What Are the Most Common Heroin Addiction Symptoms?

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What Is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal drug derived from morphine, a substance that is naturally found in the seed pods of certain varieties of poppy plants. It’s often used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects. Repeat use in pursuit of these effects can lead to the development of heroin addiction symptoms.

Believe it or not, heroin was once a brand name for legal medicine. In 1897, a scientist working for Bayer synthesized heroin from the opium poppy. For a long time, it was marketed as a non-addictive alternative to morphine and could be bought over the counter.

In 1924, Congress banned its sale, importation, and manufacture when it passed the Heroin Act. Today, it’s classified as a Schedule I Substance under the Controlled Substances Act – the highest level of classification there is.

Chemically, heroin belongs to the class of drugs known as opioids, which also includes legal, prescription medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. Opioids interact with opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system to produce their euphoric effects.

Heroin is known by many names and is usually a white or brown powder, or it can be a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.” It can be injected, inhaled by snorting or sniffing, or smoked. These methods deliver the drug to the brain very rapidly, contributing to its health risks and a high potential for addiction.

Heroin addiction is a particularly dangerous and destructive form of substance abuse. Heroin addiction symptoms are so powerful that many people require special medications to detox from heroin.

In this article, we’ll talk about the effects of heroin, heroin addiction symptoms, and what to do if you or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction.

Why Is Heroin So Addictive?

Heroin is highly addictive due to its powerful effects on the brain’s reward system. It works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, which are involved in the perception of pain and reward. These receptors are found in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body.

When heroin is taken, it is converted into morphine in the brain, which then binds to the opioid receptors. This causes a surge of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of reward, to be released in the brain. This causes intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria, the first step to heroin addiction.

However, these feelings are temporary, and when the effects of the drug wear off, the person often feels a strong desire to recreate that initial rush.

As a result, individuals who use heroin often find themselves taking the drug more frequently and in ever higher doses. This pattern of escalating use can quickly lead to heroin addiction symptoms. In that case, it may be time for inpatient treatment for an addiction to heroin. 

The Most Common Heroin Addiction Symptoms

Heroin addiction symptoms can be both physical and behavioral. Recognizing them can be a crucial first step toward seeking help.

Physical Heroin Addiction Symptoms:

  • Changes in appearance — Neglect of personal hygiene, wearing long sleeves to hide needle marks, sudden and significant weight loss, runny nose, or frequent nosebleeds (if the drug is snorted).
  • Health issues —  Skin infections or abscesses at injection sites, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. More serious health issues can include heart infections, liver or kidney disease, and HIV or hepatitis (from shared needles).
  • Drug tolerance and dependence —  Needing to use more of the drug to experience the same effects, or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not taken.
  • Overdose —  Slow and shallow breathing, blue lips and nails, convulsions, coma, and potentially death.

Behavioral Heroin Addiction Symptoms:

  • Changes in behavior or personality — Increased secrecy, sudden changes in friends or hobbies, mood swings, and periods of hyperactivity followed by long periods of sleep.
  • Decreased performance —  Failing performance at school or work, frequent absences, loss of job, or expulsion from school.
  • Legal or financial trouble —  Arrests for possession of the drug, stealing to support the habit or unexplained need for money.
  • Problems at home —  Neglect of family responsibilities, increasing arguments or violence, neglect of children, or missing valuable items (due to being sold for drugs).
  • Lack of control over drug use —  Inability to stop or control drug use, spending a lot of time using and recovering from the drug, giving up activities they once enjoyed in favor of drug use.
  • Lack of control over drug use —  Inability to stop or control drug use, spending a lot of time using and recovering from the drug, giving up activities they once enjoyed in favor of drug use.

What Are Some Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

Here are some common heroin withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Migraines
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Aches and pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Tremors

In severe cases, withdrawal can also include more serious symptoms such as rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and even hallucinations or delirium. These symptoms may require hospitalization and medical treatment. An addiction and behavioral health treatment program can help. Our opiate withdrawal and recovery center can help anyone on the path to a brighter future. 

While heroin withdrawal is rarely life-threatening, it can be highly distressing, and the discomfort and intense cravings for the drug can often lead to relapse. Because of this, a medical detox is often required. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.

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Heroin Addiction Treatment at South Coast Behavioral Health

Heroin addiction symptoms can make quitting very hard. On top of that, heroin withdrawal can be downright scary and painful.

But continuing to abuse heroin can lead to overdose and death. These risks are amplified when the drug is mixed with other substances like alcohol or benzodiazepines.

South Coast Behavioral Health offers a fully accredited medical detox program in California to help you detox safely. At our state-of-the-art detox facilities, certified professionals can provide you with comprehensive care as you do this.49/83

At South Coast, we take pride in offering care that is closely tailored to specific issues. To that end, we offer gender-specific detox programs, with medical detox for men in Irvine, CA, and medical detox for women in Huntington Beach, CA.

After you detox, we can then begin with heroin addiction treatment. There are several different approaches to take here, including:

Residential Treatment in California

After completing medical detox, you’ll move to inpatient treatment in Orange County California. There, you’ll receive medically-assisted treatment and dual diagnosis treatment to deal with any cravings or co-occurring mental health issues you may be battling.

We also offer residential treatment facilities in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Huntington Beach for those who desire gender-specific treatment. There, clients get round-the-clock medical attention and monitoring while living at the institution full-time.

In addition to individual and group counseling and medication management, you’ll also have access to leisure activities and family support services.

Partial Hospitalization in California

Most clients start substance abuse treatment with South Coast in our residential treatment program. After completing that, many desire something that still provides structure and support, but with extra space and time to oneself. For that, we offer Partial Hospitalization in Newport Beach.

A step down from inpatient care but with more structure than conventional outpatient programs, partial hospitalization offers a good balance for those looking to ease back into normal life. Clients can receive care five to seven days a week for a number of hours each day, returning to their homes in the evening.

This way, they can recover without putting their daily lives completely on hold, receiving intense therapeutic interventions like group and individual therapy, skill development, and medication management as necessary.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment in California

For those leaving inpatient residential treatment or partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are yet another gradual step forward on the road to recovery.

With a focus on group therapy, individual counseling, and psychoeducation, clients undergoing Intensive Outpatient Treatment in Newport Beach can expect to meet three to five days a week of therapy, with each session lasting three hours. This level of care requires the least amount of attendance at a facility

IOPs offer participants the ability to continue their employment or academic obligations, receiving support and therapy as needed as they prepare to reenter society.

Get Started Today

Noticing the symptoms of heroin can be hard on anyone. If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction o but have questions about treatment, call us at 866-881-1184 or contact us here. Our highly qualified staff will be happy to help give you an idea of what to expect from your addiction recovery timeline, help verify your insurance, and assist with any other questions you may have about how heroin abusers can turn their life around We can also help with co-occurring disorders and preventing heroin overdoses. 

Pierce Willans
Kelly McIntyre
Medically Reviewed by Kelly McIntyre, MS, LMFT
Read More About addiction Treatment & Recovery
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