Written by Chloe Nicosia

Heroin is an illegal drug made from morphine, a derivative of the poppy plant. It is highly addictive and extremely dangerous. It can be snorted, taken in pill form, or injected directly into the bloodstream using a needle. Heroin has grown in popularity and it’s important to know the warning signs of abuse if someone you know might be struggling with a heroin addiction.

Heroin is part of a class of drugs called opioids. Opioids typically include certain prescription pain medications, like Vicodin or OxyContin, which may be prescribed to patients experiencing severe pain. Most prescribed opioids are found in pill form, but those abusing the substance may break them up and snort or inject them. Heroin and the abuse of opioids have serious consequences including a wide variety of health issues.

Signs of Drug Abuse and Overdose

A heroin addict may be constantly looking to purchase the substance from drug dealers or steal it from other sources. If they do not get the drug, they may go through withdrawal, during which their body reacts violently to the absence of the substance from their system during a painful drug detox. Symptoms of withdrawal can include cold chills or hot sweats, shaking, nervousness, moodiness, erratic behavior, and heart palpitations. Those symptoms worsen the longer the person goes without the drug. If someone is in danger of an overdose, the problems are much more serious. Signs of an overdose include slow or shallow breathing, blue-colored fingernails or lips, damp skin, and uncontrollable shaking. In many instances, an overdosed victim may be rendered unconscious or unresponsive.

The Effects of Heroin and Opioids

People who use heroin or opioids will deal with many serious, harmful effects. Some effects on one’s health may occur immediately, while others will become evident over time. Since opioids are designed to help people with pain, and heroin is abused for the high it produces, these immediate effects are not as frightening to the user as to those around them. When someone first uses heroin, they may experience feelings of euphoria or bliss. They may also seem drowsy or sedated. These effects last for a shorter amount of time with heroin than they do with opioids. Long-term effects of these types of drugs are much more dangerous than the short-term and include frequent nausea or vomiting, nervousness or paranoia, respiratory problems, and an inability to function normally in society. Other very serious effects include brain damage, liver damage, and potential death in the case of an overdose.

Treatment Options & What You Can Do

If you know someone who is addicted to or abuses either heroin or opioids, it’s essential that they get the help that is necessary to break the addiction. The type of rehabilitation needed may vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the addiction. Options range from outpatient treatment to a luxury rehab. Tampa rehabs for example, might feature luxury amenities in a beautiful setting. Addiction counseling is a good tool to help those struggling with drugs, and may be offered in conjunction with personalized, one-on-one addiction treatment. Some drugs, like methadone, are used to wean addicts off of heroin and may be administered by qualified professionals. This drug lessens the effects of withdrawal, increasing the patient’s level of comfort and likelihood of beating their addiction. Psychological addiction treatment is also recommended so the person can talk about their addiction and begin their transition to start a clean and sober life.

Talk to an adult you trust like a teacher, your parents, or someone that you can rely on to make sure the person using these drugs gets the treatment needed. There are addiction hotlines available to call anonymously if you aren’t sure where to turn. Remember, your ability to recognize the signs of heroin and opioid use just might save a life.