Heroin is one of the most addictive illegal substances, with over 9.2 million users. It is an opioid drug that is made from morphine, similar to many painkillers. It’s a natural substance that comes from seed pods of opium poppy plants. Morphine can be issued to address extreme pain, whereas heroin is illegal and can be deadly. [i]
You can find heroin that comes in a brown or white powder or black tar heroin that is black in colour and sticky in consistency. It is either sniffed, injected, or smoked. [ii] Read on to learn how we can help you detox from heroin, and information about the effects of heroin, heroin addiction, the heroin detox process, and heroin withdrawal symptoms.
The Effects of Heroin
Heroin can enter the brain quickly, binding to opioid receptors in many areas – particularly in areas involved in controlling the heart rate, sleep, breathing, and feelings of pain and pleasure.
[iii] Some people may experience happy, sleepy, and euphoric feelings in fast procession when taking heroin.
However, people may also experience nausea and vomiting, as well as slowed heart rate and breathing and dry mouth. The effects of smoking heroin can last up to an hour, whereas injecting or snorting heroin can last longer, and feel more intense. There are also after-effects of heroin that can last much longer, regardless of the method of consumption. [iv]
When taking heroin, there’s always a risk of overdose. A heroin overdose causes hypoxia – which prevents oxygen from reaching your brain. This can lead to brain damage, long-term mental impairment, and a coma.
The main symptoms of a heroin overdose include pale skin, shallow breathing, and blue tints on the extremities (e.g lips/ fingertips). You may also experience low blood pressure and a weak pulse, nausea, and a discoloured tongue. [v]
What is a Heroin Addiction?
Heroin is one of the most addictive illegal substances, and even one-off or sporadic heroin use has a high chance of leading to an overdose. [vi] Heroin has a ‘fast’ high – it enters the brain quickly, and leads to an intense high. However, repeated usage of heroin can lead to heroin tolerance, meaning that more and more heroin is needed for the same effect, or to feel ‘normal’.
Using heroin more than once can lead to addiction – and being addicted to heroin can cause further issues with relationships, work, and everyday life – almost all aspects of life can be negatively affected by heroin addiction. [vii]
Because heroin is so addictive and heroin abuse is so common, it’s one of the world’s most dangerous opioids. Heroin is often easier to access than prescription opioids, which is how many people get addicted. [viii]
People who have a family history of addiction may be more at risk of becoming addicted to heroin – for example, drug addiction or alcohol addiction. Likewise, severe depression, anxiety, and heavy tobacco use could be risk factors – as can environmental factors such as exposure to high-risk individuals. [ix]
The symptoms of heroin addiction can present pretty quickly – usually within seconds when injected. Some ways that heroin use can present physically (physical symptoms) may include nausea and vomiting, constipation, slow breathing, sleeping, lack of self-control, flushed skin, and dry mouth. Heroin users may also experience memory loss, trouble making decisions, disorientation, and a heavy feeling.
One of the main signs of heroin addiction or opiate addiction is not being able to stop using – regardless of the negative implications that they may face. It can be easy to hide the symptoms of heroin addiction, and users may go to lengths to hide their use. However, the general rule of thumb is that the more that a person uses, the harder it will be to hide the addiction. [x]
The Heroin Detox Process
The first stage of any good drug treatment service involves detoxing from the drug. It can be a tough process detoxing from heroin – and our heroin detox program differs from our other detox programs such as cannabis detox and alcohol detox.
As heroin is such an addictive substance, extra help is often needed to detox from the drug. Usually, the use of Buprenorphine and Suboxone won’t work alone – and heroin users should be weaned onto a substance that isn’t as strong.
This is why most people addicted to heroin will begin using methadone as a stepping stone before they detox completely.
At Help4Addiction, our heroin detox programs are always medically assisted to help with withdrawal management. This means that you will have medical supervision throughout your heroin detox journey. As opposed to outpatient drug detox or private home detox, heroin detox will almost always be inpatient detox, ensuring we provide a safe and effective drug addiction treatment.
This involves living in a residential rehab centre, allowing you to withdraw from heroin with a 24-hour medically assisted detox. We believe that being outside your previous environment can help relieve the temptations, allowing us to monitor your symptoms constantly and assess your drug detox plan.
Upon detoxing from heroin, you’ll then undergo heroin rehab. This usually includes group therapy as well as one-on-one sessions with a clinical psychologist. This can help to give you the mental health care you need and manage the unpleasant mental side-effects of heroin withdrawal.
There is also secondary treatment available for heroin addiction, also known as aftercare. This can ease the transition back into the ‘normal’ world and can involve regular group therapy as well as telephone support.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from heroin will often begin within a few hours of the last use, peaking within around three days of stopping use. The discomfort and unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal can last up to a fortnight, with cravings lasting for a minimum of 30 days. [xi] Typically, opioid withdrawal symptoms will peak between 48 and 72 hours after use, weakening after around a week. Unlike with alcohol withdrawal symptoms, some chronic heroin users may experience withdrawal signs for months after their last use.
When withdrawing from heroin, some common withdrawal symptoms (both physical withdrawal symptoms and psychological withdrawal symptoms) include:
- Craving heroin/ drug cravings
- Aches and pains
- Cold flashes
- Vomiting [xii]
Mental health care is an important aspect of heroin withdrawal, with psychological symptoms such as depression frequently presenting. Withdrawal management is key when detoxing from heroin – which is something we can help with at our Help4Addiction clinics.
With detox and rehab treatment centres all over England and Wales, we are your go-to local drug treatment service. Our addiction specialists and medical professionals accept patients in both the short term and the long term – contact us today to find the nearest centre to you, and to find out how the addiction treatment we offer and how we can help with heroin use disorder.
As well as helping with heroin detox and illegal drugs detox, our team at Help4Addiction can help with prescribed medication detox – including opioids and prescription painkillers such as tramadol, codeine and morphine, as well as sleeping pills, diazepam, benzodiazepines, and antianxiety and antidepressant medications.