Heroin addiction is a serious substance use disorder that is often characterized by intense psychological and physical dependence. Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid made using extracts from the poppy plant. While heroin is illegal, many other opioids are obtained legally when prescribed by a doctor. Regardless of how an individual obtains opioids, it is important to know that they are highly addictive and can lead to a severe addiction.

Opioids relieve pain by blocking or reducing the number of pain signals sent to the brain. They also cause the brain to release endorphins, causing the user to feel happy, euphoric, or high. These characteristics make heroin and other illicit opioids highly addictive.

If you or someone you love are struggling with a heroin addiction, it’s important to seek professional treatment as soon as possible. High Focus Centers offers holistic and evidence-based substance use treatment programs in Connecticut, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

Risk Factors of Heroin Addiction

Addiction to heroin and other substances can be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors. Known risk factors of drug addiction include:

  • Misuse of prescription opioids such as morphine or oxycodone
  • Family history of addiction or substance use disorders
  • Personal experience with drug use or experimentation
  • History with mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.)
  • Risk-taking or thrill-seeking behavior
  • Severe pressures at home or at work
  • Poverty or unemployment
  • Previous criminal activity
  • Emotional trauma or abuse
  • Stressful life or family situations

It’s important to remember that having one or more of these risk factors does not mean someone will succumb to addiction. Studies and research indicate that a person may be at increased risk of developing a substance use problem if these risk factors are present.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 494,000 people in the United States reported using heroin in 2017. Heroin use in the United States has steadily increased due to the country’s opioid epidemic.

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Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Symptoms of heroin addiction can be physical, behavioral, or psychological. Here are some warning signs to look for:


  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Itchy or flushed skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation and stomach pains
  • Falling asleep without warning
  • Constricted or small pupils
  • Slurred or incoherent speech

Psychological and Behavioral

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Lying or deceptive behavior
  • Avoiding eye contact with others
  • Loss of motivation
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Decreasing quality of performance at school or work
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Hostile behavior toward loved ones
  • Repeatedly stealing or borrowing money from others
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants to hide needle marks
  • Lower attention to personal hygiene

Health Consequences

Similar to other drugs and substances, heroin can cause a myriad of long-term, negative health consequences. Chronic heroin use may result in:

  • Damage to the brain and heart
  • Live and kidney disease
  • Collapsed veins
  • Skin infections
  • Pulmonary infections
  • Development of mental health disorders
  • Constipation or stomach cramping
  • Pneumonia and other lung complications
  • Sexual dysfunction in men and infertility in women
  • Increased risk of Hepatitis or HIV
  • Increased risk of drug overdose

It’s important to keep in mind that these health consequences are not a requirement for an opioid use disorder. Drug addiction can occur before these health consequences manifest.

Signs of Heroin Overdose

If you fear that someone has overdosed on heroin, it’s important to call 9-1-1 right away.

Drug overdose occurs when a person intakes more of a substance (or substances) than their body can handle. Every year, thousands of people in the United States die as a result of heroin overdose. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Irregular, slow, or no breathing
  • Lack of consciousness
  • Body is limp and unresponsive
  • Slow, erratic, or no pulse
  • Face is pale and/or clammy
  • Pupils are constricted (or very small)

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal occurs when a person stops using heroin or other drugs, typically after heavy or regular use. A person in withdrawal may experience a number of unpleasant physical and mental reactions as their body tries to filter out the drug. Withdrawal symptoms usually increase in intensity over time until the process is complete.

Short-term heroin withdrawal symptoms (within first 24 hours) include:

  • Muscle pains and aches
  • Insomnia or inability to sleep
  • Heavy and frequent sweating
  • High level of anxiety
  • Runny nose and/or eyes tearing up

Long-term heroin withdrawal symptoms (after 24 hours) include:

  • Stomach pains and diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils or blurry vision
  • Intense nausea and vomiting
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Treating Heroin Addiction

The effects of heroin withdrawal are intense. Some drug rehab providers, such as High Focus Centers, offer Medication Assisted Treatment to help individuals safely detox under medical supervision. This type of therapy uses approved medications such as Buprenorphine and Naltrexone to mitigate the effects of withdrawal while reducing cravings for the drug. MAT is shown to be most effective when combined with supplemental therapy and addiction counseling.

How High Focus Centers Can Help

In many cases, heroin addiction requires professional help to overcome. If you or someone you love are struggling with heroin use disorder, High Focus Centers is here to help. Our treatment staff takes a holistic, integrated approach that helps clients overcome drug addiction and achieve long-term wellness. Speak with a High Focus Centers treatment specialist today and start your journey to recovery.