Why Is Heroin Addictive?

Why Is Heroin Addictive? | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Addictive substances alter the brain’s motivation, pleasure, and reward centers in both structure and function. The human brain is designed to recall experiences that induce pleasurable feelings and to motivate us to re-engage in behaviors that are associated with them.

Heroin is widely considered by experts to be the most addictive drug in the world. The reason why heroin is so addictive is partially due to the manner in which people use it—for example, injecting heroin has a much higher potential for addiction, than, say, taking a heroin-laced pill would. It is also a very potent drug, relatively inexpensive, and very accessible. Finally, the withdrawal symptoms that emerge when a person tries to quit can be harrowing, and often severe enough to drive a person to re-engage in the drug’s use.

How Heroin Alters Brain Chemistry

When an individual uses heroin, the drug rapidly enters the bloodstream and heads straight to the brain and impacts the regions of the brain responsible for pleasure, reward, depression, anxiety, and emotions. That’s why people who use heroin report feeling peaceful and relaxed. They also stop feeling anxious, troubled, and depressed.

So what happens here is this—the brain begins to associate this highly pleasant effect with the use of heroin and urges the person to do it again. Over time, repeated use continues to enforce this, and the brain becomes highly motivated to use. This is essentially the same thing that eating does. However, unlike with heroin use, eating is necessary to survive, and, in general, is nowhere near as problematic.

With extended use, heroin starts to severely disrupt areas in the brain responsible for judgment and self-control. The brain is essentially hijacked by heroin at this point and tricked into believing that heroin use is a positive thing. Cravings for the drug become very intense, and the brain and body become unable to function normally without its presence. This condition is also known as chemical dependence and is why withdrawal symptoms occur when the person tries to quit using.

How Method of Administration Matters

Why Is Heroin Addictive? | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Although potency varies, most opiates and opioids affect the brain pretty much the same way. But unlike a medication such as hydrocodone, users tend to administer heroin in a way that is especially likely to lead to addiction. Smoking and snorting heroin are common, and injection is probably the preferred method of abuse. All of these means to ingest heroin have more immediate, more intense effects than oral consumption.

For this reason, many prescription opioids are designed using abuse-deterrent formulas that make the pills difficult to crush or melt. When a pill is consumed orally, it is processed by the stomach and liver, absorbed into the bloodstream much more slowly, and the effects emerge over time.

But smoking, snorting, or injecting bypasses this process and, instead, the entire amount of drug goes straight to the brain. Addiction is more likely to occur when the brain receives the drug in this way. Heroin is rarely consumed orally, so it’s nearly always used in these high-risk ways. And it’s no coincidence that it is—people who use heroin seek out very intense effects that are often no longer satisfied with less potent drugs like oxycodone.

Heroin Is Easily Accessible

Prescription opioids are often much more expensive and more difficult to obtain than heroin. In fact, many people who become dependent on prescription opioids switch to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to access. 

Furthermore, heroin’s availability has dramatically increased in the last few years, in response to the national opioid epidemic that began with the over-prescribing of painkillers such as oxycodone. To make matters worse, illicit fentanyl has made its way into the heroin market. Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin itself, and even less expensive to produce and procure.

Withdrawal Hinders Attempts to Quit Using 

People who become dependent on heroin will use the drug to avoid uncomfortable and painful withdrawal symptoms. At this point, they are no longer using the drug merely to get high, and heroin has actually become essential to function without undergoing days of physical and mental torment. 

Many other substances, such as alcohol and cocaine, will result in withdrawal symptoms. Heroin withdrawal is not generally life-threatening but is notorious for being particularly unpleasant and painful, and can last longer than other drugs such as cocaine and meth.

Few people are physically and mentally capable of undergoing heroin withdrawal without medical treatment unless they are forced to, such as if they are unable to access the drug for some reason. And, unfortunately, without treatment, there is a high likelihood that they will engage in behaviors such as stealing or prostitution to get money to buy heroin, and there may be no limit to what they will do to get it.

How Addictive Is Heroin?

A drug’s potential for abuse and addiction is based on many factors, but many researchers and experts agree that heroin is one of the most addictive substances, possibly only surpassed by other injectable forms of opioids, such as fentanyl or krokodil. These drugs all have a profound impact on the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and are likely to lead to both chemical and psychological dependence. And, next to alcohol, heroin probably has the highest risk of psychical and social harm.

As noted, physical dependence refers to adaptive changes in the brain that trigger withdrawal symptoms when the drug isn’t present. Psychological dependence refers to having a severe compulsion to use, and a loss of judgment when it comes to that use. The person will do anything they can to obtain and use the drugs and will do so to their own personal detriment and the detriment of others. Any prior morals that they had regarding self-harm or harm to loved ones will fall by the wayside in place of drug use.

How Long Does It Take to Develop an Addiction?

Why Is Heroin Addictive? | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Contrary to what some people believe, most heroin users don’t become addicted after one dose. However, one dose may be enough to encourage future abuse, and this can eventually escalate into a full-blown addiction. Other factors are involved, such as drug purity, potency, and level of use, but generally speaking, it is possible to get addicted to heroin in just a few days. By comparison, almost no one becomes dependent upon alcohol or oral painkillers that fast.

Moreover, one use is not likely to induce cravings or an emotional connection to the drug, but heroin’s highly pleasant effects often motivate people to use it again. Ever time they do this, it increases the risk that chemical dependence and, ultimately, addiction will develop.

Another component of heroin use and addiction is the building of tolerance. Tolerance refers to how the brain has a propensity to reduce the effects of substances over time. When this occurs, the person has to use more heroin to achieve the desired effect, and, at some point, they may not even feel much of a high. Unfortunately, individuals who develop a high tolerance for heroin can now turn to fentanyl, a drug that is even more addictive and deadly.

