety but want to maintain it as well. Located in beautiful Boulder, CO, our facility is the perfect place to find sobriety and peace within yourself. To learn more about our program, visit the NorthStar website or call us today at (303) 558-6400.

Search Blog Posts
Back to blog
Call 866-407-2240
Verify Insurance