When someone is addicted to heroin, his or her life is destroyed. This highly addictive drug takes a toll both mentally and physically, with cravings for that next fix driving the addict to do and say anything. It is important to understand some things about this illegal drug so you can take whatever action you can to get an addict free from its hold on him.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is an opiate, coming from the seed pod of the Asian poppy. It is processed from morphine, the naturally occurring substance from the plant. Most heroin is “cut” with other drugs or substances. Some of the substances it is mixed with include starch, powdered milk, sugar and quinine. Sometimes heroin is cut with strychnine or other poisonous chemicals.

When buying heroin on the street, you will find it comes under a number of other names, such as “skag,” “smack,” “H” or “junk.” Some heroin is named after the areas where it is produced. An example is “Mexican black tar.” It is sold as powder that is white or brown in color and it also comes as a black sticky substance which is called “black tar heroin.”Heroin is highly addictive, creating a powerful euphoria. Heroin can result in a physical dependence even when it has been used for only about a week or so. The danger of overdose is high, because abusers can’t tell the strength of the drug or what it contains besides heroin.

Heroin is highly addictive, creating a powerful euphoria. Heroin can result in a physical dependence even when it has been used for only about a week or so. The danger of overdose is high, because abusers can’t tell the strength of the drug or what it contains besides heroin.

How Heroin Addicts Use the Drug

There are three ways heroin can be administered:


Normally a heroin user injects the drug around two to four times a day. Injecting into a vein gives the greatest intensity high. Euphoria comes on much quicker too. With snorting or smoking, the pleasurable feelings come on in about ten to fifteen minutes. But no matter how heroin is administered, addiction is an imminent danger.

Signs of Heroin Abuse

There are ways to discover if a loved one is abusing heroin. You simply have to do a little detective work in the environment of the person suspected of heroin use.  The drug itself can be a powder or black tarry substance, and you may see residues around. When someone is injecting it, you will find dirty spoons and lighters and perhaps syringes. Tubing or belts can be used to tie around the body so the veins enlarge so a person can inject the drug into a vein.

If the person you suspect is a heroin addict, physically they many look haggard and thin. Their pupils will be constricted and they may be dopey and nod out (or fall asleep). Their thinking may be muddled and confused. Their memory will suffer and they will have problems making decisions. Heroin addicts will often become constipated. They will get skin lesions. Nausea and vomiting can accompany heroin use.

The Effects of Heroin

How heroin affects someone can depend on how they are taking the drug. Smoking or injecting heroin can both result in respiratory problems. The opiates suppress the respiratory system.

The person who uses heroin will neglect their personal care and grooming. They may not be clean and they won’t eat right. Without a proper diet and the right nutrients, an addict is opening himself for disease and illness.

The substances that are added into heroin can also cause damage to the body. Organs suffer due to the poisons being put into the body. When addicts share needles, they can get hepatitis or HIV. When veins collapse after all the abuse, infections can take place causing heart problems.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Heroin

When an addict stops using heroin, withdrawal symptoms soon occur. They can begin only hours after the last fix. They will feel drug cravings, bone and muscle pain, restlessness and cold sweats. They won’t be able to sleep, will get diarrhea and vomit. These symptoms continue (and strongly) up to one week after stopping. If someone in poor health tries to stop suddenly, they can even die.

Other symptoms include:

>Increased heart rate
>Abnormal heart beat
>Increased blood pressure
>Suicidal behavior
>Heart attack

The symptoms of withdrawal are so uncomfortable that heroin addicts will do just about anything to keep them at bay. Getting more of the drug is how they can stop the symptoms, and this just puts everything into a never-ending cycle of misery.

Addiction Treatment for Heroin

Unfortunately, the very nature of heroin addiction creates a condition with the addict where he or she is not really aware of all the damage that is happening, mentally and physically. The only awareness seems to be how to get the next fix. Therefore, it is best when a loved one helps to get them into rehab and encourage them to achieve lasting recovery.

Many addicts have already tried some form of rehab but without much success. This means that they did not have a rehab program suited to their particular needs.

Currently, many rehabs will provide a heroin addict with a drug that is similar to heroin to help him kick the habit with heroin. The only problem with this method is that the person is now addicted to a new substance. The argument in favor of such drug replacement therapy states that at least the person is not engaged in risky behavior while trying to obtain an illegal drug. However, while this has some truth, the person is nevertheless still on drugs. Relapse to heroin CAN result. It is much better to get the person completely off drugs. There are drug treatment centers that can accomplish this with relative ease.

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