Getting Help for Heroin Addiction

Heroin abuse and addiction are potentially life-threatening issues that can destroy a person’s physical and mental health, and cause an array of problems ranging from social isolation to legal and financial difficulties. Fortunately, heroin addiction is very treatable, and many people have beat it. Recovery in Tune offers integrated, customized programs, in outpatient and partial hospitalization formats, designed to treat all forms of addiction to a wide variety of substances. 

If you are struggling with heroin addiction, we urge you to contact us today to discover how we can help you reclaim the life, health, and emotional well-being you deserve!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: What Does Heroin Look Like?

What Does Heroin Look Like?

What Does Heroin Look Like? | Recovery In Tune

Pure heroin looks like a fine, white powder, but is frequently found in various shades of gray, beige, pink, brown, and even black. The coloring is due to the drug being cut with additives, such as caffeine, sugar, powdered milk, stark, quinine and other drugs.

Some heroin tends to be courser, and black tar heroin, as the name suggests, is a tar-like, sticky substance that ranges from dark brown to black. It is the least pure of all forms of heroin due to the crude way in which it’s processed. Heroin is a highly addictive, painkilling narcotic made from morphine.

Methods of Use

Injecting heroin is a very popular form of use because it is delivered more rapidly and intensely to the brain, resulting in a more powerful high. In addition to the harmful effects of the heroin itself, intravenous drug use can also result in serious skin infections, abscesses, collapsed veins, and in extreme cases, amputation.

Smoking heroin involves burning the drug and inhaling smoke into the lungs, using through a pipe. Smoking heroin is also referred to as “chasing the dragon.” The high that results from smoking heroin is not as intense as when injected, but may be popular among those who choose to avoid needles and the stigma associated with intravenous drug use.

Like injecting, however, smoking heroin also has dangers associated with the specific method of use. For example, those who smoke heroin face a higher risk of bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as widespread damage to other organs such as the heart, liver, and brain.

Snorting heroin involves sniffing the substance into the nostrils. Not unlike cocaine use, snorting heroin can result in nasal infections and irreversible damage to the septum and surrounding tissue.

How Heroin Works and Why is It Addictive ?

Using heroin results in a euphoric high that can last up to a half hour. When heroin reaches the brain, it attaches to receptors that release a massive surge of dopamine, a chemical associated with feelings of well-being and relaxation.

After multiple uses, heroin becomes addictive due to the onset of tolerance and dependency. Tolerance occurs as the brain requires more and more of the drug to achieve the desired euphoria and other effects. In a nutshell, increased exposure = reduced response.

When tolerance occurs, users are forced to use increasing amounts, which also raises the risk of overdose. Some users switch to more powerful opioids such as fentanyl or use other drugs in conjunction with heroin to enhance or prolong a high.

Dependency occurs when the brain becomes accustomed to the drug’s presence and can’t function properly without it. When the user tries to quit or cut back, the body responds with unpleasant mental and physical withdrawal effects.

These effects are one reason why people continue to use the drug – to avoid withdrawals and sate the cravings associated with it.

Street Names for Heroin

Heroin is known on the street by many different names, sometimes depending on its color or purity.

Slang names for heroin include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Smack, Dope, Junk, Dragon
  • Skunk, Horse (Mexican Horse), Chiva (Chiba), Boy, Hero, Birdie Powder, Snow (Snowball)
  • White (China White), White Stuff, White Girl (White Boy), White Nurse (White Lady), White Horse
  • Tar (Black Tar), Black Stuff, Black Pearl, Black Eagle, Negra
  • Brown (Brown Crystal), Brown Sugar (Brown Tape), Brown Sugar (Brown Crystal), Mexican Brown (Mud)
  • Witch Hazel, Skag, Shot, H (Big H), Scag (Scat), Number 2 (Number 3,4,8), Hell Dust, Thunder

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Treatment for Heroin Addiction | Recovery In Tune

Heroin addiction is a condition best treated by mental health and medical providers in a clinical setting. Our team includes addiction specialists and other healthcare personnel trained to enact customized programs that treat the symptoms of addiction and withdrawal.

Treatment begins in our detox center, where patients are monitored around-the-clock. During this time, medication-assisted therapy can be administered to mitigate many of the worst symptoms of withdrawal.

After detox, patients are encouraged to enter one of our long-term treatment programs, ideally for at least 30 days. We offer both inpatient (residential stay) treatment as well as intensive outpatient treatment.

Both formats include behavioral therapy, individual and group therapy, family counseling, holistic practices such as meditation, and participation in 12-step programs.

After intensive treatment has been completed, support groups are helpful for maintaining long-term abstinence, as are ongoing treatments such as psychiatric services and counseling.

Also, after discharge from treatment, clients can still participate in our aftercare program and alumni activities

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Recovery is about you. Our aim is to provide you with effective clinical and peer support, an understanding of your addiction and the tools to succeed on your journey to a new life of recovery.

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If you or your loved one is suffering from substance abuse, please seek help as soon as possible.

Most Common Types of Heroin

Types of Heroin | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Most Common Types of Heroin – The most common types of heroin found in the U.S. are white powder, brown powder, and black tar. Heroin is an addictive semi-synthetic opiate street drug made from morphine. It comes in a variety of forms, colors, textures, and cuts. Drug trafficking cartels from several countries smuggle heroin into the U.S., and as a result, different types of heroin can be found in different regions of the country.

Regardless of form, all types of heroin are considered to be highly addictive and can lead to overdose. More than 13,000 Americans died in 2016 from an overdose that involved heroin. Many of those overdoses were caused by heroin laced with fentanyl, a humanmade opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin itself.

