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Heroin Addiction – Symptoms, Side Effects, How to Get Treatment & Rehab

Summary

Heroin addiction is currently one of the most dangerous drug addictions in the world due to how addictive and destructive it can be to the body. Once someone develops an addiction, breaking out of it can be one of the hardest things they’ll ever do in their life and it’s often not something that can be accomplished alone. In fact, around 12 million people across the entire world inject drugs such as heroin into their body, developing a gradual dependency that could destroy their life if the addiction is not handled correctly.

 

Heroin is currently the drug that has claimed the most lives in the entire world and thousands die each year due to its addictive and life-threatening nature.

 

Help4Addiction can provide you with the help and support needed to combat serious addictions to drugs such as heroin. If you or a loved one are dependent on taking heroin to relax and cope with everyday life then we have the treatment needed to help you overcome your addiction. Call 0203 955 7700 and speak to one of our experts for immediate help and advice to get the treatment you or a loved one needs.

 

We’ve written this article to help you learn more about heroin, the effects it can cause on the body and also how to beat the addiction.

 

What is Heroin?

 

First, it’s important to understand what heroin actually is. The drug is one of the most well-known and most dangerous drugs in existence, but few people actually know what it contains or what it can do to the body.

 

Heroin is a drug that is made from morphine, a commonly-used opiate that is known to assist in managing pain. Morphine is commonly given in medical situations to control intense pain, but it’s not something that is readily available due to its addictive qualities. Morphine is made from a plant known as the opium poppy and opium is one of the oldest-known drugs in human history. It was initially given to those that struggled with a poor sleep pattern but was then eventually used as a painkiller, much like modern-day morphine.

 

Unlike morphine, heroin is known as diamorphine. It’s far more potent than regular morphine and used not for its pain suppressing qualities but as a recreational drug that is incredibly addictive. It offers its users a sense of euphoria, making them feel extremely happy with their life. Unfortunately, heroin can cause intense negative side effects that make it one of the most dangerous drugs in the world.

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Why is Heroin Addictive?

 

Drugs often change the way your body works. Our brains are wired to seek pleasure and if those experiences are easily replicated, our bodies will automatically shift towards those sources of intense pleasure in order to repeat them and feel great.

 

Unfortunately, our bodies often do this at the expense of our own health, often being tricked by additives substances like heroin which cause us to look for drugs in order to experience those euphoric feelings once again. While heroin does offer a high for users, it also quickly changes the way our brain works which makes it even more addictive than other recreational drugs.

 

In fact, heroin enters the bloodstream and immediately goes to our brain. It essentially changes how our brain works, altering our perception of emotions like pleasure and removing feelings of depression and anxiety.

 

This is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular recreational drug; because of how good it makes the user feel.

 

Unfortunately, the drug will start to affect other parts of the brain which make it difficult for us to tell what’s good or bad for our bodies. Eventually, the brain can no longer overcome the addiction and that’s when we need expert help from the outside. Social factors, such as how accessible and inexpensive heroin is, can also contribute to the rapid addiction of heroin.

 

Due to heroin’s close relationship to prescription pain medication, a large majority of those who are currently suffering from a heroin addiction started by taking prescription opioid pills.

 

This also contributes to the widespread accessibility and addiction to heroin.

 

With all these reasons combined, it’s easy to see just why heroin is such a dangerous and fearsome drug. It only takes a couple of repeated uses and the realization that it’s so accessible to become fully addicted to the drug.

 

Taking it once or twice might not lead to an addiction, but it can become tempting to reuse again and again. If you are in this situation or know someone who is in the early stages of heroin addiction, it’s incredibly important to contact us straight away to seek advice before the damage becomes far more difficult to repair.

 

Side Effects of Heroin Addiction

 

The side effects of heroin are often split into short-term and long-term categories.

 

For short-term side effects of heroin, there’s often a rush of a pleasurable sensation. This rush is what most heroin users are aiming for, but the length of time it lasts will change depending on the person. After these initial effects, the users will often feel drowsy for several hours and they won’t be as agile with their mind. In many cases, the user will also experience slowed breathing which can lead to a come or even brain damage. In addition, opioids such as heroin can change the way your body processes emotions and can even block pain signals, much like painkillers such as morphine.

 

When it comes to long-term usage, heroin has a host of problematic symptoms that give the drug its dangerous reputation. Using heroin for long periods of time can change the physical structure of the brain which creates imbalances that are difficult to fix. In addition, studies have shown that the brain’s white matter can actually deteriorate with repeated heroin use, reducing one’s decision-making abilities and making it difficult to control their behaviour.

 

Within a few short hours after taking the drug, it’s also common to experience withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, insomnia, diarrhoea, vomiting or even cold flashes. These withdrawal symptoms get worse around the 24-hour mark and they can get progressively worse depending on how accustomed your body is to heroin.

