Heroin Side Effects

heroin side effects hope for tomorrow

West Virginia had the highest drug overdose mortality rate in the entire country in 2021. Fentanyl may be the hottest topic and largest contributor to those numbers, but heroin has been a factor for decades, and it still is.

Hope for Tomorrow works to lower those tragic statistics every day through our comprehensive addiction recovery programs. Getting people the help they need is hard when you don’t know the signs to look for. Let’s cover heroin side effects so you can spot them in others, and encourage them to live a heroin-free life.

what does heroin do the body effects of heroin use

Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal: The Signs and the Science

Prolonged heroin use causes alters brain chemistry. The persistent, overwhelming dopamine surges cause the brain to produce less dopamine when synthetic opioids like heroin aren’t in your system. This leaves you in an even worse mood than you were before starting heroin because your brain reacts less to regular life events that would usually trigger a dopamine response.

Some neurons in your brain also grow more active to try and offset the depressant effects of heroin and other opioids. When heroin isn’t in your system, this neuron activity remains heightened, which causes many withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Intense heroin cravings

Heroin withdrawal can begin as soon as a few hours after your last dose, and symptoms tend to be at their worst 24 to 48 hours into withdrawal. They typically end within ten days, but the length and severity of withdrawal symptoms depend on how much heroin you use, your length of history with heroin,  and how often you consume it. Your body type and general health will also influence withdrawal.

Experiencing withdrawal after heroin use is a big sign that you may have a heroin use disorder. Other signs of a heroin use disorder include:

  • Using more heroin than you intended, and/or for longer than you intended
  • Having trouble cutting down on heroin use despite wanting to
  • Spending a lot of time using, recovering from, and obtaining heroin
  • Experiencing heroin cravings
  • Neglecting responsibilities due to heroin use
  • Continuing to use heroin despite obvious health and social consequences
  • Giving up activities you once enjoyed because of heroin
  • Using heroin in dangerous situations
  • Experiencing tolerance and/or withdrawal

Heroin Overdose: What It Looks Like and How to Stop It

If you put more heroin into your system than your body can handle, it will start shutting down body processes, with breathing being one of the first. Extremely low body temperature, slowed or no breathing, blue lips, fingernails and skin, clammy skin, convulsions, and coma are all indications of a heroin overdose. While overdose on heroin alone is possible, the vast majority of heroin overdoses involve other substances as well.

If you think someone is experiencing a heroin overdose, call for medical help right away. Most states, including West Virginia, have Good Samaritan Laws that will give you legal protection from the law when you seek help for an overdose. 

If you’re able to, administer naloxone. Naloxone is available without a prescription in most pharmacies and comes in a nasal spray form. It can reverse an overdose, but only temporarily. That means the person overdosing still needs medical attention as soon as possible.

heroin addiction and withdrawal the signs and the science

How Is Heroin Addiction Treated? How Do I Get Help?

If you’ve gotten this far and relate to everything you’ve read, we encourage you to seek heroin addiction treatment. You’ll start with a detox program, where medical staff will closely monitor you as the heroin leaves your system. They’ll help you manage and get through withdrawal successfully, and then you’ll transition to another program. There, you’ll face your heroin use disorder head-on, and learn all the skills you need to overcome it.

Hope for Tomorrow’s passionate, empathetic staff is trained to treat substance use disorders and all the mental concerns that come alongside them. We know that to fully eliminate a heroin use disorder, we need to tackle the root cause. We’ll work with you to find and address it and empower you to live the heroin-free life you deserve. Give us a call at 877-679-8162 to get started on your recovery journey.

Treatment today for a brighter tomorrow.