Overcoming Dependence on Heroin

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Dependence on Heroin: Addiction, Symptoms of Withdrawal and Treatment

Heroin is a highly dangerous and addictive drug. People who become hooked on it have to deal with an array of problems as the drug-seeking behavioral takes control of their life. The scope of heroin abuse in the United States allows us to understand just how many people are affected by this substance: there were around 435,000 current users of heroin in 2014 and a total of 4.8 million people who used it at least once in their lifetime. A dependence on heroin is at the heart of why it’s so difficult to stop.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between dependence and addiction to heroin, what the withdrawal looks like are and treatment options.

Addiction vs. Dependence on Heroin

There is a fine line between addiction and dependence on heroin. These terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. Heroin addiction denotes that a person has become psychologically addicted to heroin; however, the same person may also be dependent on it. To better understand the difference we will look at a non-addictive substance: a person can become addicted to a substance even though it has no physically addictive properties. They then have all of the properties of an addict, such as ignoring negative effects or dedicating more of their time to the activity or substance.

Dependence on heroin relates to how the body becomes reliant on heroin. With daily and frequent use, the body undergoes changes to offset the effect the drug has on the body. Eventually, the part of the brain that controls reward and releases dopamine changes – the same chemical that is released with heroin abuse. The natural production and maintenance of feel-good chemicals becomes lacking because of the excessive release caused by the drug. The person then starts to rely on the drug to function.

Heroin Addiction Symptoms

In the case of heroin addiction, the addict is expected to also be dependent on the drug because of how addictive it is. The common heroin addiction symptoms are as follows:

  • High blood pressure and a rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Sleeplessness
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • An intense craving for heroin
  • Goose bumps
  • Teary eyes and a runny nose
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness

These symptoms generally begin after about 6 to 12 hours. They then peak after around 36 to 72 hours have passed. The symptoms are best explained by recovering addicts as terrible flu-like symptoms, and the entire process of withdrawal is generally concluded after about 5 to 7 days.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Today, there are much better ways to treat heroin addiction. There is no need to go cold turkey when stopping anymore – a big reason why many people fail to stop. Instead, you can enter into a heroin addiction treatment program which has a medically-assisted detox process. An addict is given medications that have buprenorphine or methadone. These are touted as essential for opiate addiction treatment by the World Health Organization. They help to reduce symptoms during detox, such as heroin cravings, by acting as a safe replacement. Over time, the addict’s doses are lowered so that they can slowly wean off the drug, avoiding many of the overwhelming symptoms.

Subsequent to detox, an addict must then attend support group meetings and therapy in an effort to explore the causes of their addiction to prevent it from repeating itself. Support groups and relapse prevention plans should then continue for years to come to ensure that relapse is avoided.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.