Types of Heroin

White Powder Heroin

Most heroin sold in the east presents as a fine, white to off-white powder that originated in Mexico and South America. Although white powder heroin undergoes extensive processing and is, therefore, more refined than other forms, the drug that is commonly found on the streets is never pure heroin. Dealers typically combine the drug with cutting agents, other intoxicating substances and adulterants (pharmacologically active ingredients) to stretch their supply and thereby increase profit.

Common cutting agents include talc, sugar, lactose, quinine, and caffeine. These additives can alter the heroin’s appearance and account for color variations, which can range from white to beige to pink. White powder heroin sometimes smells a bit like vinegar and has a bitter taste, and can easily be mistaken for cocaine.

Because white powder heroin dissolves readily in water, many users inject the drug to obtain the fastest, most intense effects. Some snort it, but it is not commonly smoked in this form because it burns at a much higher temperature than other types of heroin. Injecting any form of heroin is particularly risky because it increases the risk of infections, abscesses, collapsed veins, and the contraction of blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS.

Types of Heroin | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Brown Powder Heroin

Brown powder heroin is produced in Mexico and used to be sold primarily in the western U.S., but has also been showing up in cities in the Midwest and along the East Coast. Often referred to as Mexican brown, brown powder is more refined than black tar heroin (see below) but is less expensive than white heroin. Some brown powder is produced from black tar heroin that is crushed and laced with cutting agents to make it easier to snort.

Because brown powder can be smoked or snorted and doesn’t require intravenous injection, it has gained popularity among suburban teenagers and others who might never before have considered using heroin due to a fear of needles, track marks, and blood-borne disease. Brown powder ranges from light beige to a dirty brown depending on cutting agents that have been added.

Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin is a very dark-colored form of heroin that can be found as a gooey consistency or tarry, rock-like form. Also produced in Mexico, black tar heroin is the most common form available in the western parts of the United States. But, like brown powder, in recent years it’s been found at increasing frequency in the Midwest and East Coast.

Sometimes called Chiva or Mexican tar, black tar is much less refined than powder forms of heroin. The dark color, which ranges from a deep red color to dark brown or black, is the result of contaminants in the refinement process. This form also tends to have a strong vinegar smell.

Black tar heroin is most often diluted and injected or smoked. Like white powder, injecting black tar heroin can result in a number of health problems, including serious skin infections, abscesses, and collapsed veins.

Other Types of Heroin

Amidst the ongoing opioid crisis, other forms of heroin have also been found on the streets. Some of these drugs contain a lethal mix of heroin and other substances, such as fentanyl or cocaine. It’s not uncommon for potential users to be unaware of precisely what it is in the product that they are purchasing.

China White

At one time, the term China White referred to a pure form of white powder heroin produced in Southeast Asia. Today, the name is more commonly used as a slang term for powder heroin that is also mixed with fentanyl or other analogs of fentanyl. China White can also refer to just fentanyl sold as heroin or a heroin-like product.

Both China White and fentanyl itself have terrifying reputations, and fentanyl-laced heroin has been associated with the recent spike in opioid-related overdose fatalities.


A speedball is a combination of heroin, which is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and a stimulant—usually cocaine, but meth is also used, though not as frequently. These two types of drugs, when used in conjunction, can create a dangerous tug-of-war effect on the body. While heroin acts on the CNS to slow breathing and induce drowsiness, cocaine (and meth) increases heart rate and blood pressure and can cause anxiety and agitation.

Taking a speedball, or “speedballing,” as it is commonly referred, can result in stroke, heart attack, brain aneurysm, or respiratory failure. Speedballs are also increasingly laced with fentanyl, making this drug cocktail even more dangerous and potentially lethal.

Gunpowder Heroin

Gunpowder heroin is a more soluble, stronger version of Mexican black tar heroin that has been found on the West Coast. It first appeared in San Francisco in 2012 and remains relatively uncommon. Gunpowder heroin is a sticky powder or a solid that crumbles easily, or a mixture of powder and solid chunks.

In any case, as the name would suggest, it often resembles gunpowder or coffee grounds. The color is usually a solid black or dark grey but may also contain white or black specks. Due to its increased solubility versus black tar heroin, it is easier to inject, and its relatively lower cost may contribute to its popularity among some users.


Types of Heroin | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Scramble is a combination of white or brown powder heroin and other substances packed into a gelatin capsule. It can also include a wide range of additives, drugs, or alterants, including quinine, lactose, benzodiazepines, prescription painkillers, and fentanyl. Scramble is a particularly popular form of heroin in Baltimore, and as heroin’s popularity in the U.S. continues to grow, the country’s drug supply has become increasingly diverse and lethal.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

It is critical to understand that while some types of heroin and their methods of administration have their own unique set of problems, no form of heroin is safe to use. If you or someone you love is experiencing problems related to heroin use, professional treatment is the best option for achieving abstinence, avoiding relapse, and maintaining long-term sobriety.

Recovery in Tune offers comprehensive addiction treatment including evidence-based services vital to the recovery process such as therapy and counseling. We employ compassionate addiction specialists who are dedicated to providing each client with the tools, care, and support they need to reclaim their lives free from addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Contact us today to discuss treatment options and learn how we help people experience the healthy and satisfying lives they deserve!

Long-Term Effects of Heroin

Long-Term Effects of Heroin | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Long-Term Effects of Heroin – Heroin is a semi-synthetic opiate derived from morphine, an alkaloid found in the opium poppy. Heroin is commonly abused for it’s relaxing and euphoric effects.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an estimated 23% of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it. It is the most abused and most fast-acting opiate, and heroin users are at significant risk of developing an addiction (25% of all users).

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

With repeated heroin use, tolerance to the drug increases, characterized by a corresponding decrease in physiological response. As a result, more heroin is needed to achieve the same effects that it once did. With regular use, addiction and dependence on heroin can rapidly develop.

