Heroin Addiction Symptoms and Signs - Detox Plus UK

The UK is currently facing an opiate crisis and has been for some years. Addiction to heroin and heroin-related deaths have soared in the past 5 years alone. If your suffering from heroin addiction, you are most definitely not alone.

heroin addiction

To put this into context, 53% of all individuals seeking treatment for a substance misuse problem were opiate-dependent in 2017-2018. That’s 141,189 people in England and Wales who sought treatment for heroin or opiate addiction last year.

1,209 died from heroin/morphine poisoning in England and Wales in 2016. Scotland, who have a fraction of the population, paint an even bleaker picture with 1,021 deaths recorded in 2018 – a staggering 27% increase in drug-related deaths on the previous year.

If you or a loved one are battling an addiction to heroin, we cannot stress enough how important it is that you seek professional help and treatment. Heroin addiction is rife in the UK and responsible for a shocking number of deaths. Your next hit or fix of from a heroin needle really could be your last.

What is heroin?

Heroin Street names or slang names include: Skag, H, Smack, Brown, Horse.

Heroin is a Class A opiate narcotic drug that is illegal to buy in any form in the UK.  Usually in the form of white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance, known as “black tar heroin.” Heroin can be sourced from street dealers and makes the user feel relaxed and euphoric. Heroin is extremely powerful, and some addicts liken its effects to being wrapped in a warm duvet where troubles melt away.

It is the euphoric heroin effects and the fact that the brains opioid receptors accept the drug so readily that makes it so dangerously addictive.

Heroin can cause a physical drug dependence within as little as 3 to 5 days of frequent use. Very few can take this drug on a recreational basis only. Heroin withdrawal symptoms are notoriously unpleasant and can keep an individual using heroin even when they want to stop. This is why a medical heroin detox is recommended as the safest and most successful way of stopping heroin.

How heroin addiction develops

Heroin causes drug tolerance and dependence quickly. Within a relatively short space of time, a frequent user can find themselves taking more substantial amounts, using heroin more frequently, administering it in different ways, mixing it with other drugs and breaking all their moral codes in order to get high.

The more a someone one on heroin uses, the more the brain chemically changes and adapts to seek and take the drug compulsively. With this particular drug, this can happen alarmingly quickly.

Once heroin has gotten hold of a person, they only exist to use and use to exist. They find they can feel no pleasure without heroin and HAVE to use the drug in order to avoid opiate withdrawal.

How is heroin used

Smoking heroin from a pipe, bong or foil – referred to as chasing the dragon, or rolled with tobacco can result in different health problems compared to other methods of administration. Smoking the drug puts significant strain on the lungs. Snorting heroin has a slow effect, taking about 10 minutes, and does not produce as intense a “rush” as the other methods. Heroin can also be swallowed or prepared for injection and administered intravenously.

Injecting heroin is the most dangerous method of administration and carries the most risks to the user. It is also the method that many addicts progress on to as they become tolerant of heroin’s effects when administered in other ways. Injecting heroin delivers the fastest and most pronounced high. It can also cause instant overdose and death.

Who uses heroin?

Heroin addiction can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class or upbringing. However, statistics taken from the European Drug Report has shown that it is predominantly males who use heroin daily that seek treatment for opiate addiction in Europe.

heroin treatment

During the year of 2017, of individuals that sought treatment from their local services for heroin dependence and died, the average age of death was aged 45.

77% of all deaths recorded were male, and statistics show that heroin addiction and dependence is most rife in the more deprived areas of the UK.

Detox Plus UK treat heroin addicts of both genders and of all ages. Overall, these statistics are a true reflection of private-sector treatment episodes also.

How is heroin made?

By its true definition, heroin is an opiate as it is made directly from the opium poppy plant and a pure compound. Heroin is made by combining morphine with acetic anhydride.

Is heroin the same as morphine?

Heroin is not really a different drug from morphine. It is more potent than morphine because it is more soluble in fat, and therefore, enters the brain faster. Once in the brain, however, it is converted back to morphine and has the same effects. 

