Signs of Heroin Addiction and how Our Rehab Helps

Heroin use has increased across the map in United States over the last decade, including in Arizona. Individuals with previously low rates of heroin use, such as women and people with higher incomes, are now showing increased rates and signs of heroin addiction and fatal overdose. Heroin, a highly addictive opioid drug, carries with it a wide range of destructive physical and psychological effects.

The best way to protect yourself, or the life of a loved one, from the nation’s heroin epidemic is to learn more about the drug, where it comes from and how to get help.

What Is Heroin?

New Heroin Users Prescription Opioids Statistic - Reflections RecoveryHeroin is an opioid drug derived from morphine, a naturally occurring chemical found in the opium poppy plant. When consumed, heroin is chemically synthesized into morphine that then interacts with the brain’s opioid receptors.

Opioid receptors are responsible for controlling the brain’s pain and pleasure centers, as well as managing the body’s blood flow and breathing patterns. By influencing the brain’s reward center, heroin is capable of sending the user into a state of euphoria or into an unresponsive stupor.

Heroin is considerably more powerful than opioid prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Despite its potency, illegal heroin is much cheaper than its medically administered counterparts.

As a result, many people who begin abusing heroin are actually continuing a substance abuse pattern that began with prescription opioid addiction.

Research performed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that almost 80 percent of Americans using heroin initially misused prescription opioids.

Short-Term Effects & Signs of Heroin Addiction

Individuals who abuse heroin experience a large spectrum of negative short-term effects. In some cases, users ramp up their heroin use in an effort to offset the negative side-effects of the drug, leading to a self-destructive cycle of substance abuse.

Some signs of heroin addiction and potential short-term effects of snorting, smoking or injecting heroin include:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Dry mouth
  • Heavy limbs
  • Limited cognitive abilities
  • Falling into a stupor state
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe itching

Long-Term Consequences

Heroin Seized Drug Maricopa County Arizona - Reflections Recovery CenterExtended heroin abuse causes significant harm to the mind and body. In many cases, this damage is permanent. For instance, repeated heroin use can upset the delicate balance of the body’s hormonal and neuronal systems, causing irreversible degradation.

Studies have shown that heroin use can cause the brain’s white matter to deteriorate as well. The list of negative consequences related to heroin use is extensive.

The following are just a few of the destructive, lasting effects that the drug can have on the body:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Inflammation of the gums and poor dental health
  • Infections of the heart and valves
  • Infectious diseases related to injection (HIV/AIDS, hepatitis)
  • Collapsed veins related to injection
  • Skin abscesses
  • Intense constipation
  • Stomach cramping
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Lung complications and diseases
  • Arthritis
  • Partial paralysis
  • Long-term impotence (in men)

Signs of Heroin Addiction and Recovery FAQs

Continue learning about this dangerous drug by reading through our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about heroin use and treatment:

What Are the Signs of Heroin Addiction?

If you fear that someone close to you is addicted to heroin and may need heroin addiction help, there are a number of warning signs you can look for, including:

  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Alternating cold and hot flashes
  • Severe pain in the bones and muscles
  • Runny nose
  • Anxiety
  • Profuse sweating
  • Intense heroin cravings

Although the worst phase of heroin detox is over in a matter of days, many recovering addicts report experiencing episodes of withdrawal “flashbacks,” a condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

PAWS can last for months, and in extreme cases, even years. While PAWS remains poorly understood by scientists, the leading theory is that it is a natural part of the brain’s healing process.

Which Prescription Drugs Potentially Lead to Heroin Addiction?

In the 20-year span between 1991 and 2011, the number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers increased by nearly 300 percent. Keep in mind many heroin addicts report their first exposure to opioid drugs was through prescription medications.

Some of the prescription drugs that can lead to heroin addiction include:

  • Morphine (MS Contin, Roxanol, Kadian)
  • Methadone (Methadose, Dolophine)
  • Fentanyl (Abstral, Actiq, Duragesic)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin, Lortab)
  • Codeine
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Palladone)
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

Learn more about the link between prescription drugs and heroin addiction here:

Prescription Drug Fact Sheet

What Are the Main Causes of Heroin Addiction?

Research has shown that there are many factors that contribute to a person’s susceptibility to heroin addiction. The most prominent factors are:

Genetics: Studies suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to addictive behavior. For instance, those who have a family history of heroin dependence are more likely to become addicted to heroin themselves.

