Heroin Addiction Causes, Symptoms & Signs

Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital offers high-quality services and support for adolescents, adults, and senior adults who are struggling with heroin addiction. Located in Chattanooga, TN, Erlanger is a leading provider of heroin addiction treatment.

Understanding Heroin Addiction

Learn about heroin addiction

Heroin abuse and heroin addiction are prevalent problems in the United States. Heroin is a powerful, dangerous, and highly addictive drug. If you have been struggling with heroin addiction, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Heroin addiction can be devastating, but it is a treatable condition.

Heroin interacts with receptors in the central nervous system and impacts the parts of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, pleasure, and pain. Heroin can cause a person to experience temporary euphoria, but these pleasurable effects can be followed by an emotional crash. Many people feel compelled to use heroin again and again to regain the pleasing effects and avoid the psychological pain that can occur in the absence of the drug.

Every time a person uses heroin, they risk overdose. They also risk developing heroin addiction, which can occur after using the drug only a few times. Other negative effects of chronic heroin use and untreated heroin addiction include physical harm, cognitive damage, and the onset or worsening of mental health challenges.

However, when a person receives effective treatment for heroin addiction, they can regain control of their life. With the right type and level of care, you can free yourself from the chains of heroin addiction and achieve successful long-term recovery.


Statistics about heroin addiction

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have reported the following statistics about heroin addiction in the United States:

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for heroin addiction

Heroin abuse and addiction do not result from a single cause. Various internal and external factors, such as the ones listed below, can increase your risk for becoming addicted to heroin.

  • Family history of addiction or mental illness
  • Having a sibling or parent who has struggled with a heroin addiction
  • Personal history of mental illness or addiction
  • Being male
  • Being a young adult
  • Having an injury or another condition that is treated with opioids

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of heroin addiction

There are numerous signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person is struggling with heroin addiction. Although all the following signs and symptoms may not be evident in each individual, they are among the more common signs of heroin addiction:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Trying to borrow or steal money
  • Failing to meet personal responsibilities, such as not showing up to work or school
  • Lying or purposely being deceptive about one’s whereabouts
  • Social isolation, which can include withdrawing from friends and family
  • Neglecting personal appearance and hygiene

Physical symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Itchiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Constricted pupils
  • Inconsistent sleep patterns
  • Scars and sores, which can indicate injected drug use

Mental symptoms:

  • An inability to concentrate or focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Forgetfulness
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety


Effects of heroin addiction

Heroin addiction can lead to many negative effects, including the following:

  • Damage to liver and kidneys
  • Heart issues
  • Onset or worsening of mental illness
  • A pervasive sense of hopelessness
  • Exposure to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases
  • Physical injury from actions taken while under the effects of heroin
  • Strain in personal and professional relationships
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Financial struggles
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Homelessness
  • Suicide

When you get treatment for heroin addiction, your risk for the effects listed above decreases significantly. Heroin addiction treatment can also help you begin to heal from any past damage. When you receive care at an effective comprehensive heroin addiction treatment center, your life can get much better.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have heroin addiction

If you struggle with a heroin addiction, you may also have an increased risk for the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Heroin Withdrawal & Overdose

Symptoms of heroin withdrawal and the potential impact of heroin overdose

Effects of withdrawal: Trying to stop using heroin when you’ve become addicted can cause many distressing symptoms. Some effects of heroin withdrawal can include:

  • An intense craving for heroin
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Excessive sweating
  • Agitation
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Effects of overdose: Overdosing on heroin is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. If an individual has used heroin and displays any of the following effects, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Extreme confusion and disorientation
  • Irregular breathing
  • Faint pulse
  • Bluish coloration near lips and/or fingertips
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to be woken up
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizure

Marks of Quality Care
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval
  • The Jason Foundation