Heroin Detox Program

Heroin is widely known for its dangerously addictive properties. When individuals consume heroin, they are overcome with intense feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and a sense of detachment from their surroundings. These pleasurable feelings frequently cause them to continue using the substance, increasing their risk for developing an addiction to it. Despite the pleasurable feelings that the drug elicits, the detriments of its use are far more extreme. All aspects of an individual’s life can be negatively impacted when acquiring, consuming, and recovering from the use of heroin becomes his or her top priority. The longer that the abuse of this substance continues, the more likely it is that an individual will develop a tolerance to it, followed by the onset of chemical dependency, meaning that his or her body no longer knows how to function unless heroin is present in its system. Once this dependency and addiction have developed, it can be exceedingly difficult to overcome without receiving treatment.

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Extensive research has provided evidence that nearly 13.5 million people around the world abuse opioids, with an estimated 9.2 million using heroin, specifically. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports the 1.8% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 have abused heroin, and approximately 2% of individuals aged 25 and older have abused the drug.

Causes and Risk Factors for Heroin Abuse

There are a number of causes and risk factors that can impact an individual’s susceptibility to becoming addicted to heroin. Such factors are discussed briefly in the following:

Genetic: Addictions have long been known to have a genetic link. Individuals who have family members who abused or were addicted to heroin are more likely to struggle with the same concerns than are individuals who do not have the same type of family history.

Environmental: Certain environmental factors can increase an individual’s vulnerability for beginning to experiment with the use of heroin. For example, people who are surrounded by other individuals, whether it be friends or family members, who abuse substances like heroin are more likely to engage in the behavior themselves than they would if they did not have such exposure. Additionally, experiencing a traumatic event or being the victim of abuse or neglect can lead individuals to seek out substances of abuse.

Risk Factors:

  • Possessing a novelty-seeking temperament
  • Possessing an impulsive personality
  • Associating with peers who use heroin or other substances
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Personal history of abusing other substances
  • Ease of availability in obtaining heroin
  • Having a low self-esteem
  • Chronic exposure to violence, crime, and stress
  • Having experienced a trauma

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

The signs and symptoms that may be displayed by someone who is suffering from heroin use disorder will vary from person to person, but may include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Using heroin in situations where it is physically hazardous to do so, such as while operating a vehicle
  • Failing to put an end to the use of heroin despite frequent attempts to do so
  • Using heroin in greater quantities or with more frequency than one initially intended
  • Failing to adhere to social, familial, personal, and occupational responsibilities
  • No longer participating in activities that one once enjoyed
  • Frequent absenteeism from work
  • Decline in occupational performance
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts or long pants, even when the weather in warm, in order to hide track marks from where the substance has been injected
  • Suicidal behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Runny nose
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Frequent bruising or scabbing of the skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Persistent flu-like symptoms

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Inability to use sound judgment and reason
  • Suicidal ideation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Loss of interest in things that one once found enjoyable
  • Depression
  • Excitability
  • Anxiety
  • Hostility
  • Frequent mood swings
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Heroin Abuse

When individuals fail to receive treatment for an addiction to heroin, they are placing themselves at risk for experiencing any number of detriments; detriments that have the potential to cause devastation in all facets of their lives. Examples of possible effects can include the following:

  • Lost friendships
  • Demise of marriages or partnerships
  • Loss of child custody
  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Incarceration
  • Occupational failure
  • Financial strife
  • Homelessness
  • Onset of self-harming behaviors

Additionally, chronic abuse of heroin can wreak havoc on the physical and mental health of those consuming it. Examples of these types of detriments can include:

  • Scars from injecting the substance intravenously
  • Contraction of viruses, such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, cellulitis, tuberculosis, and endocarditis
  • Clogged blood vessels
  • Perforation of the nasal septum from snorting the substance
  • Irreversible cognitive impairment
  • Organ damage
  • Erectile dysfunction in males
  • Disturbances of reproductive functioning, including irregular menses, in women
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Onset of new, or worsening of current, mental illness symptoms
  • Chronic suicidal ideation

Co-Occurring Disorders

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for individuals who are addicted to heroin to also be suffering from symptoms of other mental health conditions simultaneously. Examples of disorders that are known to occur alongside heroin use disorder include:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of heroin withdrawal: When chronic heroin use is suddenly ceased, there is the potential that withdrawal symptoms will arise. This state of withdrawal occurs as the body attempts to reregulate itself to the way that it functioned prior to the introduction of heroin. This withdrawal process can be extremely uncomfortable and, in some cases, even dangerous. Examples of signs and symptoms that could indicate that someone is going through heroin withdrawal may include:

  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Intense cravings for heroin
  • Bone pain
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Muscle pain
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Yawning
  • Fever
  • Insomnia

Effects of heroin overdose: An overdose occurs when an individual ingests more heroin than his or her body is capable of safely processing. In some circumstances, the body will try to adjust to the excessive amount of the substance by attempting to excrete it, usually by vomiting. But this attempt is not always successful, leaving the individual in a state of dire emergency. Should a person exhibit any of the following symptoms, it should be viewed as a warning sign that an overdose has occurred and that medical attention is required as soon as possible:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Tongue discoloration
  • Lips turning a bluish color
  • Disorientation
  • Weakened pulse
  • Hypotension
  • Muscle spasms
  • Labored breathing
  • Constricted pupils
  • Heart attack
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
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