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Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Smack. Junk. Dope. No matter what you call it, heroin is incredibly powerful and incredibly addictive. If you use heroin, you might believe that you have your use well under control, and addiction will never be a problem for you. While you might be right, there’s a significant amount of evidence that suggests the contrary. For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 23 percent of people who use heroin become dependent on it. The high the drug produces can be addictive. The chemical changes caused by the drug use can lock an addiction in place. The behaviors you have developed around drug use can also be addictive. You might already be addicted, but you just don’t know it yet.

This article will explain how a heroin addiction can develop, and what an addiction typically looks like. As you read, you might notice that you have some of these behaviors. It can be startling to recognize yourself in an article like this. If so, take heart. Heroin addiction can be successfully treated through medications or therapy in a top exclusive residential rehab center. Recognizing that you have a problem is a first step you’ll need to take.

*Quotes From Real Users

For some users, heroin addiction begins from the moment the drug begins to produce results. Consider this quote from a 20-year-old addict in Ohio: “My cousin, she was into heroin and I started hanging out with her… She told me about it, and I was like, ‘I want to try it.’ The first time that I shot it up, it was like, ‘Where has this been all my life?’” This woman eventually enrolled in a treatment program, and she is currently in control of her addiction.

Source: MSNBC


Chemical Changes

Heroin is in the opiate drug class. These drugs work by attaching to specific opiate receptors located in the brain and other parts of the body. When the drugs are attached to these receptors, they cause a series of chemical reactions, disrupting the normal release and disintegration of the system the brain uses to communicate. It’s a complex interplay and it happens within minutes. You might not know how the system works, but it’s likely you’ll know how the system adjustments feel. When that heroin is attached, you feel euphoric and relaxed, all at the same time.

The high that you felt was likely incredibly profound the first time you used heroin, but subsequent occasions weren’t as powerful. If you’re using heroin on a regular basis, you might find that you need to take higher and higher doses of the drug in order to feel the same effect. In addition, when you don’t have access to heroin, you might begin to feel unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Aching muscles
  • Running nose and watering eyes
  • Sweating

By using heroin again, you can make these symptoms disappear. People who are addicted to heroin often go through these periods of withdrawal and relapse over and over again. You might feel these symptoms begin when you try to quit using heroin. You might also feel these symptoms between hits of heroin, even when you never planned to stop using heroin altogether. In the past, researchers thought that these withdrawal symptoms worked as a motivational factor to make people use again. The fear of pain drew them back to drug use. But, according to a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the changes might be a bit more sinister. The researchers suggest that the pain of the withdrawal makes using the drug more appealing. In their words, “…withdrawal from heroin functions as a motivational state that enhances the incentive value of the drug, thereby enabling it to function as a much more effective reward for self-administration.” In this way, going through withdrawal might make you like heroin even more, which might make an addiction even more likely.

*Understanding Behavior

If you’re addicted to heroin, you’re likely addicted to the chemical changes the drug brings about. But you might also be receiving subtle cues from the environment that can trigger your drug use. Changing those cues might reduce cravings. For example, according to an article published by NPR, about 5 percent of soldiers returning from Vietnam who were addicted to the drug in Vietnam relapsed to drug use when they came home again. Researchers found that, since the soldiers weren’t being exposed to the same cues when they were at home, they weren’t dealing with such strong cravings.

Moving to another country might not be a reasonable option, but you can consider combatting behavior cues by:

  • Avoiding places where you used to take heroin
  • Redecorating rooms in your home
  • Removing all of your heroin paraphernalia
  • Discarding clothes you associate with use

Lifestyle Changes

It can be hard for you to see the chemical changes your body is going through, but you might be able to easily see how your drug use is changing the way you act. These behavioral changes could indicate that an addiction to heroin is a problem for you:

  • Planning your day around buying and using heroin
  • Spending most of your money on heroin, including money you need for rent and food
  • Using heroin repeatedly, including using the drug alone
  • Neglecting friendships and work obligations in order to use heroin
  • Hiding your heroin use by stashing your equipment away and lying about how often you use

Since heroin is illegal, you must deal with criminals in order to get the drugs you need. Over time, your life might also become criminal in nature. You might steal from family members or friends in order to feed your habit. You might even consider stealing from local businesses in order to obtain money for heroin. If this has happened to you, it’s time to take notice. Heroin addictions can cause you to do things you might never even have thought about doing before you started using. If you’re willing to compromise your values in order to use heroin, it’s likely you’re addicted to it.

Heroin addiction might also cause severe rifts in your relationships. You might fight with your family members on a regular basis, or you might stop talking to them altogether. You might stop spending time with friends who don’t use heroin. Again, this is a serious sign of addiction. Placing a higher value on drugs than on people you care about indicates that your heroin use is no longer under your control.

*Health Concerns

Most people, if given the choice, will go to great lengths to protect their bodies and avoid being hurt or in pain. In the late stages of addiction, you might value heroin over your own physical health. Heroin abuse can cause:

  • Skin infections at the injection site
  • Collapsed veins
  • Pneumonia
  • Kidney disease
  • Infection with HIV or hepatitis B or C
  • Infections of the heart’s lining or valves

If you’ve developed these issues yet you’re still determined to use heroin, addiction is likely an issue for you.

Moving Past Addiction

According to the National Institutes of Health, only about 20 percent of those addicted to heroin receive help for their addictions. It’s possible that these people chose not to do so because they were concerned about being marked with the label of heroin addict. It’s an understandable concern. In the past, people who were addicted to heroin were considered weak or undesirable. Heroin addiction, although common, was considered so severe that some thought it was impossible to cure.

A lot has changed. Research shows that heroin addiction is a disorder that begins with chemical changes, and those changes can be addressed with medications. Thousands of people have used these medications to combat their addictions, and they’ve achieved remarkable results. For example, according to a study in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, those who were addicted to heroin and who received medications for that addiction had a mortality rate that was four times the expected rate. Those who did not receive medications had a mortality rate that was 63 times that expected. As these numbers make clear, receiving treatment for heroin addiction can make a big difference in your life. With help, you can control your addiction.

If you’d like to take that first step to get rid of heroin’s presence in your life for good, contact us today. We can help you find the treatment you need.

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