Heroin or Diamorphine is an opioid drug popular for recreational use. While once waning in popularity, heroin is making a comeback, thanks to increasingly strict regulation of opioid painkillers. Today more than 900,000 people in the United States are addicted, and estimates suggest that more than 75% of users moved to the drug from a prescription painkiller such as Vicodin. Heroin, like most other opiates is highly addictive, and even an occasional user will develop tolerance, dependence, and eventually, addiction.
If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, there are options and help. Heroin addiction is treatable and it is possible to get even a heavily addicted person into rehab.
Heroin Addiction Symptoms
While any drug will affect individual users differently, most heroin addicts display a range of symptoms which can be identified with addiction. In most cases, you can look for physical symptoms, mental side-effects, and drug paraphernalia when looking for heroin usage and addiction.
Heroin is an opiate based drug which can be snorted, smoked, taken orally, or injected. Most users inject the drug because the results are stronger and last longer. This means that you can look for:
Spoons or bottle caps with sticky residue or burn marks
Syringes and needles
Pipes, hoses, or other tie-off equipment
Bandages or Band-Aids
Bloodstains in places such as bathrooms and bedrooms
You can also look for physical signs of addiction and heavy heroin use. Most long-term heroin users will display frequent or constant cold and flu symptoms, flushed skin, and a near-constant state of lassitude or lethargy.
Flushing or redness
Slurring or slow speech
Frequent nausea and diarrhea
Track marks (injection sites) on arms, legs, and inner thighs
In most cases, heroin users will show consistent changes in personality, personal hygiene, and motivation. For example, an addicted user will largely only be interested in their drug and acquiring more of it. Former hobbies, relationships, friends, family, and even bathing will fall to the wayside. If you suspect that your loved one is using, you should try to find out more. They won’t often tell you, but you can pay attention, ask gently, and discuss it with them in a non-judgmental way.
Heroin Addiction Withdrawal
Withdrawing from any opioid drug can be severe and heroin is no exception. Withdrawal should not typically be attempted on your own, simply because it can prove fatal. Medically assisted detox, where medication such as buprenorphine is administered to reduce the risks of detox, is very common to prevent long-term damage.
6-12 Hours – Early onset withdrawal begins with mild anxiety and cravings. Most addicts can relieve symptoms with moderate exercise, food, and showering.
Day 1-4 – Withdrawal symptoms increase over the first 1-4 days and include fever, sweating, fatigue, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, muscle aches, insomnia, and anxiety. In some cases, this can manifest in extreme anxiety and panic attacks, including potential suicidal depression. Some users also experience tremors, extreme muscle spasms, and tremors, which may require medical attention.
Day 5-14 – Symptoms begin to gradually decrease and are typically gone after 15 days.
Here, the physical detox is complete, and the person is no longer physically dependent on the substance. However, they still need treatment in the form of therapy and counseling to recover from mental addiction and reliance on the drug.
Heroin Addiction Treatment
Most heroin addiction treatment includes a range of treatment options including counseling, group therapy, and behavioral therapy. Many also incorporate complementary therapies such as mindfulness or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which are intended to aid the primary therapies.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is also extremely common, because it helps users identify problems and factors contributing to substance abuse. It then works to create specific treatment to help individuals build skills, cope with problems, and manage stress so that they are less likely to relapse again.
If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin, there is help. Rehab and treatment can help your loved one to get clean, to build the tools they need to stay clean, and help them to be happy and enjoy life.