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Signs of Heroin Dependency, Intervention and Treatment

Heroin was initially engineered to replace morphine, and morphine addiction patients used it to treat the symptoms. People discovered in the 20th century that heroin was, in fact, more addictive and displayed stronger withdrawal symptoms than morphine. Heroin was later outlawed in the United States in 1924.

People often abuse heroin because it eliminates pain, gives you relaxed euphoria and pleasurable effects. Substance abuse is considered to be a medical illness. It impairs the control you have overuse of substances, your health, and social function.

Heroin overdose deaths have significantly risen since the start of the century. In 1999, the number was 5,990 by 2014, and it was 29,467. What are the signs that you or a friend is suffering from withdrawal symptoms?

Symptoms of Acute Heroin Withdrawal

Acute Heroin Withdrawal is the result of an abrupt stop of substance abuse. The withdrawal symptoms will range from mild to life-threatening ones depending on the amount and frequency of substance abuse.

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The symptoms can take up to 12 hours to appear after your last heroin intake. Some people experience intense withdrawal symptoms that need them to get help to be able to detox. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the following factors:

  • Your health status. Are you healthy?
  • How long you have used heroin
  • How long the drug is in your body system
  • If you are using other drugs to get you off heroin or if you are detoxing using the ‘Cold Turkey’ method.

How Long Will You Experience Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?

You may experience heroin withdrawal symptoms for a period ranging from a few days to over two weeks. If you detox from an overdose using medication, the symptoms will feel worse and will kick in faster.

Heroin use displays some symptoms. The warning signs of heroin abuse will help you know, and the withdrawal symptoms will help you know someone is in withdrawal and get help for them.

The Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

1. Mild Symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Chills sweat
  • Tearing
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle or bone aches
  • Excessive yawning

2. Moderate Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Goosebumps
  • Trouble concentrating

3. Severe Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle spasms
  • Drug cravings
  • Impaired respiration
  • Hypertension
  • Trouble feeling pressure

How Do You know Your Loved One Is Abusing Heroin

People who abuse substances are usually secretive. However, there are warning signs that you could use to determine if a loved one is abusing heroin. These signs manifest mentally and physically.

1. Mental Signs

  • Extremely low self-esteem.
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Poor judgment
  • Despair and hopelessness
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Drastic mood swings
  • Shame and Guilt feelings
  • Unable to control heroin consumption
  • Lack of interest in social contact
  • Lack of interest in self-grooming.

2. Physical Symptoms

  • Sleeping problems
  • Collapsed veins
  • Constipation
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Seizures
  • Women lose their menstrual cycle
  • Shortness of breath
  • Illnesses such as tuberculosis, Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS
  • Scabs, cuts, and bruises on the skin
  • Skin infections
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Uncontrollable itching
  • Unintentional weight loss

What to Do When Your Loved One Uses Heroin

Approaching anyone facing an addiction issue can be a delicate move. You need to understand that heroin is highly addictive. Your intervention approach will depend on the stage of addiction your loved one is in.

Someone in the early stages of addiction will not acknowledge they have or could potentially have a severe drug problem. Others may have genuinely tried to quit heroin multiple times. The best approach to a loved one who uses heroin is to offer your love, support, and to convince them that they need help.

You could politely try to show them the impact of their abuse on your life. Despite the fact their use may have hurt you, they will need your support for a quick and full drug addiction recovery. This brings us to the heroin intervention.

Heroin Intervention

A heroin intervention is an occasion where loved ones confront you over your heroin abuse and addiction. An intervention is delicate because if it goes wrong or done aggressively or wrongly, the addiction patient may end up diving deeper into drug use.

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There are professionals who are trained, skilled, and experienced in interventions. A professional will make the intervention session(s) more constructive. The interventionist will help the family members prepare and express themselves positively during the intervention. A good interventionist will emphasize that the purpose of the intervention is to make the addict feel loved and supported rather than intervening in a guilt trip.