Once a person becomes physiologically dependent, withdrawal reactions can occur when the person tries to cut back on use or quit the drug altogether. The longer and more intense the addiction, the stronger the withdrawal reaction will be. Withdrawal symptoms are particularly severe with heroin use, and often prompt users to relapse to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with withdrawal.

When symptoms occur, often within a few hours of the last use, they may include drug cravings, anxiety, agitation, nausea and vomiting, muscle pain, and restlessness. Unpleasant flu-like symptoms will peak within 2-3 days and last up to one week before waning.

In addition to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms, the following is a list of the most significant long-term effects of heroin use:

Altered Brain Function

The long-term psychological effects of heroin can produce a variety of problems associated with brain functioning. Heroin can irreversibly alter the brain in ways that may be permanent, even after someone has discontinued use. The chronic effects of heroin on the brain indicate that the longer someone uses heroin, the less likely it is that their brain will ever fully recover and function like it did before they developed an addiction.

One of the long-term effects of heroin use on the brain includes the degeneration of white matter, which can result in the following:

  • Poor behavior regulation
  • Impulsivity
  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow or slow breathing
  • Problems processing and reacting appropriately to stress
  • Impaired decision-making abilities
  • Difficulty processing complex information
  • Impaired ability to acquire new information

Heart Disease

One of the most prevalent, and severe health problems linked to long-term heroin use is heart disease. Heroin use can result in both infections and defects in the areas that surround the heart. These conditions increase the likelihood of heart failure and other pulmonary complications. If a person has a family history of heart disease, he or she may be even more susceptive to heart problems.

Kidney Disease

Heroin use causes prolonged stress on the body and kidney disease. When an individual loses kidney function, he or she is at a higher risk of severe illness or death. Kidney disease is not among the most discussed consequences of heroin use but remains a significant risk for long-term heroin users. The kidneys function to eliminate waste (including drugs) from the body, and heroin abuse essentially causes them to work overtime.

HIV and Hepatitis

Those who inject heroin intravenously are exposed to a unique set of health risks. By sharing needles with others, users face a higher likelihood of contracting HIV, or hepatitis B or C. These are grave health concerns, as more than 130 million people in the world have hepatitis C. Research has shown that the high prevalence of HIV and hepatitis are a result of shared needle use.

Pneumonia and Tuberculosis

Heroin use impacts the body’s ability to fight against disease. When a weakened immune system is combined with the generally unhealthy lifestyle of a long-term heroin user, there is an increased risk for serious viral conditions that can be life-threatening, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and more.

Greater Chance of Overdose

Long-Term Effects of Heroin | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

The more a person abuses heroin, the more likely it is that they suffer an accidental overdose at some point. Unfortunately, drug overdose is a predictable and often disastrous outcome for heroin users. Heroin is an unregulated, illicit drug and there is always a chance of receiving a particularly potent dose, or one that is cut with something even more harmful (e.g., fentanyl) from a dealer looking to increase profits.

Other physical effects of heroin addiction on the body include:

  • Severe, chronic constipation
  • Swollen gums and damaged teeth
  • A diminished libido
  • Irregular menstrual cycles in women
  • Impotence and sexual dysfunction in men

Getting Treatment

Heroin addiction is a chronic disease, and like many other diseases, it can be successfully treated. The most appropriate treatment methods for heroin addiction vary depending on the individual. Therefore, addiction specialists at Recovery in Tune develop evidence-based treatment plans that are focused on each patient’s specific needs and goals.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to heroin, waiting to seek out addiction treatment can have devastating physical and psychological consequences. Please call us today to get the help you need as soon as possible!

Short-Term Effects of Heroin

Short-Term Effects of Heroin

Short-Term Effects of Heroin – Heroin, a derivative of morphine, is a powerful illicit opioid drug that can destroy both physical and mental health and is also likely to cause a number of adverse legal and social consequences.

Heroin is available on the black market in several different forms, ranging from white powder to a less pure brownish or yellowish color. Black tar heroin, as the name suggests, presents as a black, sticky, tar-like substance. Heroin can be smoked, snorted, or injected.

Short-Term Effects of Heroin Use

Heroin use is very dangerous and can be life-threatening. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths from heroin nearly quintupled from 2001 to 2013. Rates of overdose increased from 2010 to 2013. In 2017 alone, heroin was involved in the deaths of around 16,000 Americans.

Heroin is considered by experts to be the most addictive substance currently available. Heroin’s addictive nature is largely based on its ability to induce an intense euphoria. The drug accomplishes this by attaching to opioid receptors in the body and instigating the release of a surge of dopamine, a neurochemical involved with feelings of pleasure and reward.

It is these feelings that can initiate and later reinforce a burgeoning addiction, as the person continues using heroin to achieve the desired high.

Short-term effects of heroin use may vary based on the method of delivery, but the most common immediate analgesic (painkilling) and central nervous system depressant effects include the following:

  • Reduced sensation of pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation and lethargy
  • A “rush,” or a strong increase in euphoric feelings
  • Feelings of being warm and flushed
  • Heavy sensation in the extremities

The pleasant feelings related to the “rush” will only be experienced for a few minutes, with longer-lasting feelings of sedation continuing for a few hours afterward. The duration of such short-term effects of heroin will be dependent upon the purity, dose, and route of administration (snorted, smoked, or injected).

Throughout the heroin high, the user may alternate between periods of wakefulness and sleepiness (commonly known as “being on the nod”).

The short-term effects of heroin will diminish with repeated use, as the person grows increasingly tolerant of the drug. The onset of tolerance frequently compels the user to consume higher and higher amounts, which can easily lead to an overdose.