Most of the illegal supply of the heroin poppy is produced in Southeast Asia, especially the “Golden Triangle” countries of Burma, Thailand and Burma alone contributing about 60 percent of the total. Pure heroin appears as a white powder with a bitter taste. This form is rarely found on the illegal market.

The terms opiate and opioids are now used interchangeably to describe any opiate-based drug.

Opiates work by binding to the brain and body’s opioid receptors – mimicking the brain’s natural painkilling chemicals. This changes the way the brain interprets pain. The stronger the opiate, the more chemicals are released, increasing analgesic effects.

Opiates and opioids also produce side effects of euphoria, relaxation and drowsiness. Those who abuse opiates and opioids do so purely to benefit from these specific effects.

Signs and symptoms of heroin addiction

Trying to spot the signs and symptoms of heroin addiction in a loved one can give you the confidence to speak to them about their drug problem and urge them to seek help

Signs and symptoms of heroin addiction and heroin use include:

  • Finding drug paraphernalia related to heroin use. This includes folded tin foil, glass pipes, scorched spoons, tourniquets, needles, citrus packs (used to break down heroin for intravenous administration)
  • Finding sooty residue on clothing and things they have touched
  • Blood splatters on the arms of clothing and walls
  • Finding brown or off white powder in clear plastic bags, in a folded paper, in uninflated balloons or cellophane wraps
  • Their appearance has changed with evident unexplained weight loss
  • Grey skin pallor
  • Money or valuables going missing
  • They have become very unreliable and difficult to get hold of
  • Loss of interest in family, friends, work, hobbies and things they used to enjoy
  • Pinprick pupils
  • Slow, slurred, delayed speech
  • Sleepiness, drowsiness and “nodding” in and out of sleep
  • Slumped posture and appearing extremely relaxed
  • Appear uncaring, inappropriately euphoric
  • Track marks, bruising or abscesses on their limbs
  • They have become secretive, distant and evasive. They often disappear for long periods of time
  • Always asking to borrow money which they never repay
  • Committing crime for monetary gain
  • Appearing anxious and agitated when not high

Any marked change in a family member or loved one should not be ignored. If you spot the signs and symptoms of heroin addiction in someone else, it is essential to voice your concerns and offer to support them in seeking professional treatment.

The risks of using heroin & heroin facts

The most significant risk to any individual that uses is heroin overdose and death. Heroin is often mixed with a number of cutting agents, some of which are very toxic. In recent years heroin in the UK has become much stronger. This is due to dealers mixing the powerful opiate with other Class A drugs, increasing its euphoric effects. Drugs that are commonly mixed with heroin include benzodiazepines, fentanyl, cocaine and even carfentanyl.

Deaths relating to cocaine, fentanyl and carfentanyl have spiralled out of control as a direct result of being added to heroin. This has caused a national health crisis in various parts of the UK.

For those that inject heroin intravenously, there are numerous risks involved, all of which can lead to death. Heroin injectors are more prone to sharing “works” or equipment used to inject heroin. This carries the very real risk of contracting a blood born virus such as hepatitis B & C and HIV.

Further risks of heroin use include damage to the users mental, physical and financial health. Many heroin addicts resort to crime in order to fund their habit. Heroin literally strips them of everything until they become just a shadow of their former selves and a slave to the drug.

But the good news is that heroin addiction can be treated successfully. This is sometimes a lengthily and complex process due to the damage that this drug causes to the individual and to their loved ones also. Professional heroin detox and rehabilitation provides a heroin addict with the best chance of overcoming their addiction once and for all.

Easing heroin withdrawal symptoms

When someone is physically dependent on heroin, missing a dose or taking any less than their brain is accustomed to results in heroin withdrawal symptoms manifesting. Opiate withdrawal symptoms are notoriously difficult to tolerate and can become unmanageable and even life-threatening.

Undergoing a medical heroin detox ensures that withdrawal symptoms remain manageable and helps to reduce them in severity. For those with chronic heroin dependence, it also helps them to complete their detox and avoid PAWS (post-acute withdrawal symptoms).

If you choose to undergo a medical heroin detox, you will be provided with an approved pharmaceutical medication to easy your heroin withdrawal symptoms. Medical heroin detoxes are conducted within a heroin detox clinic where you will stay for the duration of your treatment.

