Heroin is a highly addictive substance derived from morphine, a powerful opiate. Although morphine has legitimate medical uses, such as controlling pain after invasive surgery, heroin is an illicit substance, meaning it’s illegal to use or possess.
Despite its status as an illicit drug, heroin is fairly easy to obtain. As a result, thousands of people are struggling with heroin addiction at any given time.
Stages of Heroin Abuse
Heroin addiction develops in stages, starting out with experimental use and ending with uncontrolled heroin abuse. The physical and psychological effects of heroin use get more serious with each stage, highlighting the importance of professional addiction treatment.
Brookside Treatment is here to help you or a loved one! Contact us today to learn about how we can battle heroin addiction and get you on the road to recovery.
Heroin addiction doesn’t develop immediately. It typically starts out with experimentation — trying the drug for the first time. Many people experience a “rush” described as an extremely pleasurable sensation, causing them to want to use heroin again.
Occasional Heroin Use
The second stage of heroin addiction is characterized by occasional heroin use. A casual heroin user may inject, snort or smoke heroin on the weekends or after a tough day at work. Eventually, they may develop a physical dependence on the drug, leading to the next stage of heroin addiction.
Ongoing Heroin Use
Once someone enters the third stage of heroin addiction, ongoing heroin use, they start using the drug on most days of the week. While a casual user is typically able to maintain their performance at work or school, ongoing heroin use often interferes with normal daily activities. Heroin use can cause nausea, vomiting and other physical symptoms, all of which can make it difficult to get up on time and be productive throughout the day.
Continued heroin use also increases the risk of serious medical problems, including kidney disease, arthritis, heart problems and liver disease. People who inject heroin have more risk factors for serious health problems, as sharing needles or using needles without following proper infection prevention procedures can cause heroin users to develop hepatitis, HIV and other infectious diseases.
Full-Blown Heroin Addiction
Eventually, it becomes impossible to stop using heroin without some type of formal addiction treatment. Long-term heroin users may lose their jobs, drop out of school or have difficulty maintaining relationships with loved ones due to their drug use. They may also experience intense cravings, causing them to focus on nothing but obtaining more heroin and experiencing that pleasant rush.
Signs of Heroin Addiction
Behavioral Signs of Substance Abuse
Heroin abuse causes a wide range of behavioral changes. Even if the user doesn’t notice the changes, friends and family members may start to suspect ongoing drug use. One of the most common behavioral signs of drug abuse is a sudden change in financial circumstances. Someone who used to be financially stable may suddenly show signs that they’re struggling — taking out multiple payday loans, racking up credit card debt or asking loved ones to borrow money.
Another behavioral sign of substance abuse is a sudden change in work or school performance. A user known for professional success may start calling in sick, missing deadlines, failing to show up for meetings or forgetting to complete important projects, while a student who uses heroin may stop turning in homework, miss more days of school than usual, quit their favorite after-school activities or stop spending time with friends.
Physical Signs of Heroin Use
The pleasant rush that comes with heroin use is what makes the drug so enticing for so many people. Other physical signs of heroin use include drowsiness, slow heart rate, severe itching and slower breathing.
Psychological Side Effects of Heroin
Heroin behaves like any other opiate — it binds to opioid receptors in the brain, changing the way the brain experiences pleasure and pain. One of the most common psychological side effects of heroin use is clouded mental functioning, which can interfere with decision-making and lead chronic heroin users to make poor decisions regarding their health and well-being.
Warning Signs of Heroin Overdose
Continued drug use increases the risk of heroin overdose, a life-threatening emergency that affects several systems of the body. Because heroin use causes slower breathing, an overdose can lead to shallow breathing or difficulty breathing. Some people even stop breathing when they have a heroin overdose, increasing the risk of death.
Heroin overdose also affects the circulatory system, resulting in low blood pressure and a weak pulse. Additional signs of a heroin overdose include dry mouth, spasms in the intestines and stomach, delirium, uncontrolled muscle movements and coma.
Heroin Abuse Treatment Options
Many people don’t realize the toll heroin is taking on their lives, but even those who do have trouble stopping their drug use. Quitting “cold turkey” can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult to recover from this type of addiction. Brookside Addiction Treatment Services has a comprehensive treatment program available to help you break the cycle of addiction and learn how to face each day without heroin and other substances.
Brookside Addiction Treatment Services offers detoxification and medication-assisted treatment to help people stop using heroin safely. Detoxification, commonly known as “detox,” is the process of eliminating heroin and other substances from the body. During this process, the individual stops using heroin and goes through the process of withdrawal.
Heroin withdrawal can cause some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, but our staff members are trained to use methadone and other substances to make patients feel more comfortable. These medications can lessen the severity of a person’s withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of harmful side effects. Once heroin has cleared the body, a patient can move from the detox program to an outpatient or residential rehab program in Kentucky.
Outpatient Heroin Addiction Treatment
Due to work and family obligations, not everyone can stay at a residential rehab facility for weeks at a time. If you can’t enroll in our residential program, you can participate in our outpatient treatment program in Pikeville, Kentucky. You’ll have access to group therapy, family therapy and other services to help you learn how to deal with stressful circumstances without relapsing. This option is best for people with mild heroin addictions.
Residential Heroin Addiction Treatment
Brookside Addiction Treatment Services also offers a residential treatment program for people with moderate to severe heroin addictions. If you enroll in this program, you’ll stay at our Kentucky facility, giving you a healthy routine to follow as you learn to live without using heroin and other drugs. You’ll have access to the following:
- Individual therapy: Individual therapy gives you the opportunity to meet with an experienced therapist and work through the issues that led to your addiction. Depending on your needs, you may participate in psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or some other type of therapy.
- Family therapy: Heroin addiction makes it difficult to maintain fulfilling relationships with family members. Addiction also has a genetic component, meaning several people in the same family may struggle with drug or alcohol addiction, influencing their relationships. Family therapy gives you the opportunity to address these issues in a supportive environment.
- Group therapy: During group therapy sessions, you’ll have a chance to share your story and learn from others who are working to recover from addiction.
- Holistic therapies: As you go through treatment, it’s important to nourish your body and your spirit to ensure you’re strong enough to continue your recovery journey. Meditation, yoga and other holistic therapies can help you build the physical and spiritual strength you need to avoid relapsing.
Take Back Your Life
It’s difficult to stop using heroin on your own, but one simple phone call could put you on the path to recovery. Brookside Addiction Treatment Services offers comprehensive heroin treatment programs, ongoing aftercare and access to support groups to help you avoid relapse. To learn how we can help you get your life back on track, call (606) 342-7089.