Abuse or trauma: Those who have experienced abuse or trauma, especially during childhood, are at risk of turning to heroin to self-medicate the symptoms of PTSD and other psychological disorders.

Chronic pain: People with chronic pain disorders are at an elevated risk for becoming addicted to heroin, especially after less powerful opioid drugs have lost their effectiveness.

How Common Is Heroin Use and Addiction in the U.S.?

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that in 2016, almost 1 million Americans admitted to using heroin in the previous year. Of that number, roughly 626,000 met the diagnostic criteria for having a heroin abuse or dependence disorder.

Compare that to 2002, when only 214,000 Americans met the criteria for heroin dependence disorder. So as the number of prescriptions written for opioid medications rose after that time, the number of heroin addiction cases unfortunately followed suit.

What Are Some Clinical and Holistic Treatments for Heroin Addiction?

With the right combination of clinical treatment, holistic therapies and personal determination, anyone can overcome an addiction to heroin. No doubt, it’s going to take a lot of work, though.

A reputable heroin rehab center will make use of both clinical and holistic therapies, including (but not limited to):

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
  • Psychoeducation
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Reiki massage
  • Nutritional therapy and counseling
  • Recreational therapy

How Does Heroin Abuse Affect Friends and Family?

Heroin addiction can severely strain one’s relationships with friends and family in the following ways:

  1. Loved ones may take on the burden of providing heroin addiction help to an unreceptive heroin user.
  2. Family members may feel guilty about enabling one’s addiction by providing financial support.
  3. Over time, the addict may prioritize their heroin addiction over their responsibilities to their family.
  4. Violent mood swings brought about by heroin addiction can lead to abusive behaviors, both emotional and physical.
  5. Certain family members may become codependent with their addicted loved one, and the addiction drags out until the codependency is addressed.

How Can a Heroin Addict Avoid Relapsing?

The National Institutes of Health estimates that the rate of heroin relapse is higher than 90 percent for people making their first recovery attempt. The best way to avoid relapsing is by using all of the heroin addiction treatment resources available, and to not give up hope if a single slip-up happens.

A reliable heroin rehab center will provide its graduates with aftercare services designed to help them navigate their way through day-to-day life while remaining sober.

See Relapse Prevention Tips

What Are the Pros and Cons of Suboxone and Methadone Treatments for Heroin Addiction?

While both Suboxone and methadone can be used to help people beat a heroin addiction, each medication comes with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.


Pros: Suboxone (buprenorphine) contains both an opioid antagonist and agonist. The agonist helps to combat the symptoms of heroin detox, while the antagonist causes the body to have a negative reaction to other opioid drugs. This combination greatly reduces the risk of relapse.

Cons: The potential side effects of Suboxone include depression, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, headaches and decreased libido. Suboxone can also become addictive in its own right, so treatment centers should only prescribe it on a short-term basis.


Pros: Methadone has been used effectively to treat heroin addiction for more than 30 years, and is backed by decades of scientific research. Methadone is also inexpensive and widely available.

Cons: Because methadone does not contain an opioid antagonist, it is possible to continue using heroin while receiving methadone therapy. Methadone also can be highly addictive on its own, which is why many rehab programs are starting to shy away from prescribing this drug.

How Do Rehab Centers Treat Heroin Abuse?

Arizona High School Students Use Heroin Statistic - Reflections Recovery Center
It is vital that friends and family members of those struggling with heroin addiction recognize the need for medically assisted detoxification. Without necessary medical supervision, heroin’s intense withdrawal symptoms threaten to derail the recovery process from the beginning.

Inpatient treatment facilities are an ideal place for those struggling with heroin addiction to safely detox and overcome their withdrawal symptoms. Further clinical treatment and behavioral therapy can help the body to work through its dependence on heroin. Additionally, holistic treatments such as adventure therapy, exercise therapy, yoga and reiki have proven extremely beneficial and effective during addiction recovery.

At Reflections Recovery Center in Prescott, Arizona, we take a two-part approach to drug addiction recovery: clinical treatment and holistic therapy. This approach ensures that we address the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of a patient’s addiction.

Our goal is to help clients prepare for a life free from substance abuse. Contact one of our admission representatives at 888-866-7504 if you have any unanswered questions about heroin addiction and treatment.

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