Signs, Symptoms & Effects of Heroin Addiction

At Rio Vista Behavioral Health, we believe that understanding the signs, symptoms, and possible effects of heroin addiction is an important part of the effort to get help for yourself or your loved one. This information can help you identify the problem and begin to explore solutions. Education can be your first step towards recovery from heroin addiction. 

Understanding Heroin Addiction

Learn about heroin addiction  

Heroin is an illegal opioid known to produce a deeply tranquilizing high. Derived from naturally occurring chemicals in the poppy plant, this dangerous substance can put your life at risk. What’s more, heroin use has skyrocketed in recent years due to new regulations that make it harder to obtain prescription painkillers. In light of the opioid crisis in the United States, heroin abuse is on the rise because this illicit substance has become cheaper and more readily available than similar substances of abuse. 

Heroin is typically injected. This method releases the drug directly into the bloodstream and causes an immediate, but often short-lived, effect. Unfortunately, heroin can also be laced with other toxic substances like fentanyl that are undetectable to the user. This means that if you use heroin and are accustomed to a certain dose, you run the risk of unintentionally ingesting a substance that could result in a fatal overdose.  

Just like other addictions, heroin use disorder is a progressive disease. Over time, those who use heroin will develop a tolerance to the drug. This means that you will progressively need more heroin in more frequent doses to achieve the desired high. With increased use comes increased risk to your mental and physical well-being. But fortunately, there is hope for overcoming heroin dependence. With quality residential treatment and comprehensive detox services, you can rid your mind and body of this harmful substance. With the right support, you can take control of your life, your addiction, and your future. 


Statistics about heroin abuse and addiction 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported the following statistics about heroin abuse in the United States: 

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for heroin addiction 

Your risk for developing an addiction to heroin can be influenced by several factors, including the following: 

  • Past or current struggles with certain other mental health disorders 
  • Having an impulsive or novelty-seeking personality 
  • Having easy access to heroin 
  • Engaging in prescription painkiller abuse  
  • Family history of addiction or mental illness 
  • Prior substance abuse 
  • Being male 

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of heroin addiction 

The following are among the more common signs that a person has become dependent upon heroin: 

Behavioral symptoms: 

  • Persistent unexplained absences from school and/or work   
  • Uncharacteristic drop in performance in school and/or at work   
  • Apparent lack of attention to grooming and personal hygiene  
  • Lying, keeping secrets, or otherwise acting deceptively about activities and whereabouts   
  • Attempting to borrow or steal money 

Physical symptoms: 

  • Dry mouth 
  • Slowed or otherwise irregular pulse 
  • Shallow or otherwise depressed breathing 
  • Constricted pupils 
  • Persistent lethargy and fatigue 
  • Insomnia 
  • Hypersomnia 
  • Decreased appetite and resulting unintentional weight loss 
  • Sores, scabs, and other marks on the skin at injection sites 
  • Runny nose 
  • Watery eyes 
  • Itchy skin 
  • Constipation 

Mental symptoms: 

  • Memory impairment 
  • Inability to make effective judgments and good decisions 
  • Impaired ability to focus or concentrate 


Effects of heroin addiction 

Ongoing untreated heroin addiction can expose you to mental, emotional, and physical harm, including the following negative outcomes: 

  • Onset or worsening of physical or mental health problems 
  • Financial strain 
  • Job loss and chronic unemployment 
  • Academic decline 
  • Substandard performance in school and/or at work 
  • Strained friendships and ruined interpersonal relationships 
  • Family discord 
  • Legal trouble, arrest, or incarceration 
  • Stroke 
  • Cognitive impairments 
  • Heart problems 
  • Damage to kidneys and/or liver 
  • Exposure to hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS 

When you seek treatment for heroin addiction, you can avoid outcomes such as the ones listed above, and you can begin to heal from past harm. With proper professional care, your life can get much better. 

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who become addicted to heroin 

If you develop an addiction to heroin, you may also be at increased risk for the following co-occurring disorders: 

  • Other substance use disorders 
  • Depressive disorders 
  • Antisocial personality disorder 
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

Effects of Heroin Withdrawal & Overdose

Withdrawing from heroin, and the risk of overdose 

Effects of withdrawal: Heroin withdrawal can be extremely painful and even dangerous, and may include symptoms such as the following: 

  • Muscle pain 
  • Bone pain 
  • Intense abdominal cramping 
  • High body temperature 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Flu-like symptoms, including vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Agitation 
  • Irritability 
  • Powerful cravings for heroin  

Effects of overdose: Heroin overdose occurs when a person takes more heroin than their body can process, and it can be fatal. Anyone who exhibits the following symptoms after using heroin needs immediate medical attention: 

  • Constricted pupils 
  • Discolored tongue 
  • Bluish tint to skin near the lips and/or fingertips 
  • Loss of consciousness or otherwise non-responsive 
  • Excessive fatigue or drowsiness 
  • Extreme confusion or disorientation 
  • Shallow, slow, or labored breathing 
  • Faint or undetectable pulse 

Why Consider Treatment for Heroin Addiction at Rio Vista Behavioral Health

Benefits of receiving comprehensive care for heroin addiction 

Heroin addiction is dangerous and can be fatal. If left untreated, heroin addiction can have a damaging effect on virtually every area of your life. If you are struggling with an addiction to heroin, the best decision that you can make for yourself is to receive comprehensive treatment. 

At Rio Vista Behavioral Health, we offer the individualized care that you need in order to overcome your addiction. Once you’ve completed a detailed admissions assessment, our staff of experienced and compassionate professionals will guide you through your personalized treatment plan. 

If you’ve been incapable of getting through withdrawal prior to starting treatment, you can complete detox with us before transitioning directly into our inpatient program. If your struggles with heroin addiction are accompanied by one or more additional mental health challenges, your treatment plan will include appropriate care for dual diagnosis. 

Introducing Rio Vista Behavioral Health

Rio Vista Behavioral Health offers state-of-the-art inpatient psychiatric and detox services in the El Paso, Texas, area. Our commitment is to provide men, women, and children in our community with individualized treatment planning and ongoing recovery support.