What is Heroin Addiction? - Heroin Addiction Treatment Centres

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Heroin is frequently referred to as one of the most addictive substances in the world today. If you or someone you know has a heroin addiction it’s important to get professional treatment as soon as you can in order to take the first steps towards recovery.

Heroin is an illegal drug that causes physical dependence. It is highly addictive. Heroin is the most commonly abused member of the opiate family. It is synthesized from morphine which is a natural substance extracted from poppy plants.

Heroin is usually sold in powder form (white or brown) or as a sticky black substance. Heroin is often “cut” with cheaper substances to make it more profitable for dealers to sell. This can make it difficult for a user to know how strong the heroin is. This places her at risk of overdose. Sharing needles can spread blood-borne diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis.

Heroin is an addictive drug that is processed from morphine and usually appears as a white or brown powder. It is a member of the opiates family which are also known as narcotics. They are used medically as analgesics for patients in a great deal of pain. One of the side effects of using heroin (and opiates in general)is that they are physically addictive and a person may become dependent on them. Admission to a detox clinic and subsequent drug rehab may be required to help an addicted person stop using successfully.

The short-term effect of using heroin is a surge of euphoria followed by a time of slipping in and out of a drowsy state. Heroin users are at high risk of accidental overdose and those who inject the drug with shared needles place themselves at risk of contracting bloodborne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Patients can request to have blood screening when they are admitted to a drug rehabilitation center to check if they have contracted these diseases.

Pregnant mothers who abuse heroin are at risk of adversely affecting their unborn baby. Heroin abusers lead a lifestyle marked by an obsession to obtain and use the drug. They are also, therefore, less likely to spend time, energy or money on prenatal care which places additional risk on the baby.

Tolerance is a condition where the abuser must use more of the chemical in order to achieve the same intensity of the effect. Heroin users develop tolerance and start using ever higher doses. The body becomes accustomed to the presence of heroin and so a physical dependence and addiction develop. Once this happens the user will experience negative symptoms if he/she stops using heroin. Admission to a detoxification (detox) center can help to make the withdrawal more manageable for the addict.

Withdrawal symptoms include intense craving, insomnia, aches and pains, cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, restlessness, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”) and other physical symptoms. They are normally at their worst in day 2 and 3 after stopping using and subside by the end of a week. Heroin withdrawal is rarely fatal for healthy individuals but medical oversight is still a good idea. Detox is just the first step in addiction recovery and admission to a drug treatment clinic is highly recommended so that a behavioural therapeutic intervention can be applied.

There are medications that reduce the effect of heroin and have been shown to be effective in reducing the relapse rate for addicts. Some doctors prescribe these medications to clients who have completed treatment in a drug rehab clinic.

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What is Heroin Addiction?

Heroin is a drug that is made from morphine; morphine is taken from the opium poppy.

Morphine and other drugs that are taken from the opium poppy or made from its derivates are known as opiates.  Heroin is a very strong pain killer and is highly addictive.

Heroin is sold on the street as Brown, Skag, Smack, Horse or Thai White amongst other names.

It works by slowing down all bodily functioning and reduced both emotional and physical pain, in small dosages it creates a feeling of warmth and relaxation, larger dosages bring on feelings of euphoria and sleepiness. Vomiting and light-headedness are commonly experienced amongst first time heroin users.

Like most other opiates tolerance to heroin builds very quickly and users will find they need to take more over time in order to achieve the high they once experienced.

Heroin is a white powder but often will look off white or brown due to the fillers that dealers add to it and can either be snorted smoked or injected.

Using Heroin

Heroin can be injected, sniffed up the nose or smoked. Its effects wear off after a few hours and a heroin abuser will need to inject up to four times a day to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Injection into a vein is the quickest way to get “high” from heroin (less than 10 seconds) and injecting into a muscle takes longer to have an effect (a few minutes). Smoking or snorting heroin takes about 15 minutes to produce a high.

Most heroin addicts presenting to drug rehab for treatment have been injecting heroin. Certain people prefer to smoke or snort heroin because they believe it is less addictive when used in this way. However, all forms of using heroin are addictive.

Many first time users are reluctant to inject and so will snort or smoke heroin. This has been made possible by the higher grade of purity now available.

Signs, Symptoms and Risks of Heroin Addiction

Over time the use of heroin affects the brain of the addict and can cause psychological effects such a craving, the intense psychological effects cause the user to think of nothing but heroin and their need to keep using.

The once amazing rush they gained from small amounts of heroin now do nothing for the user as their tolerance increases so they find themselves having to take more in order to even feel normal again.