 

It’s important to stop a heroin addiction before it reaches the long-term side effects that are largely irreversible. Make sure you contact us as soon as possible so that we can help you or a loved one recover from their heroin addiction before it starts to cause irreparable damage.

 

Signs of Heroin Addiction

 

To help you identify a heroin addiction, here are some of the most common signs to look out for:

 

  • Equipment for heroin use such as tiny plastic bags, syringes, rubber tubing, burnt spoons and powdery residue are very common signs of heroin addiction. This is often difficult to tell especially if the addiction is well-hidden or you are being denied access to search someone’s belongings
  • In terms of appearance, their pupils may appear small and they may have very drowsy eyes and appearance. Their skin is often flushed and they may even appear to breathe slowly. It’s often difficult to tell if someone has a heroin addiction by their appearance until they are starting to experience the symptoms of long-term use, so it’s important to take action as soon as possible based on other factors
  • Physical signs may include vomiting and a loss of appetite
  • Heroin users also tend to complain about nausea and constipation
  • They may neglect to take care of their home or their body
  • Heroin users also tend to cover their arms to hide scars and injection markings

 

It can be very hard to physically tell if someone is suffering from a heroin addiction, so if there are even a few signs and they are being very secretive about their hobbies then it may be worth confronting them about it. Once again, the earlier an addiction is diagnosed the higher the chance of a fast and full recovery. If you’re in doubt, please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible so we can offer you some free impartial advice on your specific situation.

 

Hopefully, this section has given you a much better understanding of what heroin is, why it’s addictive and also the signs to look out for so that you can stop an addiction as early as possible.

 

How to Overcome Heroin Addiction

 

Heroin addiction has a range of different treatment options. In the early stages, it may be possible to overcome an addiction if you have plenty of willpower, but this is incredibly difficult and it’s far more likely that you’ll relapse if you attempt to overcome the addiction yourself. In this section, we’ll discuss a couple of common options for heroin addiction treatment.

 

There are several steps involved in helping someone out of heroin addiction. They essentially boil down to four crucial steps; psychological preparation, dealing with the withdrawal symptoms, learning about detox strategies and finally receiving continued support to prevent relapse in the future.

 

  1. Preparing Yourself Psychological

 

Although physical withdrawal symptoms can be tough to deal with, it’s often more difficult to manage the psychological side of overcoming a heroin addiction. For starters, it’s important that you become willing to overcome your addiction. If you’re not mentally prepared for the challenges ahead then it can be incredibly difficult trying to beat a heroin addiction.

 

This is where the addict must ask themselves a couple of important questions, such as what heroin actually offers to them and how it compares to a life free of heroin. By summing up these pros and cons, you can mentally prepare yourself for the journey that is freeing yourself from a heroin addiction. Some factors to consider are the risk of losing your friends and family members, being depressed due to your addiction and even losing your financial security due to the money spent on heroin. It’s also important to think about the advantages that could come from being free from heroin, such as regaining your identity and avoiding health complications so you can spend more time with loved ones.

 

Once you’ve built up the mental fortitude to begin your journey of overcoming your addiction, you can start to tackle the next issue; withdrawal symptoms.

 

  1. Dealing With Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

 

If you’re recovering from a heroin addiction then it’s very likely that your body has grown dependent on the drug. This causes you to develop nasty withdrawal symptoms such as:

 

  • Painful muscle cramps
  • Tremors and shaking in your body
  • Chills which can occasionally become very hot
  • Drug cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of weight
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches

Note: Different drugs can have different side effects, whilst the above is associated with Heroin, you can read a full lost of side effects on our drug withdrawal symptoms page

These withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly debilitating and will get worse depending on your age, your general health and also how long you’ve been addicted. In addition, symptoms can get worse if you’ve tried to clean your body of the drugs before but to no avail.

 

  1. Learning to Detox

 

Next, you’ll likely need the help of medical professionals to help you detox from drugs. Some examples of drugs that may be used to help you detox are Buprenorphine, a commonly-used drug to treat heroin addiction, and Suboxone, which helps to block the opiate receptors in your brain, reducing the risk of overdose and cutting down your cravings. Learning about these detox medications and maintenance strategies will involve speaking to a specialist that is well-versed on the drugs and also informed about your personal situation.

 

If you’re unsure how to progress on this step then don’t hesitate to contact us. While steps 1 and 2 can be done without external help, step 3 will typically require you to get in touch with a medical professional so that they can offer impartial advice on which drugs you should take to clean your body of the heroin and its side effects. We can help connect you with the right medical professionals that will offer excellent advice and also give you a way to obtain the detoxification medication.

