Heroin: An Epidemic


In 2014, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that a typical heroin abuser today is a 23-year-old white woman in suburban America.

Heroin addiction is on the rise, and it’s no longer relegated to rock stars or biker gangs. For example, medical patients addicted to opioid-based (i.e. pain-relieving) prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin which can be cheaper and easier to obtain.

Yet one thing remains true about heroin: it’s one of the most dangerous addictions around. If this is a concern for you or a loved one, there is hope. Let’s get you help today.

How Heroin Addiction Takes Root

Like other opioids, heroin manipulates the pleasure portion of your brain. It releases floods of dopamine and endorphins, which remove pain, causing intense euphoria and a temporary sense of well-being.

As regular heroin use continues, you start to develop a physical tolerance to the drug. You require more and more of it to reach the same level of intensity.

At the same time, your body begins to believe it doesn’t need to produce its own dopamine, and so it slows down production and eventually stops. Real chemical dependency takes root, leading to a seemingly hopeless situation.

Street Heroin: Risky Business

Unlike prescription drugs, street heroin doesn’t come in regulated strengths and doses. You have no idea what it’s been cut with, which could be anything from baby powder to cleaning detergent. You risk overdose– and death. Please don’t play these games with your life.

Broken Rules and Telltale Symptoms

Like other heroin addicts, you may have believed you could control your drug use. Perhaps you set rules, like: Only on weekends,  or just for special occasions.  But you can’t make a deal with heroin: it typically wins. Before long, you may start to show tell-tale signs of heroin addiction:

  • Major weight loss
  • A persistent runny nose
  • Visible needle tracks
  • Infections at injection site
  • Cuts, bruises. or scabs from skin picking
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Lack of focus on hygiene and physical appearance
  • Loss of motivation and outside interests
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Stealing to buy heroin
  • Hostility


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Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin addiction treatment is the best option for freeing yourself from the grip of a heroin addiction. There are many to help reverse your behavior, partially or fully restore your brain’s normal functions, replenish your dignity–and save your life.

Research agrees that, for some, a combination of behavioral and pharmacological treatments provide the most effective approach to heroin withdrawal.

Stage One: Detox & Medication

Heroin withdrawal can result in pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms. These symptoms can be quite severe, so heroin treatment centers use medications to ease them–and lessen the resulting cravings. These medications work through the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin does, but they are safer, making treatment possible. Effective medications include:

  • Methadone: A slow-acting opiate that can reduce, or even prevent, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. It’s been used since the 1960s and works well for patients who may not respond to other heroin withdrawal medications. Methadone is taken orally, and is only available at approved outpatient treatment centers. Patients take it on a daily basis.
  • Buprenorphine: Relieves drug cravings without producing the high or dangerous side effects associated with other opioids. Approved by the FDA in 2002, buprenorphine is the first medication eligible to be prescribed by certified physicians, thus expanding its access for those who need it.
  • Naltrexone: Blocks opioids, is not addictive, and does not result in physical dependence.

Stage Two: Behavioral Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found many effective behavioral treatments for heroin addiction that are available in both inpatient and outpatient heroin rehab environments. Two that are highly-recommended are contingency management and