Side Effects

As people use heroin, over time, the pleasant short-term effects of heroin are overcome by many unwanted side effects. This occurs because the body becomes accustomed to heroin’s continual presence and takes action to counter its impact.

The side effects of heroin use include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Grogginess
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Itchy skin
  • Light sensitivity
  • Low body temperature
  • Slowed respiration
  • Decreased heart rate

The risk of overdose is significant for people using heroin in either the short- or long-term because heroin is unregulated, and dosing is impossible to measure due to differences in purity among batches. This risk is magnified when using other substances alongside heroin, especially other drugs that depress the central nervous system such as alcohol or sedatives.

Combined effects can result in perilously slow breathing, a lack of oxygen to the brain, heart problems, coma, and death.

Also, heroin obtained from the black market is often tainted with other substances, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl is an opioid similar in effect to heroin, but up to 50 times more powerful. It’s commonly found laced into heroin or as an outright substitution, because it’s less expensive, easier to make, and a little goes a long way.

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Overdose

Short-Term Effects of Heroin

Overdosing on heroin is potentially fatal and requires immediate medical attention. Warning signs include the following:

  • Bluish nails or lips (cyanosis)
  • Severely depressed breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Disorientation or delirium
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Repeated loss of consciousness
  • Coma

What to Do in Case of Heroin Overdose

A heroin overdose can result in death if not addressed immediately. If you believe that a loved one is abusing heroin, you should be prepared to deal with a potential overdose. The first step in responding to a possible overdose is to call 911.

Check for breathing. If breathing has stopped or the person is producing a “death rattle,” administer rescue breathing if you are trained to do so or directed by a 911 operator.

Administer naloxone if you have it available and have been trained to do so. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that reverses the depressant effects of opioids in the system.

Continue administering supportive breathing if the victim cannot breathe on his or her own or is exhibiting signs of severely labored breathing. If the victim starts to breathe on their own, stay close by and continue monitoring them until emergency help arrives.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

Besides the laundry list of unpleasant short-term effects of heroin, there is also a broad range of effects that can occur after prolonged use. People who use continue to use heroin chronically, over time may experience:

  • Deteriorating dental health
  • Abraded skin from scratching
  • Severe constipation
  • Weakened immune system
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Sedation
  • Poor appetite and malnutrition
  • Sleeping problems
  • Decreased libido

Among the most significant risks of long-term heroin use is the potential for irreversible damage to the liver or kidneys. The brain can also be adversely impacted due to a lack of oxygen.

People who use heroin frequently often face problems with abscesses, bacterial infections, and infections of the heart valves. Women who are pregnant and use heroin are at a heightened risk of miscarriage and put their children at risk of being dependent on the drug at birth.

Also, someone addicted to heroin will probably experience a number of personal consequences, such as financial problems, relationship strain, poor performance at school or employment, and legal penalties.

Heroin Dependence

Dependence is primarily considered to be a chemical condition. When someone is in the throes of a heroin dependency, they will feel uncomfortable and sick without the substance’s presence in their system. These effects occur because the body has grown accustomed to heroin and becomes less able to function correctly without it.

Dependence on heroin s further characterized by the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms that can begin a within a few hours following the last dose. Withdrawal symptoms of heroin can be severe and very unpleasant to experience as they mimic many harrowing flu symptoms.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Restlessness and discomfort
  • Pounding or racing heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Shaking and shivering
  • Sweating
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia

The symptoms can peak within one or two days but may persist for up to a week or longer.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Treatment for Heroin Addiction | Recovery In Tune

Because withdrawal from heroin can be extremely unpleasant and can compel the person in recovery to relapse, professional treatment is highly recommended. Often, a detox period is needed at the onset of treatment to control symptoms and maintain comfort while the body rids itself of the substance.

During a medical detox, a team of addiction professionals administers medications to persons on an around-the-clock inpatient basis to relieve some of the worst symptoms of withdrawal and prevent complications. Following the detox process, the person in recovery can be referred to treatment options such as residential rehab or intensive outpatient programs.

Effective recovery programs, regardless of format, should be based on a comprehensive approach that employs several treatment modalities, including psychotherapy, psychoeducation, individual and family counseling, and group support.

Our center offers these services, which are delivered by caring medical professionals who specialize in addiction. Moreover, we provide patients with the tools and support they need to achieve abstinence and enjoy long-lasting sobriety and wellness.

We can help you reclaim your life – call us today to find out how!

How Long Does a Heroin High Last?

How Long Does a Heroin High Last?

How long Does a Heroin High Last? – Heroin is a powerful illicit semi-synthetic opioid that can be snorted, smoked, or injected, or consumed orally. According to the DEA, heroin is the fastest-acting opioid drug.

Heroin’s duration of action depends on the method of administration. Heroin use by injection produces a high within 20 seconds, peaks around 2 hours, and lasts for up to 4 hours or longer. When smoked or snorted, a 20 mg dose of heroin produces an onset of peak effects in about 10 minutes, and effects may persist for an additional 5 hours.

The primary desired effect is a sense of euphoria, which peaks early at onset and may last several seconds to several minutes. Drowsiness and a sensation of a disconnection from the world may also occur.

The stages of a heroin “high” are somewhat unique for each individual but all follow a similar process. In the beginning – sometimes only seconds after administration – comes nausea followed by a “rush.” Depending on a user’s tolerance level, the rush may last up to 20 minutes. During this time, the user may have the sensation that his or her body is made of liquid, a heavy feeling in the extremities, and burning hot skin with heat originating from inside the body.

Less pleasant effects may include a dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, and severe itching. After the initial rush, mental functioning becomes foggy, and heart rate and breathing are profoundly slower, possibly to the point of being life-threatening, and can result in coma, permanent brain damage, and death.

