Heroin Addiction & Treatment
What is heroin?
Signs or symptoms of heroin addiction
Heroin is a powerful substance which produces feelings of intense pleasure and euphoria, as well as eliminating physical pain and because of this, addiction can take hold very quickly. However, repeated use of heroin over a period of time can lead to physical dependence and your body will need heroin in order to function properly. Once this has occurred, you may notice various signs and symptoms of heroin addiction and these will become easier to identify in yourself or someone you know.
The symptoms listed below are some of the most commonly reported psychological, physical, behavioural and social signs that may indicate heroin abuse or addiction.
Psychological symptoms of heroin addiction:
- Inability to focus
- Impaired judgement
- Feeling confused or disorientated
Physical symptoms of heroin addiction:
- Rapid or extreme weight loss
- Feeling itchy
- Kidney and liver damage
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Flu-like symptoms
- Bloodborne diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV
- Pneumonia and tuberculosis
Behavioural symptoms of heroin addiction:
- Missing school/work
- Poor school/work performance
- Drug paraphernalia such as needles, foil, pipes, drug wraps etc.
- Lying in order to conceal drug use
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Social symptoms of heroin addiction:
- Isolating from friends and family
- Withdrawn around others
- Mood changes and aggression
- Damaged relationships
- Financial difficulties
Heroin withdrawal symptoms
When you take a strong opioid like heroin for a prolonged period of time, your body builds up a tolerance to its effects, meaning you will require more each time in order to achieve the same high as you did when you first started using, however increasing your dosage puts you at risk of accidental overdose. Long-term heroin use leads to physical dependence as well as addiction.
Physical dependence occurs because heroin alters the way your brain’s nerve receptors behave. These receptors become reliant on heroin in order to function normally, and suddenly stopping heroin after long-term use will result in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s physical response to the absence of the drug it has become accustomed to. To avoid experiencing painful withdrawal, many people continue using instead of seeking help, and due to the increased sense of wellbeing heroin gives you, symptoms of withdrawal are often mistaken for the flu and other illnesses.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms will vary in severity depending on factors such as frequency of use, dosage and your overall health. Although the withdrawal experience will differ from person to person, the progression of an opioid withdrawal usually follows a general timeline.
The first symptoms of heroin withdrawal typically begin within the first 24 hours after your last dose. These include:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Excessive sweating
- Frequent yawning
After the first 24 hours, symptoms begin to intensify and it’s during this stage that many people relapse. These symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurry vision
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Flu-like symptoms
Although these symptoms can be agonising, they tend to calm down after a week. However this will vary depending on how long you’ve been dependent on heroin.
A period of up to six months of total abstinence from heroin is recommended to maintain recovery, and ongoing heroin withdrawal symptoms can continue for this time. This is known as “protracted abstinence.” While any symptoms at this stage should be mild, if you are still experiencing discomfort, you should seek professional medical advice.
What does heroin look like?
How is heroin made?
Heroin vs morphine
Is heroin addictive?
Heroin addiction treatment and rehab
The Lighthouse rehab, located in Essex, is our fully residential facility which offers all clients a medically assisted detox, supervised by doctors to ensure your safety and comfort. You will be prescribed the appropriate medication to help alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.
We recommend a minimum 28-day residential stay with us to provide you with enough time to detox and participate in our therapy programme. However, heroin addiction is complex, and your stay will ultimately depend on the severity of your addiction. Alongside a medical detox, our treatment plan involves group and individual counselling & therapy. Our team of counsellors work hard to create a bespoke treatment plan for each individual in order to try and identify any issues that may have contributed to your addiction. As well as popular addiction treatment methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy, process therapy and relapse prevention workshops, we offer a range of holistic treatments such as yoga and mindfulness which focus on healing the mind and spirit as well as the body.
Many clients worry about returning to normal life once they complete a rehab programme, but at Step-by-Step Recovery, we don’t believe recovery ends once you leave us. In fact, this is where your journey truly begins, which is why we offer free lifetime aftercare support to all clients who finish a minimum of 28 days at The Lighthouse.
Transitioning from rehab to real life can be a scary prospect. After weeks of around-the-clock care, you may suddenly feel alone and out of your depth. It’s important to remember that you will have a great deal of support in the form of aftercare. Before you complete your rehab stay, your addiction counsellor will sit down with you and put together a personalised aftercare programme to help you maintain your sobriety once you leave.
A strong aftercare programme usually consists of relapse prevention workshops, individual and group counselling as well as alumni activities and events.
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A page revised the 6 of July of 2021, by Danielle Byatt, a Level 4 addictions counselling, Level 5 in Leadership & Management, BA applied social work. and Treatment Director at Step by Step Recovery.
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