Signs of Heroin Use

Heroin addiction

Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug that acts primarily as a central nervous system depressant. Heroin is a Schedule I substance in the U.S., meaning that heroin use has no currently accepted medical purpose and has a high potential for abuse. Knowing the signs of heroin use can be vital if you believe a friend or loved one is using it.

The raw material that becomes heroin, morphine is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Heroin can be white or brown powder or a black sticky substance. There are many street names for the drug, one of which is “black tar heroin”.

Keep reading to find out the ‘red flags,’ that will let you know someone may be using heroin and how to get them effective help!

Heroin addiction – the facts

Heroin addiction is a growing problem in the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that nearly half a million Americans have used heroin at least once in their life, and an estimated 23 percent of people who use heroin develop an addiction to it.

When this illegal drug enters the brain, it binds to opioid receptors, which are located throughout the brain and spinal cord. This causes them to release dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure) and produce a rush of good feeling — also known as a “high” — similar to what occurs when someone takes cocaine or prescription painkillers like oxycodone or hydrocodone, according to NIDA.

Understanding heroin addiction requires knowing how substance abuse generally works. Over time, the more heroin that is used, the more there starts to be a physical dependence and a psychological dependence on the drug. The body becomes physically dependent on the substance is a result of it becoming used to the presence of the highly addictive drug in its system. This can result in incredibly potent and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when heroin users quit.

The psychological dependence is also of note as its implications for mental health are staggering. Some of the effects of heroin addiction as it relates to mental illness involve the exacerbation of mental health disorders and can even lead up to suicidal ideation.

How does heroin abuse affect your body?

Heroin addiction can affect the body to a staggering degree. Most people suffering from substance abuse, heroin specifically, cannot fathom how the uncontrollable drug-seeking behaviors of that addiction can affect their bodies.

The truth is, that prolonged heroin use can have an enormous impact. Read on for some of the short and long-term effects of heroin abuse on the human body. We’re going to divide some of the more common effects of heroin abuse into both short-term and long-term effects.

Short-Term

 

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sedation (drowsiness)
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Dry mouth, nose, and throat
  • Small pupils (black centers) in the eyes
  • Involuntary muscle spasms.

Long-Term

 

  • Needle-sharing. Sharing needles can lead to infection at injection sites with hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases.
  • Heart problems. Long-term heroin use can increase the risk of heart disease by damaging the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle.
  • Infections. Tissue damage from poor nutrition and lack of cleanliness can cause abscesses (pus-filled pockets) in the skin, lungs, liver, and other organs.
  • Liver disease. Heroin use can cause liver failure, especially when users inject it into their veins because this type of injection bypasses most of the body’s natural filters for removing toxins from the bloodstream before they reach the liver.
  • Lungs and respiratory system damage. The chemicals in heroin are harmful to lung tissue and can cause coughs or wheezing that won’t go away, fever, chills, and breathing problems such as pneumonia or lung abscesses (lung infections).

Signs and Symptoms of heroin abuse

Symptoms of heroin abuse

Heroin addiction can be fairly easy to spot if you know the signs and symptoms to look out for. Let’s go over some of the more common signs and symptoms of heroin addiction that you should be aware of if you are concerned for a loved one. Heroin abuse signs and symptoms can range from physical to behavioral symptoms.

  • Needle tracks or injection marks on the body
  • Finding IV drug paraphernalia (like needles) hidden or even in plain view
  • Trouble breathing
  • Deterioration in personal habits including grooming and hygiene
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Constricted pupils
  • Massive change to sleep habits (either huge increase or decrease)

Both physical and behavioral symptoms can affect a person negatively, and recognizing these signs early forms a top way of preventing drug abuse from getting worse.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms

Drug use has massive implications for one’s life, but what about heroin withdrawal? The severity of withdrawal symptoms is actually one of the most commonly cited causes of relapsing disease as it relates to heroin.

At times, the physical symptoms can be so debilitating that they act as a motivator for people to either avoid quitting or relapsing back into the habit despite the fact that they might deeply desire to stop. For the most part, these unpleasant symptoms begin developing for the heroin user within a few hours of them taking the last dose.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of alcohol withdrawal, but they can be more severe. Some common symptoms of heroin abuse can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Runny nose and sneezing
  • Goosebumps (piloerection)
  • Chills or shivering

The risk factors for heroin addiction

Heroin abuse is considered an epidemic. The causes and risk factors of addiction are varied and don’t include just any one thing. However, there are some factors that make someone more likely to become addicted to heroin than others. These include:

  • Genetics. Genetics may play a role in people who end up abusing drugs, but it’s not the only factor. Where there is a family history of drug abuse, there may be an increased risk. You can inherit certain traits from your parents, such as how easily you become addicted or how quickly you develop tolerance to drugs. But you do not necessarily have to inherit this trait from your parents for it to affect your risk for addiction.
  • Environment. Your environment can also affect your risk of becoming addicted to heroin or other substances. For example, if you live in an area where there are many people who use heroin, there’s more than a good chance that you will meet them and try heroin yourself at some point in time during your life. This increases the likelihood that you’ll become addicted at some point in time during your life — especially if you try it with friends who already use it regularly.
  • Co-occurring disorders. Persons who have experienced active trauma and have post-traumatic stress disorder or behavioral health issues and mental health issues are at increased risk of falling prey to a physical dependence on heroin or other drug use. This includes anxiety, depression, or even certain forms of neurodivergence. All of these are risk factors for, potentially, heroin abuse. Co-occurring disorders may happen alongside addiction treatment.

Heroin overdose – the facts

Heroin overdose

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin overdose causes more than 8,200 deaths each year in the United States alone. That’s why it’s important that you know what to do if someone you love has overdosed on heroin. The effects of heroin that are often responsible for overdoses are centered around the drug’s effects on respiration, which can slow down or stop completely over time. This can be deadly because it makes it harder for your body to get oxygen into its bloodstream and keep vital organs like your brain working properly.