Heroin’s Effects On The Brain

Heroin, as an opiate, simulates a naturally-occurring brain chemical that is responsible for perceptions of pain and pleasure. Once heroin has transferred through the blood-brain barrier, it changes into morphine, which attaches to the opiate receptors.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) synthetic or semi-synthetic chemicals, such as heroin and other drugs, can cause the body to release as much as ten times the average amount of dopamine, a brain chemical responsible for pleasure and reward.

As the brain is inundated with heroin, it releases an inhibitory agent, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is the signal to the brain to restrain the creation of dopamine, so that our feelings and reaction remain at a normal level.

If GABA is blocked, however, the brain cannot determine when to stop releasing dopamine. Moreover, GABA has opiate receptors itself, and as opiate drugs attach to GABA, it becomes unable to inhibit the production of dopamine, which is likely responsible for many of the euphoric feelings that heroin users seek.

Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

Tolerance is characterized by the need to take increasing amounts of a drug to achieve the desired effects. Tolerance develops due to the brain’s inclination toward “repeated exposure = diminished effects,” and happens after the regular, prolonged use of a substance. Tolerance increases the risk of overdose, as users continue to administer more and more of the drug trying to produce the high they formerly experienced.

Chemical and psychological dependence occurs when the brain has grown so accustomed to the drug’s presence that it is unable to function normally in its absence. When the user tries to quit or cut back, they will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which are essentially a manifestation of the brain and body attempting to regain equilibrium without the drug’s presence.

Withdrawal symptoms from heroin can be severe but are rarely life-threatening. These symptoms include:

  • Sweats and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Generalized aches and pain
  • Cold-like symptoms (e.g., runny nose and headache)
  • Chronic itching
  • Cravings for more heroin

Addiction to heroin is characterized by both the development of tolerance and the onset of dependence. Addictive behavior generally consists of an obsession to obtain and use heroin by any means necessary, as well as a lack of concern for other responsibilities such as work, school, and family.

Once addiction has developed, if the heroin abuser does not seek help in an addiction treatment program, there is a high potential for more damage and even death to occur.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a devastating disease that wreaks havoc on the person suffering it, as well as those around him or her. Those who are abusing heroin should immediately seek help before it’s too late.

Treatment begins with a medically-supervised detox and is immediately followed by a transition to a long-term residential stay at our center. We offer a comprehensive, evidence-based approach that includes psychotherapy, psychoeducation, individual and family counseling, and group support.

We also offer intensive outpatient treatment and aftercare planning services, as well as organize alumni activities for all of our clients to foster long-term support.

Please contact us immediately to find out how we can provide you with the tools you need to achieve abstinence and restore long-lasting happiness and wellness to your life!

How is Heroin Made?

How is Heroin Made | Recovery in Tune

Heroin (diamorphine or diacetylmorphine) is an illicit opioid drug that is derived from the opium poppy (papaver soniferum) that was originally native to lower Mesopotamia (Southwest Asia, Iraq) and was cultivated in an early as 3,400 B.C. Cultivation eventually spread up to the Mediterranean and then on to Asia (also known as the Silk Road) where it ended up as the catalyst for the Opium Wars in the mid 1800’s.

Opium prospers in warm, dry climates and most of today’s opium poppies are grown in a 4,500 mile stretch of mountains that extend from central Asia through Afganistan, Pakistan, and Turkey. Some opium is now grown in Latin American, such as Columbia and Mexico.

Modern Heroin

Heroin was first synthesized in 1874 by Charles Romley Alder Wright, a physics researcher at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, England. The substance was then refined further by the German company Bayer as an intended less-addictive alternative to morphine and originally used to treat coughs in tuberculosis patients. It was marketed under the brand name Heroin from 1898-1910.

The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 effectively controlled the sale and distribution of diacetylmorphine, allowing the drug to be prescribed and sold only for medical purposes. It was finally revealed that heroin was even more addictive than morphine, and then in 1924, the U.S. Congress banned its importation, manufacture, and sale. It is currently listed as a Schedule I substance, meaning it is not legal to use for any purpose.

The Illicit Production of Heroin

The process for making heroin can be summarized in the following steps:

Step 1: Grow and harvest flower seed pods from the opium poppy and extract the opium.

The flowers of the opium poppy are grown from seed in fields until the petals fall away from the seedpods, which are then harvested for opium processing.

The pod is then split enabling the sap to ooze out of the pod. A spatula is used to scrap the sap from the pod, which is then dried, and the seeds removed for the next season of cultivation. The sap is then pressed into a “brick” and wrapped in cloth or leaves and sold to a dealer. The packages are sent to a heroin-processing facility.

Step 2: Separate morphine from the sap.

To extract morphine from the opium sap, it is placed into boiling water with lime and the morphine separates and floats to the top of the water in a white band where it is then skimmed off.

This process should take at least a few hours but some ways of processing remove the morphine much quicker, resulting in a less pure product.

Variations of these steps are sometimes used in areas such as Mexico and Columbia which have to process heroin under rainy conditions. For example, the morphine extraction process can result in different forms of heroin, including a brown and “black tar” heroin version, which is much less pure than other forms.

Step 3: Create the morphine base.

The raw morphine is then made into a base, a brownish substance about the consistency of clay. To do this, the morphine is boiled with ammonia and filtered, then boiled again until it is reduced to a brown paste and dried into bricks.

Step 5: Make heroin from the morphine base.

The process of making heroin from morphine requires many chemicals that through mixing, boiling, and separating are employed to further purify and acetylate the morphine into the final product – a white powder known as heroin.

These substances may include the following:

  • Acetic anhydride
  • Chloroform
  • Sodium carbonate
  • Alcohol
  • Ether
  • Hydrochloric acid

Many of these chemicals themselves are explosive and harmful to the human body in of themselves, so there is little room for error. For this reason, trying to “home cook” heroin is extremely hazardous and can result in a toxic solution.

