Heroin addiction

Heroin addiction can have a powerful impact on a person’s physical and mental health. If you’re reliant on heroin, it can make you feel isolated, but you are not alone. Research shows that people who use heroin face more prejudice than any other stigmatised group in the UK.

We want you to know that we’re here for you. Here, we guide you through everything you need to know about heroin addiction and what to do next.

Heroin addiction - syringe and powder

What is heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive, semisynthetic opioid derived from morphine and the opium poppy. When you take heroin, it converts to morphine and binds to opioid receptors in your brain. It affects the areas involved in pain, pleasure, sleeping, breathing and heart rate. It can be snorted, smoked or injected and causes a euphoric rush.

Why Is heroin so addictive?

When heroin is injected, smoked or snorted, it bypasses the major organs and goes straight to the brain. This causes users to feel an intense sense of euphoria because the drug interacts with the parts of the brain associated with pleasure and relaxation. Over time, increasing amounts of heroin are needed to achieve the same effects or prevent unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which can result in people increasing their dosages to chase the high and satisfy cravings. This is known as heroin addiction.

What causes heroin addiction?

People suffering from heroin addiction will seek out and use the drug despite its negative consequences on their health and life. While physical dependence on the drug plays a huge factor, addiction is usually caused by unresolved trauma and is subconsciously used to block out pain or unwanted thoughts. Continuous heroin use can cause people to become emotionally reliant on heroin, as well as physically reliant, which requires professional support at heroin rehab to overcome.

Studies have shown that chronic heroin use results in brain abnormalities which can lead to or exacerbate addiction. Heroin addiction hijacks the brain’s reward system, making it harder and harder for people to take pleasure in other activities.

After the initial effects of heroin wear off, you may experience powerful urges to take more and may face flu-like withdrawal symptoms. Many people will take more heroin just to avoid these withdrawal symptoms, furthering the strength of their addiction.

Signs of heroin addiction

Physical signs

If you are worried about someone abusing heroin, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Watery eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny nose
  • Dry mouth
  • Track marks and bruising on the arms / covering their arms with long sleeves
  • Displaying withdrawal symptoms.
  • Flush skin

Heroin addiction - weight loss

Psychological signs

Heroin addiction severely affects a person’s mental health. Signs include:

  • Being unable to stop thinking about heroin
  • Confusion, disorientation, and impaired concentration
  • Mood changes: anxiety and depression, despair and hopelessness, shame and guilt
  • Angry outbursts
  • Extremely low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviours

Behavioural signs

Using heroin probably makes it difficult for you to commit to education, work, or hobbies. Declining performance may affect your employment.

It’s possible you’ve isolated yourself from your loved ones and only associate with other users of heroin. In some situations, you may also support your heroin addiction by engaging in risky behaviours. Relationships that were once important to you will likely suffer because of your addiction.

What are the health risks of heroin addiction?

Research shows that excessive heroin use caused by heroin addiction can result in clogged arteries and veins, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Sharing needles also puts you at risk of contracting dangerous infections. Taking the drug reduces your immunity.

Other effects of long-term heroin abuse include:

  • Permanent chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • A deterioration in thinking skills
  • Kidney, liver or heart disease
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Cold sweats
  • Constipation
  • Memory loss
  • Lung disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

Heroin addiction - insomnia

Reach out to Linwood House

If you recognise the symptoms of heroin addiction in yourself or a loved one, the next step is to look into treatment. At Linwood House, we offer effective support to help people quit heroin and other substances.

You can find out more by calling us today.

Frequently asked questions

How quickly can someone become addicted to heroin?
There is no set time frame for the development of heroin addiction. Several factors need to be taken into account, such as frequency of use and individual tolerance levels. However, heroin has a powerful impact on the brain’s reward system, and users can quickly find themselves craving their next dose.
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