Heroin Addiction Warning Signs & Dangers

The Landing provides heroin addiction treatment for men rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier, more satisfying life.

Understanding Heroin

Learn about heroin and substance abuse

Heroin is an incredibly addictive substance that has the potential to devastate an individual’s life if it is abused. Often referred to as horse, tar, or smack, heroin is a synthesized form of morphine, which is a natural derivative of the poppy plant. When an individual consumes heroin either through smoking it, injecting it, or snorting it, the body immediately converts the substance back into morphine. When this occurs, the drug triggers receptors in the brain that are responsible for eliciting feelings pleasure and blocking sensations of pain., These receptors also control involuntary bodily processes such as heart rate and breathing.

The abuse of a substance like heroin puts individuals at increased risk for suffering serious immediate and long-term damage that can include addiction and overdose. The continued abuse of heroin and the development of heroin use disorder can cause serious damage to an individual’s mental, physical, and social health.

It can be tremendously hard for an individual to defeat his heroin use disorder without professional treatment. However, numerous types of therapy have been established to help individuals in this situation put an end to their dependence on heroin and begin living a happy, healthy life that is no longer controlled by heroin abuse.


Heroin addiction statistics

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NS-DUH), the abuse of heroin has been steadily rising among adults (especially between the ages of 18 and 25) within the United States. Roughly two percent of the adult population in the country have abused heroin at least one time in their lives, and approximately 150,000 people abuse heroin for the first time each year. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the amount of individuals who meet the criteria for heroin use disorder increased 100 percent within a 10-year period, from 214,000 in 2002 to 467,000 in 2012. A 500percent increase in heroin related overdose deaths from 2001 to 2013 was reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for heroin addiction

The development of a heroin use disorder or the abuse of heroin can be impacted by a number of causes and risk factors, including the following:

Genetic: Numerous studies, including research that included adopted children and twins, show a genetic influence on an individual’s risk for establishing a heroin use disorder. The heritable trait of impulsivity has also been connected to the probability of an individual developing heroin use disorder.

Environmental: Having easy access to heroin and/or socializing with individuals who abuse it serve as risk factors for abusing this substance. Other environmental influences on heroin use disorder can include high stress levels and low socioeconomic status.

Risk Factors:

  • Age (heroin abuse often begins during late teenage years or early 20s)
  • Gender (men are more likely to abuse heroin than women are)
  • Access to heroin
  • Impulsivity and novelty seeking
  • Prior substance abuse
  • Poor stress management skills
  • Family or personal history of mental illness
  • Family history of substance use disorder

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of heroin addiction

Below are some of the numerous signs that might indicate if an individual is abusing heroin:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lying or otherwise acting deceptively regarding whereabouts and/or activities
  • Possession of syringes, hypodermic needles, and other drug paraphernalia
  • Cessation of or decreased participation in significant activities

Physical symptoms:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Sensation of heaviness in arms and legs
  • Itchiness
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Slowed breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Scabs, sores, and/or abscesses
  • Runny nose
  • Dry mouth
  • Watery eyes

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Problems focusing or thinking clearly
  • Impaired judgment
  • Confusion and disorientation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Severe mood swings
  • Anxiety


Effects of heroin addiction

Persistent untreated heroin abuse can lead to a number of negative outcomes, including physical damage heroin and behavioral issues that develop within a user. The following are some of the most upsetting effects of continued heroin abuse:

  • Financial ruin
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Homelessness
  • Pneumonia and tuberculosis
  • Damage to the kidneys and liver
  • Viral infections, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Academic failure and expulsion
  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts
  • Family discord

Co-Occurring Disorders

Heroin addiction and co-occurring disorders

Those who have developed heroin use disorder might be at an increased risk for also suffering from the following co-occurring disorders:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depressive disorders
  • Other substance use disorders

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of heroin withdrawal and overdose

Effects of heroin withdrawal: When an individual has found himself dependent on heroin and tries to stop and/or limit the use of this substance, he can go through a number of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms, which can make it challenging for individuals to end their heroin use disorder without the help of professionals, can begin to develop just a few hours after the last use. Below are some of the most common heroin withdrawal symptoms:

  • Dysphoria
  • Anhedonia
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Other flu-like symptoms
  • Strong cravings for heroin
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety

Effects of heroin overdose: When an individual abuses heroin, he places himself at risk for an overdose, which can be deadly. If an individual starts showing any of the following symptoms after using heroin, he might be in need of immediate medical attention:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Significant drop in blood pressure
  • Irregular breathing
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blue tinge around mouth or fingertips

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Shooting up heroin became as routine as brushing my teeth to me. After getting comprehensive rehab at The Landing, I am now 7 years free!

– Anonymous Client
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