Step 6: Cut and distribute.

The heroin is next sent to distributors to be sold to users on the black market. Dealers often cut the heroin with other drugs and substances, however, so they can increase their profits. Some of these may include:

  • Sugar (sucrose)
  • Caffeine
  • Flour
  • Powdered milk
  • Quinine
  • Starch
  • Fentanyl
  • Acetaminophen

Some of these additives can increase the risk of overdose. Fentanyl, for example, a synthetic opioid similar heroin but up to 50 times more powerful, the presence of which in recent years has significantly increased the drug overdose rate in the U.S.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a devastating and life-threatening condition that requires individualized, long-term treatment that focuses on the building of coping skills and gaining insight into the contributing factors to addiction.

Our center offers comprehensive, evidence-based treatment in both inpatient and outpatient formats. Our professional medical and mental health care are expertly trained to help our clients recover and provide them with the tools they need to sustain long-lasting sobriety.

Signs of a Heroin Overdose

signs of a heroin overdose

Signs of a Heroin Overdose – A heroin overdose is a life-threatening condition that can result in sudden respiratory arrest and death and medical assistance is required immediately. If you or someone you know is experiencing the following symptoms after heroin use, please call 911:

  • Bluish or purple nails or lips
  • Depressed, labored breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Disorientation or delirium
  • Extreme drowsiness/sedation
  • Repeated episodes of loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Treatment for a Heroin Overdose

In the event of a life-threatening heroin overdose, Narcan (naloxone) should be administered. Narcan is an opioid antagonist that attaches to receptors in the brain and can rapidly reverse and block the effects of other opioids.

When Narcan is administered outside of a hospital setting by emergency medical technicians, the patient is then transported to the nearest emergency room for further treatment and observation.

First responders such as EMTs, law enforcement, and fire department personnel usually have Narcan on hand in the event they are called to the scene of an opioid overdose.

Narcan can also be purchased at many pharmacies without a prescription.

What is Heroin?

is a semi-synthetic opiate derived from the chemical compound morphine found in the opium poppy. Heroin is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning that is illegal and is not considered to have any legitimate medical purpose.

Heroin is often used recreationally, however, and is highly addictive because it acts on the brain’s reward center by drastically boosting feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin.

Symptoms of Heroin Abuse and Addiction

Symptoms of heroin abuse include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Constricted (small) pupils
  • Sudden changes in behavior or actions
  • Disorientation
  • Cycles of hyper-alertness followed by suddenly sedation
  • Droopy appearance, extremities appear heavy

Short-term effects of heroin use include, but are not limited to the following:

  • A strong rush of euphoric feelings
  • Feelings of being warm and flushed during the initial rush
  • Heavy sensation in the extremities
  • Reduced pain sensations
  • Drowsiness and sedation
  • Lethargy

Short-term side effects of heroin use include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Grogginess
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching and scratching
  • Constricted pupil
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Below normal body temperature.
  • Slowed respiration and heart rate
  • Cyanosis (bluish or purple) hands, feet, and lips

Behavioral Effects of Heroin Use

  1. Lying or other deceptive behavior
  2. Substantial increases in time spent sleeping
  3. Increase in slurred or incoherent speech
  4. Poor performance in school or work, including loss of jobs
  5. Reduced attention to hygiene and physical appearance
  6. Loss of motivation and apathy toward the future
  7. Withdrawal from family and regular circle of friends
  8. Reduced interest in hobbies and activities once deemed important
  9. Repeatedly stealing or borrowing money from loved ones
  10. Wearing long pants or sleeves to hide hypodermic needle marks

Long-term complications from heroin use may also include:

  1. Poor dental health
  2. Abraded skin from scratching
  3. Severe constipation
  4. Increased susceptibility to disease from impaired immune system
  5. Weakness and sedation
  6. Poor appetite and malnutrition, weight loss
  7. Sleep disturbances
  8. Decrease in libido
  9. Scarring, abscesses, and infection at injection sites
  10. Collapsed veins from intravenous drug use
  11. Increase risk of Hepatitis and HIV/AIDS

Heroin Dependence and Tolerance

Dependence is a condition that can occur as a result of the regular use of heroin. When dependence develops, the brain has already become accustomed to the drug’s presence, and can’t function properly without it.
When a user tries to quit, this action leads to highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, a condition known as being “dope sick.”

Heroin withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sweating and chills
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Nervousness
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Muscle spasms
  • Cravings for drugs

Tolerance develops over time as the brain becomes desensitized to drug exposure, and the user finds he or she must continually increase doses and frequency of use in order to obtain the desired high. Due to escalating drug use, the development of tolerance significantly increases the risk of overdose and death.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Treatment for heroin addiction begins with a clinical detox, a process in which the patient is monitored for several days while their body cleanses itself of heroin and other toxins.

During this time, medication-assisted treatment such as Suboxone can be administrated to reduce cravings and symptoms of withdrawal.

Following detox, patients should participate in a 30-60 days treatment program at our center. We offer both inpatient and intensive outpatient formats, each of which includes individual and group therapy, family and individual counseling, 12-step program meetings, and holistic activities such as yoga, art, and music therapy.

Outpatients have the option of living at a private residence among family and friends or an approved sober living environment. Transportation is available for those living in a local sober living home.

After treatment has been completed, former patients are encouraged to engage in alumni activities and take advantage of our aftercare planning services.

If you or your loved one is suffering from substance abuse, please seek help as soon as possible.

Is Heroin Really Addictive On The First Use?

Heroin is one of the scariest and most potent drugs in the world and its impact is growing. According to statistics, over nine million people around the world regularly use heroin, with an estimated 150,000 to 900,000 people in America using. Sadly, many of these people claim that they were addicted to heroin after one use. Is this controversial claim true? The answer is fairly complex.