 

  1. Continued Support

 

Lastly, we need to think about how you can stay off the drugs once you’re clean. The temptation to start using heroin again can cause you to relapse faster than you think, especially if the withdrawal symptoms are still lingering. Here are a couple of ways to ensure that you can get continued support and stay clean:

 

  • Consider cutting ties with suppliers and moving away to ensure they do not contact you and that you do not go back to seek accessible heroin
  • Find alternatives to focus on so that you don’t go back to using heroin. This includes studying, a job that you can focus on or even a new hobby
  • Surround yourself with positive people that can help you such as new and understanding roommates or family members
  • Consider staying in outpatient treatment such as a detox or rehab centre so you can connect with other addicts and support groups
  • Consider educating others about heroin addiction and use yourself and your experiences to teach others
  • Cutting ties with people who introduced you to heroin is also an effective way to ensure that you have no links back to those who supplied you with heroin

 

With continued support, you can ensure that you’re always going to have motivation and reason to avoid heroin in the future. Without this kind of assistance, staying off heroin can be incredibly difficult because using the drug will still be tempting to you especially if you’re going through a bad period in your life and still have easy access to the drug.

 

At Help4Addiction, we can also offer you support if you give us a call. We can assist by offering free and impartial information about where to find support groups, local rehab centres and also help you focus on other aspects of life to distract you from sinking back into heroin addiction. Support is available at each step of the way.

 

Where to Get Help for Heroin Addiction

 

One of the most common ways to seek help for heroin addiction is to consider drug rehab. Short of rehabilitation, rehab centres aim to help you overcome your heroin addiction by helping you understand, control and finally beat your cravings for heroin. You can contact us for free on 0203 955 7700 at Help4Addiction and we’ll gladly help you locate your nearest rehab centre and get you in touch with the service to ensure that you’re getting the right services to help you beat your addiction.

 

Heroin Rehab Process

 

Heroin rehabilitation is a giant leap forward for many people so it can be incredibly daunting to sign up for a rehab program and stick with it. During your first meeting with the staff, you’ll typically be asked a couple of questions regarding your addiction such as how long you’ve been using. You may be asked to provide a sample of your urine or saliva and you’ll usually be told about the different treatment options.

 

Each rehab centre is different so the processes of one centre might be completely different from another centre. Regardless, it’s vital that you answer as truthfully as possible so that the staff understand how to treat you and how to assist in the rehab process. In most cases, you’ll be assigned to a worker at the rehabilitation centre that will help you take care of any documents and assist you with the general process of entering the rehab centre.

 

The next step usually involves helping you understand your reasons for wanting to quit your heroin addiction. If you’re unsure or the reasons are unclear, then staff will be able to remind you of the advantages such as regaining your social life and cleaning up your body so that you’re healthier. This will help you find your motivation which will become an integral part of successful treatment.

 

Heroin rehabilitation clinics use a variety of different methods to help you stay off heroin. This can include talking therapies which will bolster your motivation to quit heroin or detoxification which will be assisted by various medications to ensure that your body is clean of heroin. During this period, you may experience some serious withdrawal symptoms especially if you’ve been addicted to heroin for a long time, but with medical staff on hand and the right medication, it’s possible to overcome your withdrawal symptoms while suffering little pain and discomfort.

 

As part of the rehabilitation process, you’ll also be able to meet new contacts which can help you overcome your drug addiction. This can include support staff who hold meetings, it can be other residents who are looking to overcome their drug addictions and even residents that have recently relapsed.

Read more about the rehab process here:

What happens in rehab?

How long does rehab take?

Can I do rehab at home?

Private rehab

Luxury Rehab

 

Heroin Rehab Cost

 

A common concern that you may think about is the cost of drug rehabilitation for heroin. The cost can vary depending on the number of services available, but in most cases, you’ll likely be covered by some form of medical insurance that will save you from having to pay a large sum of money. If you’d like to learn more about the many ways to pay for heroin rehabilitation, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and we’ll help you find the nearest drug rehabilitation clinic that is suitable for you. Also visit our How much does rehab cost? page to read more about the costings involved.

 

Find A Heroin Rehab Center

 

Heroin addiction is arguably one of the most dangerous addictions you could ever suffer from. It alters your brain, it can be potentially fatal and it’s easy to relapse. However, with the right assistance and support, it’s possible to completely remove heroin from your life so that you can live in peace and free from the fear of falling back into drug addiction. While the rehabilitation process can be daunting, it’s made much easier when you have the right support by your side. If you’re in need of heroin addiction treatment or know someone that could benefit from this information, please call us for free on 0203 955 7700 so that we can offer you free impartial advice and direct you to a suitable clinic.

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Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazapam (vailium)


Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Nalmefene
  • Acamprosate (campral)

Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

*based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

Local treatment

Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

Treatment Away

Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.