No matter what, an overdose should be considered a medical emergency and can be life-threatening. It should be treated as such. Knowing the physical symptoms that are a result of a heroin overdose can help prevent death. Some of the more common ones are:

  • Slowed breathing or shallow breathing
  • Shallow or slow heartbeat
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Seizures (convulsions)
  • Blue lips, nails, and fingertips (cyanosis) due to lack of oxygen in the body

Take back your life from heroin addiction today!

The intervention of a high-quality treatment center can be life-saving. A good treatment center features experts in behavioral health who are trained to aid with the symptoms associated with overdose, withdrawal, and addiction to heroin in general. Also, they will be well equipped to treat the co-occurring disorders that may have led to the addiction in the first place.

Addiction to heroin or other drugs is not just a physical issue. The underlying mental illnesses that predispose persons to become heroin users require intervention. If you have noticed signs or symptoms of heroin abuse, or any other drugs in a loved one, reach out to us at Pathfinder’s today and let us provide the help they need. Our expert team is standing by to help.

Signs of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Relapse

What are the Reasons Relapse May Occur?

For addicts going through the recovery process, most have been told something along the lines of “relapse is a part of recovery.” Is relapse part of the recovery process? The simple answer is no. Many individuals in recovery find success the first time around. However, alcoholics and drug addicts may experience a relapse, or multiple, when attempting to get clean and sober from their drugs of choice. Relapsing can be devastating to addicts themselves, but can also take a toll on the loved ones that surround them. This article is meant to inform those who suffer from addiction and their friends and family different reasons why this may continue happening, and how to deal with relapse as it comes.


Why Does an Addict Relapse?

drug-addiction-relapse

Addiction is unpleasant (to say the least) for the person suffering and their loved ones. Many people wonder what is the cause of addiction. Debated by some, addiction is a disease that results in changes to the brain from continued substance abuse. Addiction is not a disease that develops overnight; we generally pass through a series of phases that begin with experimenting and partying from time to time, gradually developing into loss of control regarding our substance intake.

Our substance use, be it alcohol or drugs, becomes compulsive and renders us acting irrational and abnormal. After an addict has been sober for some time the tendency to relapse is very strong. The data shows that each time you try to stay sober your likelihood of gaining lasting sobriety increases.


How our Brains Work in Conjunction With Addiction Relapse

Our brains contain complex reward systems, developed over time and evolved to help us pursue the things necessary to our survival (i.e. food, reproduction, etc). Our frontal lobes (the part of our brain that develops last and is crucial in our ability to predict, reason, and create) help us weigh the consequences of our impulses. When this system is functioning in conjunction with one another it helps us to make better decisions for ourselves.

However, in an addict it is as if our reward systems do not communicate properly with the frontal lobe in a cohesive and logical way. Our sensitive reward system can be triggered very easily causing us to crave drugs or alcohol. To sum it up, our minds don’t allow us to think the consequences of our actions through clearly, even after some time in recovery has passed.

Can you cure a drug addict? Many addicts believe their disease is one that will last forever, but this notion isn’t true. Thankfully, addiction is a disease that can be successfully treated. Education is key in kicking addiction. That’s why it’s so important to seek out the resources and information about different treatment options


Warning Signs of a Potential Relapse

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  • Excusing unhealthy behaviors – after some time passes it can become easier to slow down on internal growth and honest self-appraisal.  This happens so subtly that we don’t always notice when this is happening.  Then after some time we begin to justify the behaviors that risk our sobriety and increase our chances of relapse. We know in our hearts the behaviors are wrong yet we do them anyway.  This leads us to feelings of shame, anxiety, guilt etc…
  • Obsessing about work, money, or a romantic interest – These are good things for us to have in our lives.  The key is to learn not to obsess, and let these distract us from our primary goal of staying sober and learning to love ourselves.
  • Unhealthy spending habits – This is something that many addicts and alcoholics struggle with early in recovery.  Being irresponsible with our finances can lead to a heavy burden on our lives.  This is not conducive to the new life we are trying to lead and can produce more stress and anxiety.
  • Elevated levels of stress and anxiety – Most people that suffer from addiction are not monitoring this effectively in their early recovery. Therefor they cannot intervene on this in a healthy manner.  This can lead to the thought process of “a drink or a drug sounds like a good idea.”
  • Isolating – Because we as addicts have a tendency to  experience difficulty in monitoring our behavior and being honest with ourselves about the impact of that behavior, we need a sober social network and support system to help us see the truth. A sober social network can help us see how we are truly doing internally, and help us redirect the driving force of those behaviors into a healthy and more productive outlet.  We don’t do this alone and the beautiful thing about recovery is that we do not have to.
  • Romanticizing and glorifying your addiction – It is very easy for us to fall into this way of thinking, our minds remember the good times we had throughout our addiction, which there were plenty of.  If we didn’t enjoy it for so long before our lives came crashing down we would not have kept using drugs or drinking.  It can be difficult to remember the hangovers, withdrawals, lying, isolation, loneliness and pain we experienced that led us to try and get sober in the first place.  Make no mistake about it, it starts with a lot of fun but when the party is over, it is over.
  • Being a pessimist and forecasting negatively for your life – No one likes to feel depressed and hopeless.  Being honest and in touch with the real challenges that are ahead of us, while maintaining optimistic about those outcomes helps us to function more effectively. Having foresight for our futures, and believing we can be successful is key.  “those who believe they can, and those who believe that cannot are both usually right.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction please call Pathfinders Recovery Center today and speak with one of our founders directly.  You are not alone, and there is hope.

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