You will hold difficult conversations that are supposed, to be honest, but supportive. Thus, you need to know what to expect during the intervention so that you can be adequately prepared. You will be prepared for intervention if you know the following:

  • Participants will take turns to address how the loved one’s addiction has ruined their lives.
  • Unhealthy support does not help. An example of unhealthy support is giving the patient an ultimatum for them to tell you when they will quit. Quitting and detoxing from heroin is an entire process, while recovery from addiction and relapse is another.
  • Participants should express the desire to see their loved ones lead a healthy lifestyle.
  • Everyone should be ready to talk about family history and take some responsibility.

Such interventions can be held at home but a heroin addiction treatment center like Ebb Tide Treatment Centers is an ideal option.

Inpatient Treatment

Top rehab facilities such as Ebb Tide Treatment Centers offer excellent rehabilitation services such as inpatient treatment. Inpatient rehabilitation has helped many heroin addicts to recover. It is a full treatment program that starts with providing a safe environment from drugs and social stigma which is the basic step towards recovery from any drug addiction.

The patients will have a daily routine packed with activities to help them recover and cope without drugs. Some of these activities include therapy, physical exercise, group, and individual counseling.

Furthermore, patients will be monitored closely as heroin withdrawal symptoms can be severe and life-threatening. Our trained medical professionals will administer the appropriate medication to ease the symptoms.

What Happens After Inpatient Treatment?

Treatment for heroin should continue even after inpatient treatment. We recommend you look at other less intensive detox programs like Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Treatment, and the Standard Outpatient Treatment.

These programs will help you ease back into your life. You will be able to cope with cravings, and you will undergo training to gain skills to avoid relapse. Their intensity and need for you to be within the premises decrease as you advance to outpatient treatment.

Long-term Medicated Rehab

Medication is also used to treat heroin addiction. The heroin detox medication will help to ease the withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Heroin medication is categorized into three groups:

  • The agonists. These are medications which will activate the opioid receptors in the brain and counter the ‘high’ effect of heroin. A good example is Methadone.
  • The Partial agonists. This medication will also trigger the opioid receptors. However, the response is small; hence, the name partial agonists and reduces the cravings for substance abuse. A good example is Buprenorphine.
  • The antagonists. Will block the rewarding system of opioids in the brain. Naltrexone is a good example.

Long-term Therapy and Support Groups

Therapy and support groups are also offered at Ebb Tide Treatment Centers. Cognitive behavior therapy is an example of therapy treatment. Our patients learn what triggers them to abuse heroin and how to deal with the cravings. Family therapy is also offered to provide strong recovery support for the patient.

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Group support is also vital in heroin addiction treatment. Support groups are also part of our program. You get to talk about your daily challenges with withdrawal and cravings. The groups will motivate you to avoid abusing drugs. You will also work with peers struggling with similar challenges, and you can also mentor another patient to sobriety.

Aftercare Services

Aftercare services are geared to help prevent relapses. Ebb Tide Treatment Centers offers aftercare services in the form of available counselors, Heroin Anonymous groups, Sponsor programs, and medication.

You are advised to try and make sober friends, avoid new prescriptions, and keep up appearances at the support group meetings.


Heroin turns out to be more addictive than morphine, the drug it was intended to replace. Heroin has a severe effect on the consumer and their friends and family.  An addict who is recovering from heroin abuse will experience withdrawal symptoms that range from mild to severe. These symptoms will depend on factors like duration and amount of heroin of use.

The use of heroin can be life-threatening as it also exposes you to other diseases like Hepatitis C and AIDS, which are acquired from sharing equipment to administer the drug. However, a heroin addict can still get help. You may need to start with an intervention as most substance abusers do not accept they have a substance abuse problem.

You can enlist the services of top treatment centers like Ebb Tide Treatment Centers to help hold a successful intervention and treatment. A heroin addict’s treatment develops in phases starting from inpatient, partial hospitalization, outpatient, and aftercare. Various forms of treatment are used for heroin addiction such as medication, therapy, and support groups.
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