If a heroin user does not feed the craving their body is demanding they become sick. Withdrawal from heroin is exceptionally unpleasant and produces a vast array of symptoms including nausea and vomiting, hot and cold sweats and pounding headaches.

Mixing heroin with other drugs is especially dangerous, particularly other drugs that cause the bodies respiratory system to slow down , commonly known as downers these drugs such as benzodiazepine tranquillisers,  when mixed  with heroin heightens the chance of overdoes and death.

The greatest risk of overdoes for a heroin user is when they have had a period of being clean and then begin to use again, the bodies tolerance will have fallen during the time they were not taking the drug and if they use as much on their first hit back as they did previously they will not be able to cope with the quantity ingested.

The risk of contracting life threatening diseases such as AIDS /HIV and Hepatitis B and C are increased amongst heroin users who share needles.

Heroin is a class A drug and consequently is an illegal substance, simply being in the possession or heroin could land you with a prison sentence of up to 7 years and supplying heroin can come with a life time sentence.

Long-term Effects of Heroin Use

Heroin use leads to dependence and addiction. Addiction is a chronic illness marked by obsessive and compulsive drug seeking and use accompanied by neurochemical and molecular changes in the brain. People using heroin will build tolerance and so develop a physical dependence which interferes with efforts to discontinue using. Heroin addicts need ever increasing quantities to prevent withdrawal and so end up spending a large amount of their time and energy devoted to seeking heroin. Heroin can be seen to have “taken over” the addicts behavior. At this point, it is highly recommended for the addict to seek professional help in a substance abuse treatment facility.

Physical dependence develops with continued use of heroin and the body adapts to expect the presence of the drug. If the drug is stopped or reduced the user will go into withdrawal and experience negative symptoms like vomiting, muscle pain, goosebumps and insomnia. Withdrawal symptoms will usually take a week to subside but some people can experience certain symptoms for many months. Admission to a detox clinic will help to mitigate the unpleasant withdrawal effects. Heroin withdrawal should not be fatal to a healthy adult but it can kill the fetus of a pregnant addict. Addiction is nearly inevitable if a person continuously uses heroin and admission to drug rehab may be required to help the addict get clean.

Even after the physical withdrawal is complete heroin addicts experience cravings that are unrelated to physical needs.

People who become dependent on opiates that were prescribed for chronic pain are usually able to discontinue their use after an alternate pain reduction strategy has been found.

Chronic use by injection of heroin can damage veins, even leading to them to collapse. Heroin injectors are prone to bacterial infections of the blood and heart valves. They may develop boils and abscess at the site of injection.

Heroin use is typically accompanied by a lack of self-care which weakens the immune system. Heroin abusers are often more susceptible to opportunistic infections

Heroin is often “cut” with cheaper additives that are not easily dissolvable. They may aggregate in the blood vessels creating blockages that lead to cell death or infection. Immune reactions to these or other contaminants can cause arthritis or other rheumatologic problems.

Sharing needles can lead to very severe consequences. Because a little bit of blood is left in the blood infections are very quickly spread between users. Hepatitis B and C, HIV and other bloodborne viruses can all be transmitted in this manner.


Outside of Africa drug injection is a leading vector of HIV transmission through the sharing of needles. In order to make sure that the needle has struck a vein the drug user will draw a little blood back into the syringe before injecting. This leaves a drop or two of blood in the syringe which is injected into the blood of the next drug user to share the needle.

These tiny amounts of blood are enough to provide HIV an ideal opportunity to be transmitted. There is an approximately 37 percent chance of infection after being accidentally pricked with a hollow-bore needle.

This change is thought to be significantly higher if this the needle had been in the vein of an HIV-infected person or the viral load is high.

Drug-users who inject drugs also put their sex partners at risk. A UNAIDS report estimated that 90% of infections in heterosexuals in New York City can be traced back to sexual contact with a drug user who had shared needles.

In South Africa, sexual contact is by far the highest method of transmission for HIV.

South Africa is increasingly becoming a destination and transit point for drug traffickers. We can expect that HIV transmission from the intravenous injection will increase. Drug users usually inject directly into their bloodstream.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin addiction treatment would involve the patient attending detox on an inpatient basis, being away from their usual temptations is vital.

Once detox has been undertaken a number of other treatments such as group therapy and individual addiction counselling are used alongside drug therapy utilising medications such methadone, subutex and naltrexone that serve to block the opiate receptors in the user so they no longer gain any of the positive effects of heroin use after they become clean.

To find a UK or South African rehab centre offering holistic treatment for heroin addiction , contact us today.

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