Physical Addiction Isn’t Likely Immediately

Heroin is so potent because it acts on your brain on a biological level. Many drugs, such as marijuana, don’t have such an intricate interaction with your brain. Basically, heroin artificially stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain, known as “opioid receptors.”

These areas of the brain are primarily responsible for controlling levels of pain, pleasure, blood pressure, arousal, and even respiration. Normally, they are stimulated by the natural release of dopamine and other pleasure chemicals in your mind. However, the euphoria caused by heroin is more potent than that caused by dopamine.

As a result, your brain can quickly become very dependent on the “rush” or “high” that is caused by heroin. That said, addiction is rarely, if ever, physically existent the first time you use. It takes sustained and consistent use over a period of time for a true addiction to occur. For example, lifelong heroin user and writer William S. Burroughs claimed it took him several months to develop his first physical addiction.

Psychological Addiction Could Come Quickly

Burroughs made his claim in his seminal book “Junky,” which explored the nature of addiction and the ways it changed his life. Though he claims that physical addiction took time to set in, he also describes the way he becomes psychologically dependent very quickly. After his first use, he started using more frequent and larger doses until he was physically hooked.

Why was heroin so potent psychologically with him and other people who have become addicted? The intensity of the euphoria is so high that it eliminates a person’s worries, fears, and personal problems. Burroughs wrote about spending days staring at the wall without a care in the world. That kind of mental “blankness” is often very tempting for many people.

This is, perhaps, the kind of addiction many users have described after using for the first time. Their body wasn’t necessarily hooked so much as they were attracted to the effects immediately. As a result, they felt compelled to continue using until they developed real and physical addiction.

Stopping Before It’s A Problem

If you are using heroin and are worried about developing an addiction, you should stop immediately and wait to see if withdrawal symptoms develop. These symptoms can be painful and include:

  • Depression
  • Cold sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

If these symptoms occur, rush to a hospital as soon as possible and receive replacement medicines. Don’t go back to using heroin because replacement medicines take the edge off of withdrawal in a healthier and controlled manner.

However, if no withdrawal symptoms develop, you are lucky, as a physical dependency didn’t develop. However, your mind might start turning to heroin when you feel down or bored. Keep it distracted by finding something healthy to do, such as:

  • Jogging
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Visiting a friend
  • Going on a trip
  • Stopping at a museum
  • Painting, writing, or dancing

Just don’t turn back to using heroin. You’ve quit before physical addiction started and you can avoid all the problems associated with withdrawal. It’s a unique opportunity that not everyone gets a chance to experience.

Hope for a life free of heroin isn’t far away as long as you know how to quit early and avoid the dangers of physical addiction. To learn more about quitting heroin, including the benefits of rehab, please contact us today.

Prescription Drugs Are Leading To Heroin Addiction In Young People – What You Can Do

It’s universally recognized that heroin addiction is a massive problem. Although heroin affects people of all ages, America’s middle class and affluent youth are proving to be the most susceptible. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “In 2009, the most recent year for which national data is available, 510 young adults, ages 15 to 24, died of a heroin overdose, up from 198 in 1999. Almost 90 percent of teens who are addicted to heroin are white.” This statistic defies the popular belief that hard drugs like heroin exclusively affect young people from inner cities. Heroin has been moving into the suburbs for years now, but why?

According to NCADD, “Kids in the city know not to mess with it, but kids from the suburbs never got that message,” says Chicago Police Captain John Roberts, whose son suffered from heroin addiction and eventually died from it. He founded the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization to help other families deal with teen heroin use. So, we know that heroin addiction is decimating young middle class and affluent white communities, but why? The answer might surprise you.

According to a new NBC news report, “The massive increase in prescription drug abuse is fueling a rise in heroin addiction. A growing number of young people who start abusing expensive prescription drugs are switching to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to buy. Prescription pain pills cost $20 to $60, while heroin costs $3 to $10 a bag. Most younger people who use heroin start off snorting the drug, and within weeks, many start shooting up.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse claims that 1 in 15 people who take non-medical prescription pain killers will try heroin within 10 years. The people described in this statistic are those that take pain medication exclusively for the feeling it causes, and not for medical use. How many Americans are abusing prescription pain meds? 12 million people(mostly young people) used pain meds for non-medical use in 2010 according to drugabuse.gov. That’s over 1 in 20 Americans.

We all know how serious heroin addiction is, but if these statistics are to be believed then our country is facing a problem that is hugely dangerous and unprecedented in terms of scale and danger to the general public. And afflictions like heroin addiction don’t just affect one person. It always starts with the individual and quickly poisons families, entire communities and it only grows from there. We all have a responsibility to address the plague of heroin addiction because we are all affected.

You or a member of your family might not struggle with heroin addiction, but we all pay taxes and have to shoulder the burden of drug addicts who are often uninsured being rushed to the emergency room for life-saving treatment. According to The National Institute of Drug Abuse, “Heroin emergency room admissions are rapidly increasing.  In 2005 there were less than 200,000 emergency room visits related to heroin. By 2011 this number had increased to almost 260,000.” We also foot the bill when drug addicts go to jail.

What can we do to fight the plague of prescription pain medication abuse and its link to heroin addiction? Recovery In Tune is an incredible team of experienced and knowledgeable experts whose mission, priority and goal is to help individuals mired in the throes of addiction to find lasting recovery and healing.

They have a complete understanding of the struggles of addiction and believe that each one of their clients deserve to be treated with compassion and acceptance. They strive to provide their clients with the necessary skills and the clinical understanding of their addiction to help prevent relapse and continue long-term sobriety. For more info on Recovery In Tune, contact us today!