Heroin Side Effects
Side effects are everywhere. How many commercials have you seen for a new medication that treats diabetes or asthma? There is often one or two people relaying their experience before taking the medication followed by scenes of them getting back to enjoying life. Bike riding, cookouts, and usually family time are highlighted during this time. But in the background, a voice is talking about side effects and facts about this medication. How often do we actually listen to this voice? More often than not, we only catch a quick tidbit like when it mentions “may cause death.” So, would we listen if heroin had a side effect commercial?
In 2021, it was reported that approximately one million people over the age of 12 used heroin. The highest percentage were people aged 26 and older. At Clean Recovery Centers, we understand that not everyone started using heroin for the same reasons. We work to educate our clients on different substances, side effects, and recovery options. Heroin side effects can become overwhelming to anyone who uses it. Let’s explore these effects further.
What Are Some Side Effects of Heroin Use Disorder?
First and foremost, what is heroin? Derived from morphine, heroin is a man-made opioid that is usually injected, smoked, or snorted. Some of the most common side effects first noticed include a “rush” of euphoria and relaxation. However, continued heroin use can lead to much more lengthy complications.
The most common short-term effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Flushing of the skin
- Obscured thinking
- Heaviness in the arms and legs
These effects appear relatively quickly and typically happen each time heroin is used. There is no way to avoid the side effects.
Besides withdrawal, heroin can have long-term effects. Constipation and digestive problems are common in both short-term and long-term heroin use. For those that inject heroin, collapsed veins with scarring and abscesses are often seen. Snorting heroin will damage the tissues that separate the nasal passages. For men, sexual dysfunction is noted while women experience irregular menstrual cycles.
Some of The Life-Threatening Side Effects
There is always a risk of HIV/AIDS or hepatitis when injecting heroin if using shared needles. These conditions can be life-threatening, especially when left untreated. Overdose is always a possibility with heroin use. Some other life-threatening side effects include irregular heartbeat or heart attacks, lung infections, and blood poisoning.
Heroin’s Effects on Your Body
Heroin can wreak havoc on the internal systems in the body. Opioids affect the central nervous system, meaning they are circulated throughout the entire body. The immune system becomes lowered and the risk of infections increases. Heroin can cause forgetfulness or an increase in sleep, making the person using forget to take care of basic needs such as eating. Poor nutrition combined with a weakened immune system makes it very difficult for the body to heal from infections and wounds, leading to further medical complications.
Heroin’s Effects on Your Brain
Heroin binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. Over time, these receptors become “desensitized,” meaning the brain will require more heroin in order to feel the same effects. This is why using heroin comes with the risk of addiction – the brain begins to only know how to function with heroin in the system. After prolonged heroin use, the brain can become damaged. White matter density decreases which makes decision-making and behavior regulation difficult.
Other Potential Effects of Heroin Use Disorder
While there are many physical effects of a heroin use disorder, the mental and emotional side can be just as problematic. Withdrawing from friends and family to focus on use results in loss of relationships. Anxiety and depression increase both while using heroin and in between uses. Because heroin can cause ins and outs of consciousness, poor school or work performance are inevitable.
Heroin Overdose & Withdrawal Symptoms
Because heroin can create dependency, the body will send signals that it needs more. This is when symptoms of withdrawal will appear. The timeline of withdrawal will vary from person to person, but generally, symptoms will begin 8 to 24 hours after last use. Some common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Increase in tear production (watery eyes)
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches
- Chills or goosebumps
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is one of the highest reasons for relapse. These symptoms can become unbearable and using heroin again seems like the only thing that will alleviate them. Choosing to go to a detox or inpatient treatment center is the best way to get through withdrawal and avoid relapse altogether.
Heroin overdose can be life-threatening if not treated. The common signs of overdose include:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Cold or clammy skin
- Respiratory depression
- Discoloration especially of the lips and nails
The body’s breathing can slow so much that it stops completely. This results in hypoxia, or lack of oxygen within the body. Organs such as the brain, lungs, and heart will begin to shut down. If ever an overdose is suspected, seek medical attention immediately.
Getting Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Clean Recovery Centers has a three-phase program for heroin addiction rehab. Our staff of professionals treats heroin withdrawal through our safe and trusted detox, followed by inpatient or outpatient programs to continue to build on the path to recovery.
The first phase of treatment is called preparation. This includes a 24-hour detoxification period which is monitored around the clock both medically and with emotional support. Detox from heroin can be dangerous as withdrawal symptoms can become fatal. We offer medication-assisted treatment during this time to ensure the safety and well-being of the individual while going through this difficult process.
Residential / Inpatient Rehab Services
There are two stages to our residential treatment program.
Residential One – This is part of phase one of the treatment program. Individuals are in a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, live-in environment. Medical support is available if needed, but the main focus is on individual, group, and family therapy. The length of stay in this treatment phase is 3-4 weeks.
Residential Two – This is where the transition to phase two happens. Phase two is the action phase, where individuals confront where the addiction started and prepare themselves for independent recovery. At Clean Recovery Centers, this step is referred to as Day/Night Treatment, or DNT. While most clients choose to live in community housing on-site for this phase, it is not required. The program is a minimum of 30 hours of services per week. The four main focuses of DNT include experiential processes, defense mechanism identification, belief system exploration, and symbolic integration. All of these components are to help transition core beliefs and develop balance to a clean life. This phase of treatment typically lasts 2-3 weeks.
Mental Health Path – For those who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition during phase one, the treatment path can change to accommodate those needs first. Clients go into a residential II setting after detox and receive specific treatment for their diagnosis as well as education and medication management.
Outpatient Rehab Services
Phase Three of the treatment process is the maintenance stage. At Clean Recovery Centers, we have two versions of outpatient services, intensive outpatient and outpatient. For intensive outpatient, or IOP, the client can choose to reside in a 24/7 monitored transitional living on-site or at home. The program is 9 hours per week minimum and continues with individual counseling. Outpatient is for those living at home or in sober living off-site and is 2 hours per week. Both services build on the skills learned in inpatient treatment and therapies to continue on the path to living heroin free. The length of stay for phase three is around 6-8 weeks.
If you or someone you love is experiencing the negative side effects of a heroin use disorder, treatment is a life-saving option. At Clean Recovery Centers, we understand that it can feel impossible to quit. Our trained staff provides top-level care to every client to help them get clean, live clean, and stay clean. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our unique treatment program and facility options.
FAQs About the Side Effects of Heroin
Does heroin cause heart problems?
Heroin can cause irregular heartbeat, which over time can lead to heart attacks and arrhythmia.
How is heroin taken?
Heroin is typically injected, smoked, or snorted.
What to do when someone overdoses from heroin?
If ever an overdose is suspected, seek medical attention immediately. Never leave the person alone and try to keep them sitting up to encourage breathing.