What is heroin addiction?

Heroin is an opiate, derived from the poppy seed. Other opiates include codeine and, in synthetic form methadone. Tramadol is a prescribed drug which is an opiate.

Heroin addiction – People try heroin and find that it makes them feel relaxed, even euphoric. It is highly addictive and ultimately destructive.

Heroin Addiction Symptoms

If you are addicted to heroin you are probably experiencing at least some of the following symptoms – not every addict will experience every symptom. Physically you may:

  • Have watery eyes and a runny nose
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Have problems sleeping
  • Have bruising or scabbing to the skin particularly if you inject
  • Feel itchy
  • Feel lethargic and exhausted
  • Have lost weight without intending to
  • Constipation
  • Have kidney and / or liver damage
  • Contracted hepatitis C
  • Have HIV / AIDS
  • Be susceptible to / have pneumonia
  • Be susceptible to / have tuberculosis

You may feel:

  • Unable to concentrate, focus or achieve anything
  • Shame, guilt and depressed about your habit and how it is making you behave (see below)
  • Confused and in a mess
  • That you cannot trust your own judgement any more
  • Hopeless / despairing

Signs and Symptoms

If you are a family member or someone who cares about an addict there are many signs and symptoms to look out for. You do not have to find the physical evidence of syringes, needles, foil, a cooking spoon and other drugs paraphernalia or see the actual track marks on someone’s body (they will probably cover these up with clothing if they can – even in hot weather. Get suspicious if they refuse to reveal their arms and legs when it is exceptionally hot). If you are concerned that someone might be using heroin, you might also observe that the individual:

  • Has mood swings possibly getting more irritable and angry than in the past
  • Starts to lose interest in things they previously enjoyed or considered important
  • Becomes increasingly isolated, withdrawing from family and past friends. They might have a new group of ‘friends’ that concern you in terms of their influence on the person you are concerned for
  • Has problems in their relationship or starts to cause problems within the family
  • Lies, has secrets, attempts to cover their tracks
  • Becomes unreliable including being late for important events, not turning up at all
  • Starts to perform poorly in studies / at work (ultimately this can lead to dropping out of / being excluded from a course – though the addict may well justify the situation and deny it is due to their addiction).
  • Has financial difficulties
  • Comes to the notice of the police and has legal problems

Heroin is easy to become addicted to

Once someone has tried heroin and decided they like the effect, it is extremely easy to become addicted to it. Very quickly they will need more to get the same effect. A desire will quickly become a habit and then a necessity until getting hold of the drug and using it will become the only thing that is important in their life. With that need, comes many if not all of the symptoms and behaviours listed above

Once the body and mind have developed a dependency, it is extremely hard to stop the addiction. You may have heard about going ‘cold turkey’ – this is what happens if the addict suddenly stops taking the drug. The body is ‘shocked’ not to receive its regular ‘fix’ and this results in extreme nausea, sweats, shakes, paralysing cramps etc.

Heroin Addiction – Cold Turkey

It takes enormous amounts of willpower to go cold turkey and even then it is likely that the individual will need some form of psychological support e.g. from a local support group such as Narcotics Anonymous) if they are to have a chance of not only getting clean but staying clean. Just cutting down and gradually reducing until off the drug is unlikely to be successful – while still taking heroin the addict is going to want more than the reduced amount scheduled for that day.   

Medically Prescribed Detox

The easiest and most successful way to overcome addiction is to get a medically prescribed detox in a treatment centre. A good treatment centre will not only provide a safe and comfortable detox but will also offer counselling support to establish the reasons for the addiction. It will also teach coping mechanisms and provide the tools for life, so that a fulfilled and happy life can be lived without the use of mood altering substances.

What is heroin addiction?