In addition to medication, evidence-based methods of treatment for heroin addiction also help to reduce the psychological effects of heroin withdrawal. Using both a combination of medication and therapy vastly increases your chances of successfully detoxing from heroin and provides a foundation for future ongoing recovery.

It is strongly recommended that any heroin detox is immediately followed by a professional heroin rehabilitation programme and aftercare.

Methadone as a treatment for heroin dependence

Methadone was invented as a substitute for morphine by German scientists during the Second World War. As a substitute for heroin, methadone has a much longer effect than morphine or heroin, lasting 24 hours, and is less likely to cause addiction. The most common use for methadone now is as a maintenance drug for narcotic addicts.

Common heroin withdrawal symptoms

Common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

 Aches, pains, fever, hot and cold flashes, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headache, sweating, restless legs, insomnia, poor appetite, stomach cramps, intense cravings for heroin, depression, restlessness, anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations (auditory or visual)

Heroin withdrawal is not usually life-threatening unless there is a severe dependence, and the person attempts to withdraw on their own without treatment or support. Many individuals that attempt the “cold turkey” method of heroin withdrawal fail partway through. This is due to their withdrawal symptoms becoming unbearable and intense cravings for heroin.

Helping a family member with heroin addiction

Having a family member with a heroin addiction really is heartbreaking and very distressing to witness. There is often a tremendous feeling of helplessness as they continue on their path of self-destruction.

To an outsider, addiction makes no sense. Why would someone choose to continue harming themselves and others when they can choose to get better? Sadly this is a common characteristic of addiction. Your loved one is not really choosing self-destruction, although it may really seem like they are.

Heroin addiction changes the way the brain functions. Your family member or loved one really is mentally very unwell. Sometimes they are too ill to make a rational decision when it comes to choosing life.

We urge you to speak to your family member and encourage them to seek help and treatment. This is the only way they are likely to make a full recovery.

Addiction treatment is very specialist and tailored to each individual. Detox Plus UK provide bespoke heroin detox and rehab programmes for those suffering from heroin addiction or dependence.

Try to instil hope in your loved one that they can recover but make it clear that if they are not willing to at least try that you cannot do anything that may enable their addiction.

Sometimes there is nothing you can do to help them except wait until they are ready. We recommend that as a family member of someone with a drug problem that you seek help and support for yourself.

For more information on how our heroin detox and rehab programmes work, call us direct today.

Free rehab for heroin addiction

Due to substantial budget cuts to the addiction services sector in the UK, it is now harder to secure rehab funding than ever before. There is no such thing as an NHS heroin rehab. All rehab treatment programmes have to be funded, whether that be through privately self-funding or through funding obtained from your local government.

You can apply for heroin rehab funding through your local drug and alcohol services and can self refer. Please contact them directly for information on waiting times and funding application criteria.

Heroin addiction private treatment options

Private treatment options for heroin addiction include inpatient heroin detox, residential rehab and daycare rehab.

Statistically, residential detox and rehabilitation offer the best long term treatment outcomes. Residential heroin rehab enables patients to access intensive professional therapy and treatment to address the underlying causes and conditions that led to their addiction.

Addicts aren’t just addicted to escaping reality; they are addicted to escaping themselves. We know this through years of experience working with drug addicts at an intensive psychological and therapeutic level.

Heroin rehab

The quickest way to access heroin rehab is to self-fund treatment. Heroin rehab programmes are specifically designed for each individual patient. 

Heroin rehab patients undergo a number of cutting edge evidence-based treatments to challenge and change the core belief systems that drive addiction. Heroin addiction is a psychological illness, and this is what drives the individual back to using heroin, again and again, even following a successful detox.

heroin addiction

Many before and after pictures of heroin users are shocking to look at. But heroin addicts can recover with the correct professional treatment.

Heroin rehab really can change a person. Not only helping them to become heroin free but showing them how to make essential changes to the way they think and act, enabling them to stay heroin free on a permanent basis.

Private heroin rehab will also provide a full medical heroin detox where a heroin dependence is identified and a comprehensive aftercare programme.

Call Detox Plus UK to access heroin rehab today!


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