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Heroin Addiction

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

What Is Heroin?

Heroin addiction is a very dangerous and too often deadly illness. The drug takes very little time before it becomes extremely addictive, and it is known as one of the most-abused opiate drugs in the US and the world. It is most often sold in powder form, which can be smoked, snorted or liquefied and injected. It is derived from morphine, but is a Schedule I illicit substance in the United States which means it has a high potential for addiction and no known medical uses. Heroin generates chemical changes in the pleasure centers of the brain, producing an effect that rapidly brings on a state of relaxation and euphoria. Like other opiates, heroin blocks the brain’s ability to distinguish pain, making heroin highs very pleasurable but very risky.

Since it is an illegal narcotic, it is very difficult for users to determine the actual strength or “purity” of a dose — a situation that makes overdosing increasingly likely with continued use. Most street heroin is cut with other dangerous chemicals like strychnine or other poisons, because illegal sellers seek to make more money by stretching their supply of the white or brown powder. Heroin can also be found in its unrefined form of a black sticky substance; this is known as “black tar heroin.” Heroin also increases risk of problems beyond addiction and possible overdose; for example, sharing needs or injection equipment can cause the transmission of HIV and other diseases.

Defeating a heroin addiction can be a difficult journey because of the drastic effects that the drug can have on the brain and body. With prolonged use, it truly takes over and can permanently alter the way that the brain functions. Those who struggle with heroin addiction need the assistance and support of a team of professionals to go through withdrawal safely and rebuild a healthy, substance-free life. A heroin addiction recovery experience is a big change for the addict, and it is best to seek treatment somewhere that offers medical monitoring and long-term care to reduce chances of relapse.

Significant Behavioral Signs of Heroin Abuse

There are usually multiple noticeable signs when an individual is abusing or addicted to heroin. Possession of paraphernalia including needles or syringes, burned spoons, aluminum foil and burned gum wrappers, missing shoelaces and ties (used to tie off injection sites) and small plastic bags with white powdery residue are common evidence of the preparation and injection of heroin. Changes in behaviors or personality may also occur — not only when an abuser is high, but also as they become dependent on the drug and they fall into patterns of withdrawal or cravings.

Some signs that someone may be under the influence of heroin are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Constricted pupils
  • Sudden changes in behavior or actions
  • Disorientation
  • Cycles of hyper-alertness followed by nodding off
  • Fatigued appearance

Significant Physical Signs of Heroin Abuse

In addition, like many addictive substances, regular heroin use can result in an abuser building a tolerance — as their body becomes accustomed to heroin, they will need to increase the dosage they use to achieve the same high. As dosage and frequency of use climbs, characteristic physical changes may begin to occur.

Some common long-term signs of heroin abuse are:

  • Muddled, incoherent speech
  • Deceptive behavior
  • Hostile actions
  • Increased time spent sleeping
  • Declining performance in school or work, including job loss
  • Dressing in long sleeves or pants to hide needle marks
  • Disinterest in hygiene or appearance
  • Eye contact avoidance
  • Loss of motivation toward future goals
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Theft of possessions and money
  • Loss of self-esteem or declining body image

Some Behavioral Signs of Heroin Use and Addiction Are:

  • Muddled incoherent speech
  • Deceptive behavior
  • Hostile actions
  • Increased time spent sleeping
  • Loss of performance in school or work, including job loss
  • Dressing in long pants and sleeves to hide needle marks
  • Disinterest in hygiene and appearance
  • Eye contact avoidance
  • Loss of motivation toward future goals
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Theft of possessions and money
  • A loss of self-esteem or declining body image

Like many addictive substances, regular heroin use can cause the need to increase the dosage in order to get high. It is with this growing tolerance that more distinctive physical symptoms of heroin abuse and addiction appear.

Some Physical Signs of Heroin Abuse Are:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Needle marks
  • Constant sniffles
  • Infections or abscesses at injection site
  • Loss of menstrual cycle for women
  • Cuts and bruises or scabs (from picking the skin)

Significant Signs of Heroin Withdrawal

Signs of heroin use and abuse are usually noticed because they are patterns over time — someone who was formerly a happy, energetic person slowly becomes constantly withdrawn and sleepy, and the drastic shift causes their loved ones to notice that something is wrong. But withdrawal symptoms can be sudden onset signs that a person is going through serious side effects of heroin addiction. It often manifests as painful and difficult flu-like symptoms that cause the sufferer to feel extremely ill.

Some common signs of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Intense cravings for more of the drug
  • Cold sweats
  • Severe muscle and bone aches and pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling of heaviness
  • Leg cramps resulting in “kicking”
  • Weeping
  • Insomnia
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

Treating Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal at Avalon Malibu

At Avalon Malibu, treatment for heroin addiction begins with a carefully monitored detox process that incorporates our research-based therapies and treatments. We are licensed to treat adults in an inpatient setting in what is considered to be a ‘non-medical sub-acute detoxification.’ Heroin withdrawal is a complicated process where the addict receives around-the-clock supervision. Withdrawal symptoms can begin a few hours to one day after sustained use of the drug stops, and we have licensed physicians that can prescribe medications to alleviate many of the physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal.

Once the body is rid of the substance, residential recovery treatment begins at The Cottage House, our treatment facility for drug and alcohol addiction. There, we welcome individuals who are ready to begin their recovery journey, and we provide a safe and caring environment as they set out to find a way back to sobriety. We understand the need for rest and regeneration for clients addicted to heroin and other substances, and we know that our beautiful, comfortable environment in Malibu, California can provide that for everyone who enters our program. Avalon Malibu contracts with four board-certified physicians who specialize in psychiatry, internal medicine, addictionology, neurology and more, bringing together the best possible treatment experience for those who suffer from heroin addiction and withdrawal.

Avalon Malibu is also licensed to treat co-occurring or dual diagnoses, a common condition in which an addict is also clinically diagnosed with a mental health disorder like anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. We believe in treating everything that ails each of our clients so that when they leave our program they are fully healed and well-equipped to live their life substance-free.

Contact Avalon Malibu

At Avalon Malibu, we understand clients addicted to heroin are fearful about quitting because of the pain they may experience when the drug is no longer available to them. But seeking treatment for heroin is the only way to prevent the drug from taking over your life, interfering in your health, your relationships and your happiness. When left untreated, heroin addiction can be — and often is — deadly, as tolerance climbs and dosages increase to the point of overdose. If you or your loved one may be struggling with heroin abuse or addiction, we encourage you to reach out for help right away. For more information about the program at Avalon Malibu or to find out more about addiction recovery resources in the Malibu, California area, contact us today at 1-844-579-7645 to talk to our team or schedule a phone interview for admission.

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