Heroin Addiction Signs & Symptoms

What is Heroin?

Heroin – known chemically as diamorphine – is an extremely addictive drug derived from morphine. Usually available in the form of brown or white powder, heroin can be consumed in a variety of ways – most infamously it is injected, but can also be smoked or snorted and produces feelings of supreme euphoria, relaxation and well-being, as well as, on occasion, hallucinations and incredibly vivid dreams.

Known on the street by a vast number of pseudonyms including “smack”, “brown”, “junk”, “horse”, “H”, “dope” and many others, heroin is widely available despite its being viewed internationally as one of the most dangerous of all illicit substances

10 Signs & Symptoms You Need a Heroin Detox

Addiction to heroin is one of the most severe and life-threatening drug addictions a human being can develop. There is no such thing as casual heroin use, so if you or a loved are using heroin, it is very likely he or she is addicted. Addicts will abuse it until they are nearing collapse, spiritually, mentally, physically and financially.

Below is a list of signs that you require urgent detoxification:

  • You are using heroin of any quantity 
  • Persistent flu-like symptoms
  • Constipation and diarrhoea
  • Bruising or scabbing of the skin
  • Exhaustion and lethargy
  • Abscesses and track marks
  • Damage to the kidneys and liver
  • Itchiness and aching muscles
  • Significant unintentional weight loss
  • Tuberculosis and Pneumonia

Long-Term Effects

Heroin’s effects upon the lives, bodies and minds of long-term users are notoriously profound. Most seriously, of course, people can die from overdosing on the drug – but even apart from such worst-case scenarios, the impact of heroin abuse can be severe and long-lasting, both physically and mentally.

Physical Effects

Many of the most physical severe consequences of heroin abuse come about as a result of intravenous use. Injecting heroin can cause considerable damage to blood vessels including collapsed veins and infections, and can be immediately fatal if the injection itself is not conducted correctly (for example if a sufficient quantity of air is injected into the bloodstream).

Fatalities can also occur when heroin is “cut” (mixed) with other substances (including much stronger drugs such as fentanyl, responsible for a growing number of deaths worldwide) which may be toxic or damaging in different ways. People injecting heroin (or any other drug) are also at a much higher risk of contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Effects on Mental Health

Depression is a widespread consequence: in the short-term, the brain adjusts to the presence of heroin and alters the rate of production of chemicals (including dopamine and serotonin) relating to happiness and pleasure.

Longer-term, when confronted with the consequences of his/her addiction (which may have included the loss of essential relationships with loved ones, financial collapse, unemployment, a criminal record, and gaining a reputation as a “junkie”) feelings of depression can be profound and may result in suicidal ideation.

Heroin use specifically – especially long-term – can cause structural changes in the brain, leading to a marked decrease in cognitive capabilities (lowered intelligence), decision-making abilities and the ability to regulate one’s behaviour.

Next: Heroin detox and rehab

Key Facts about Heroin

Because of the great stigma associated with heroin abuse, and the serious consequences faced by those caught using the drug, firm data on the number of heroin users in the UK is hard to come by. However, in 2015-16 approximately 150,000 people Britons sought treatment for opiate addiction (implying, logically, a significantly higher overall total user base).

The UK has by far the highest number of heroin addicts in Europe, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs & Drug Addiction (EMCDDA): some 31% of all drug overdoses in Europe in 2017 occurred in this country.

Heroin FAQ

Why is heroin so addictive?

Heroin is incredibly pleasurable and has been compared to the euphoric feeling of sexual intercourse. As a result, the user feels the urge to replicate those feelings by consuming more of the drug.

Doing this repeatedly will lead to psychological dependence on heroin – whereby the user feels the need to take the drug all the time, firstly to feel the associated euphoria, but after a while to feel anything other than the depression and cravings which result from not taking it.

Meanwhile, the body is building up a physical dependence on the drug: some hours after last taking heroin, the user will start feeling the physical symptoms of withdrawal which are typically extremely unpleasant and can only be lessened or removed by taking more heroin.

If the user has broken relationships with family and friends as a result of their addiction, they may feel that they have nobody to turn to for help and that they are therefore trapped between addiction and terrifying loneliness.

How can I help a loved one with a heroin addiction?

Even though the situation may well be extremely distressing for you, stay calm and not become upset as you explain to them that there are a high number of options for treatment – but that treatment is vital before the addiction does more damage.

We specialise in providing tailored detox & rehab programmes to the client with dedicated family support. Heroin addiction rarely affects just the individual, and we appreciate that this can be a stressful time for all those concerned. If you have any questions regarding heroin detox & rehab, treatment needs, locations and cost – we can answer them!

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